William Katz: Urgent Agenda
Posted at 8:15 a.m. ET
He's back. I thought he had retired, or gone away, or drifted off to some golf course, but Colin Powell insists on hanging around. And now he's teasing us about his choice for president, as if, based on his statements, we should have any doubt. This is important only because, in a very tight race, a Powell endorsement at the last minute might shift a couple of hundred thousand votes, some of them possibly in crucial places.
I have never been a Powell fan. I think that his is one of the more overrated careers in our recent history. Powell always struck me as the consummate bureaucrat, a man who could drift from job to job without leaving any footprints. His tenure as secretary of state was particularly undistinguished. He did almost no traveling, met almost no foreign leaders unless they were passing through, and never seemed passionate about anything. His statements after 9/11 were those of a man who'd adapted to the State Department view of the world. He referred to the "events of September 11th," a sanitized way of describing attacks that killed 3,000 of his countrymen. I don't recall his ever visiting the attack site in his native city of New York. His name is on no policy following that horrible day. He seemed to spend most of his time being blameless.
Now he returns, as CNN reports:
Balancing act. He then says:
He knows both candidates extremely well? How well could he know Obama, a recent arrival to fame? And apparently the general doesn't care for the tone of the campaign. Not good enough for him. In fact, issues have been widely discussed.
Okay, let's wave that flag. But his career was made possible by Republicans, although he seemed to have a snobbish view of the greatest of them, Ronald Reagan. When President Reagan proposed saying publicly to the Soviet leader, "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall," it was reported that Powell tried to talk him out of it. Why take a stand? Why do stuff when you can just be there?
Yeah, yeah, yeah. I love words like "energized." Obama has energized people around the world? What precisely are they doing?
He's going to endorse Obama, probably as a way of getting back at people who eased him out of the Bush administration. I don't recall McCain begging Bush to let Powell stay. I'm hoping the American people will discount the endorsement, but, as I said, a critical mass might be influenced. Let's hope McCain is ahead by enough to negate any effect.
September 16, 2008.