Colin Powell is So Bold

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Colin Powell has endorsed Barack Obama. I didn’t see the interview on TV, nor have I read the full transcript, though I’ve seen a bunch of quotes on both TV and on the net. I wanted to write about my first impressions the next day, but got distracted. Today, Maureen Dowd wrote another of her holier-than-thou missives in The NY Times, and it reminded me to get my thoughts out.

First, how unbelievably bold and brave of Colin Powell to endorse Obama two weeks before a practically inevitable victory. If he could only have waited until the day after, so he could be really sure, it would even have been better. I know, I know, better late than never…

Next, while I have enormous respect (or had, at least) for General Powell, that doesn’t negate the fact that his personal judgement hasn’t been exactly spot-on in the past two decades!

First, he strenuously objected to finishing the job in Iraq in 1991, and Bush senior acquiesced to him. It’s possible (perhaps even likely) that none of the current mess (not just the obviously flawed Iraq war!) would ever have come to pass if Powell had not been so insistent back then.

He was then instrumental in shifting sentiment against Iraq when he presented the case for WMD at the U.N. People trusted Powell, and Bush junior was given the power to attack. One of two things have to be correct here:

  1. Powell believed every word that he said.
  2. Powell knowingly exaggerated to make the administration’s case.

If #1 is correct, then Powell should be as vilified by the people (Maureen Dowd included) who are so quick to praise him now. After all, they bristle at the thought that Bush/Chaney could have really believed there was a real threat of WMD at the time. It would appear that when you agree with them, you’re a genius. When you disagree, you’re an evil fool. If there was a single person who was most responsible for us going into the Iraq War, it’s Powell.

If #2 is correct, shame on him, and shame on him for ever opening his mouth in public again.

Obviously, I believe #1 is correct, and that he honorably presented the facts as the entire administration believed them to be at the time. Rewriting history to suit one’s needs is another sad fact of life in general, not just political life.

On to a few of the observations made by Dowd:

But what sent him over the edge and made him realize he had to speak out was when he opened his New Yorker three weeks ago and saw a picture of a mother pressing her head against the gravestone of her son, a 20-year-old soldier who had been killed in Iraq. On the headstone were engraved his name, Kareem Rashad Sultan Khan, his awards — the Purple Heart, the Bronze Star — and a crescent and a star to denote his Islamic faith.

Wow, convenient timing. I am sure that every day before that he was this close to endorsing Obama, but for this last straw. Was there no way for Powell to speak on behalf of American Muslims, indeed Muslims the world over, for the past few years, without endorsing either candidate? No, apparently not. Obama is somehow qualified to be President, because others are painting Muslims as bad, and hinting that Obama is one of them. Wow again.

In a gratifying “have you no sense of decency, Sir and Madam?” moment, Colin Powell went on “Meet the Press” on Sunday and talked about Khan, and the unseemly ways John McCain and Palin have been polarizing the country to try to get elected. It was a tonic to hear someone push back so clearly on ugly innuendo.

Of course it was gratifying. It gratifies Maureen Dowd when a Republican (is he still?) pushes back so clearly on ugly innuendo. Woe betide the Democrat who might point out that the Obama campaign, and the various 527 outfits like MoveOn.org do equally insiduous things, innuendo and all.

Let me be clear: I think that Dowd (and others) are 100% correct when they bemoan the ugliness that is the Republican attack machine against Obama. I have written about that in the past. It disgusts me thoroughly. But, the Democratic machine is just as ugly (in every single way) as the Republican machine, but that never raises the ire of someone like Dowd, unless it’s Hillary’s campaign doing it against Obama.

In other words, it’s only ugly when it’s against your candidate, not becuase the tactic itself is just plain ugly, no matter who uses it.

No wait, I spoke too soon. In the very next paragraph, Dowd indeed calls out the Obama campaign!

Even the Obama campaign has shied away from Muslims. The candidate has gone to synagogues but no mosques, and the campaign was embarrassed when it turned out that two young women in headscarves had not been allowed to stand behind Obama during a speech in Detroit because aides did not want them in the TV shot.

Ah, close, but no cigar. The Obama campaign shied away, but the McCain campaign uses ugly innuendo. Oh well, at least she tried to throw a bone toward fairness.

She closes her piece with the following quote from Powell:

“Experience is helpful,” he says, “but it is judgment that matters.”

Correct. Unfortunately, Powell lacks judgment himself, so we’re back to square one…