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Since 2008 – Progress Through Politics

Bitter Much?

Former Secretary of State Colin Powell endorsed Senator Barack Obama for president on Meet the Press this morning.

The vast right-wing conspiracy has gone crazy with Rush Limbaugh predictably reacting like a bitter child.  He sent this email to

“Secretary Powell says his endorsement is not about race,” Limbaugh wrote in an e-mail. “OK, fine. I am now researching his past endorsements to see if I can find all the inexperienced, very liberal, white candidates he has endorsed. I’ll let you know what I come up with.

“I was also unaware of his dislike for John Roberts, Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, Anthony Kennedy and Antonin Scalia. I guess he also regrets Reagan and Bush making him a four-star and secretary of state and appointing his son to head the FCC. Yes, let’s hear it for transformational figures.”

If this were all about race, why did Gen. Powell wait until October to endorse Sen. Obama? His endorsement would have meant much more when Senator Obama’s readiness was under attack during the primaries (by Hillary Clinton) and during the summer (by Sen. McCain). Indeed, Powell’s endorsement during the primaries could have brought the race to end much more quickly. It would have lent credibility to Senator Obama’s argument that he was ready to be president and that he could bring Republicans and Democrats together. Hillary never would have recovered from such an endorsement.

If not Senator Obma, who did General Powell support during the primaries? Senator John McCain.

What happened? First, Senator Obama convinced Gen. Powell that he was ready to be president.

On the Obama side, I watched Mr. Obama and I watched him during this seven-week period. And he displayed a steadiness, an intellectual curiosity, a depth of knowledge and an approach to looking at problems like this and picking a vice president that, I think, is ready to be president on day one. And also, in not just jumping in and changing every day, but showing intellectual vigor. I think that he has a, a definitive way of doing business that would serve us well.

Second, Senator McCain convinced Gen. Powell that his leadership would not bring the change that America needs.

In the case of Mr. McCain, I found that he was a little unsure as to deal with the economic problems that we were having and almost every day there was a different approach to the problem. And that concerned me, sensing that he didn’t have a complete grasp of the economic problems that we had. 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.

And finally, the tactics of the McCain/Palin campaign have disturbed Gen. Powell:

And I’ve also been disappointed, frankly, by some of the approaches that Senator McCain has taken recently, or his campaign ads, on issues that are not really central to the problems that the American people are worried about. This Bill Ayers situation that’s been going on for weeks became something of a central point of the campaign. But Mr. McCain says that he’s a washed-out terrorist. Well, then, why do we keep talking about him? And why do we have these robocalls going on around the country trying to suggest that, because of this very, very limited relationship that Senator Obama has had with Mr. Ayers, somehow, Mr. Obama is tainted. What they’re trying to connect him to is some kind of terrorist feelings. And I think that’s inappropriate.

Of course, these tactics would not faze Rush Limbaugh, who in 1993 referred to Chelsea Clinton as “the White House dog.” As recently as 2005, he was repeating the vicious and long-debunked lie that Hillary Clinton had murdered her friend Vince Foster, who committed suicide in 1993.

Rush Limbaugh also seems to have conveniently forgotten that Colin Powell has long had a strained relationship with the neo-conservatives in the GOP. During the run-up to the Iraq war in 2002, he is believed to have referred to the White House neo-cons–Vice-President Dick Cheney, then-Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and then-Deputy Secretary of Defense, Paul Wolfowitz–as “fucking crazies” in a conversation with then-UK Foreign Secretary Jack Straw. And at the Aspen Ideas Festival in 2007, he revealed that, in August 2002, he had a long meeting with President Bush and tried to persuade him not to launch the invasion.  

That conversation could not have made him popular with the “fucking crazies,” and his endorsement of Senator Obama today certainly could not have helped.  

Did Senator Obama’s race play a factor in Gen. Powell’s endorsement?  Perhaps.  But did Rush Limbaugh ask that question of Joe Lieberman, who crossed party lines to endorse Senator McCain?  

I do find it hard to believe that Gen. Powell would have cast a vote against the first African-American presidential candidate.  But Gen. Powell did much more than that today.  He repudiated the political party that he first publicly embraced in 1996 when he spoke at the Republican National Convention.  He has placed at risk a lifetime of friendships and political relationships.  He did that because he put his country–not his political party–first.  Indeed, Colin Powell has a history of doing just that, beginning with his military service in Vietnam, where he earned a Purple Heart, and continuing on through his nearly forty-year military career.  On the other hand, Rush Limbaugh, like George Bush, Dick Cheney, and the other politicians that led us into Iraq, did not serve in Vietnam.  

Rush Limbaugh is not half the man that Gen. Colin Powell is.  Rush’s angry comments reflect more on himself and his movement, which finds itself in retreat, than they do on Gen. Powell.  Gen. Powell is an American hero.  Rush Limbaugh is an American disgrace.


  1. It so sums up the reaction on the right.

    I could easily see Powell voting against the first black candidate.  Say Jesse Jackson had ended up running against Ronald Reagan.  But that’s not the case, instead we have Barack Obama (who is a far-and-away better candidate than Jesse Jackson ever was) running against John McCain (who is a far-and-away worse candidate than Ronald Reagan ever was).

    I think Powell answered the “race question” well.  Yeah, he noticed.  But that’s not why he endorsed Obama.

  2. but I heard George Will also went down this path somewhat. I don’t really care for Will, as a bathroom-stall at my college back in the day said, “George will is a fascist” (which prompted the most intellectual bathroom-stall call and response set of graffiti I’ve ever seen). Yet! Will can use his head for more than just a hair farm, he is not stupid, so this is a bit annoying to hear from him.  

  3. spacemanspiff

    Did Senator Obama’s race play a factor in Gen. Powell’s endorsement?  Perhaps.  But did Rush Limbaugh ask that question of Joe Lieberman, who crossed party lines to endorse Senator McCain?  

    This is exactly how I see it.

    Colin Powell did a better job on Meet the Press than most (if not all) of

    Obama’s surrogates in the MSM ( most of them suck).

  4. sricki

    though I don’t think race would have had any bearing on Powell’s vote. I think he’d see it as a relatively trivial issue, and if he planned to base his vote on race at all, he’d have been donating to — and, as you said, endorsing — Obama during the primaries.

    And “bitter” is a great word to describe it. I was all over the place this morning, drawn (against my will) to Red blogs and opinion articles. The freepers were all in a tizzy — it was a shitstorm.

    But Powell is a good man and a hero, a man who erred and realizes it. And today he did his country a great service — his words will mean something to a lot of people who desperately needed to hear them.

  5. Neef

    is that Powell presented perhaps the most coherent, precise and comprehensive case yet. Frankly, I don’t think Obama has hit as many notes as Powell did (small towns, what’s wrong with Muslim).

    To accuse him of endorsing based on race you can’t just disagree with his remarks, you have to ignore them, and assume they are window dressing to cover up racial preference. Mr Powell’s critics haven’t even extended him the courtesy of being wrong, rather the spin is that this was a reason-free decision.

    To brush away the thoughts of a man with Mr Powell’s resume, and assume that he is motivated solely by racial imperatives – while not applying the same yardstick to white endorsers – is a rather breathtaking feat of racism.

    In fairness, I realize that we on the left are often accused of doing the same thing to people who won’t vote for Obama. However, there is a huge difference between “I can’t put my finger on why I don’t like him”, and 5 minute rendition delivered like it was the next NIE.

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