Sunday, October 26, 2008

Parsing Powell

I have now read the transcripts of Colin Powell’s endorsement of Barack Obama on “Meet the Press” and of his talk to reporters after the show. Charles Krauthammer has addressed the dirty campaign issue Powell raised to partially explain his endorsement although that part of Powell’s argument would never have moved me given my own analysis of this issue. (Somewhat tangential question: Is falsely accusing your opponent of running a dirty campaign in and of itself a dirty campaign tactic?)

There are other substantive problems with Powell’s endorsement: Obama is experienced enough but Palin is not; the disingenuous claim that all taxation is redistributive so the issue of Obama wanting to spread the wealth is irrelevant; the fact that Obama was wrong on the surge and - from Powell’s viewpoint - wrong on the Iraq war itself doesn’t matter since the war is winding down; discussion of Ayers is trivializing but no similar condemnation of the New York Times front page story about Cindy McCain. I find all of these troublesome and, frankly, disappointing since I would have welcomed the chance to vote for Colin Powell himself for President.

I do agree totally with Powell’s strong statement that there is absolutely nothing wrong with being a Muslim in this country and that being Muslim should not disqualify someone from running for President. I think this is a very important point and one that needed to be made and I applaud General Powell for making it as forcefully and eloquently as he did. I do, however, regret that Powell did not point out that Obama himself has not pushed back on this issue.

I also agree with Powell that Michele Bachmann from Minnesota is not a good poster child for Republicans. (I assume this is who Powell was referencing when he referred - somewhat inaccurately - to “the congressman from Minnesota who's going around saying, ‘Let's examine all congressmen to see who is pro-America or not pro-America.”) I am not, however, convinced that the existence of Bachmann is a good reason to endorse Obama while the existence of, say, Carol Fowler does not seem to have entered into Powell’s decision. (Via Sarah Palin Sexism Watch)

However, there are two perhaps small points, personal rather than policy oriented, that bother me most about General Powell’s endorsement. First, Tom Brokaw pointed out that Powell had met with Obama at least twice and Powell himself talks about having conversations with Obama while deciding which candidate he will endorse. Yet when dismissing Governor Palin, Powell said:

And I was also concerned at the selection of Governor Palin. She's a very distinguished woman, and she's to be admired; but at the same time, now that we have had a chance to watch her for some seven weeks, I don't believe she's ready to be president of the United States, which is the job of the vice president. And so that raised some question in my mind as to the judgment that Senator McCain made.

A small point, as I said, but it bothers me that General Powell did not actually meet and speak with Governor Palin before coming to this conclusion.

Second, in speaking with Brokaw, Powell referred to “my beloved friend and colleague John McCain, a friend of 25 years”. After endorsing Obama, Powell then goes on to say:

It isn't easy for me to disappoint Senator McCain in the way that I have this morning, and I regret that.

It sounds very much like Powell did not inform McCain of his decision before appearing on “Meet the Press”. I sincerely hope that is not the case. A minor point, I know, but distressing.

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