Motley Moose – Archive

Since 2008 – Progress Through Politics

An Endorsement and an Indictment

This morning Barack Obama received what may prove to be the second most important endorsement of his presidential campaign. For the sake of party unity, obtaining Senator Clinton’s support was quintessential, but in terms of reaching out to Independents and Republicans, this is perhaps the ultimate endorsement.  Despite having donated $2,300 to longtime friend Senator John McCain’s campaign during the primaries, General Colin Powell endorsed Senator Barack Obama for the presidency today on Meet the Press.

Rumors of a possible Powell endorsement have been circling for months, and the retired general has had strong words of praise for the junior Senator from Illinois in the past. This morning Powell assured the nation that after a period of watching both candidates, he had determined that Obama is steady, informed, and prepared to tackle this nation’s problems.

“I watched Mr. Obama, and I watched him during this 7-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 show intellectual vigor. I think that he has a definitive way of doing business that would serve us well.”

– Gen. Colin Powell, Oct. 19, 2008 (full transcript)

Powell has long been considered a moderate — a pragmatist rather than a neoconservative — and even now, despite his prominent role in pushing for the 2003 invasion of Iraq, he is viewed favorably by much of the nation. This is a Republican for whom even I retain some respect — misled and manipulated by a corrupt administration, he has nevertheless admitted fault and shown remorse, admitted that his testimony and involvement were “a blot” on his record. This is a man who has shown contrition, and who is despised only by those on the farthest ends of the political spectrum. Middle America loves Colin Powell.

And middle America will decide this election.

“Obama displayed a steadiness, an intellectual curiosity, a depth of knowledge,” Powell said.

“He has met the standard of being a successful president, being an exceptional president,” he said.

Obama praised Powell at a campaign event in Fayetteville, North Carolina, on Sunday, calling him “a great soldier, a great statesman, and a great American.”

“I have been honored to have the benefit of his wisdom and counsel from time to time over the last few years, but today, I am beyond honored and deeply humbled to have the support of General Colin Powell,” Obama said.

Obama called Powell earlier Sunday and thanked him for his endorsement, communications director Robert Gibbs said.

In their 10-minute conversation, Obama said he looked forward to taking advantage of Powell’s advice in the next two weeks and hopefully over the next four years, Gibbs said.

During the campaign, Powell has met with both candidates and said he has a lot of respect for McCain. He said Sunday that he thinks both candidates are qualified to be president.

“It isn’t easy for me to disappoint Sen. McCain in the way that I have this morning, and I regret that,” Powell said.

Speaking on Fox News Sunday, McCain said he respects and admires Powell, and the announcement “doesn’t come as a surprise.”


So exactly how big is this endorsement? Mark Halperin over at Time has outlined several reasons this endorsement carries such enormous import. From a purely tactical point of view, the timing puts McCain at a disadvantage. He’s down in the polls and has a short 15 days to pull himself out of the trenches. Colin Powell has just robbed him of a portion of that time. Powell is still a powerful figure on the political landscape, and his endorsement would have received media coverage even if it had gone to the Republican nominee; for it to go to the Democratic nominee, however, isn’t just a one-morning news story — it’s a news story which will fuel the MSM feeding frenzy for days. The former Secretary of State of the Bush administration crossed party lines to endorse Barack Obama — it’s a sensational story they can’t help but love.

Perhaps most significant is the damage this endorsement will do to one of McCain’s last remaining perceived strengths. The recent economic crisis has helped boost Obama’s numbers, but polls showed that voters still felt more comfortable with McCain on issues of national security. Powell may have given Americans more confidence in Obama on that front.

[Powell] is so trusted for his judgment on national security (even in the wake of his role in the current Iraq War) that his confidence in Obama to become commander-in-chief will resonate with many elites and voters. The Democrats’ ability to play the Powell card for the next two weeks makes it much harder, even if there is an unexpected international crisis, for Republicans to suggest Obama simply isn’t qualified to protect the country. Powell reinforced Obama’s qualifications on “Meet the Press”: “Senator Obama has demonstrated the kind of calm, patient, intellectual, steady approach to problem-solving that I think we need in this country.”

Mark Halperin, Time

Apparently Powell isn’t terribly concerned about the prospect of our next president meeting foreign leaders “without preconditions”. He probably wouldn’t even mind if Obama wanted to meet up with the Prime Minister of Spain.

Powell said a major part of his decision to turn his back on his own party was his conclusion that Obama was the better option to repair frayed U.S. relations with allies overseas.

“This is the time for outreach,” Powell said, saying the next president would have to “reach out and show the world there is a new administration that is willing to reach out.”

In particular, he said, he welcomed Obama’s president to “talk to people we haven’t talked to,” a reference to Obama’s controversial statement that he would be open to direct diplomacy with Iranian leaders.

“I think that [Obama] has a definite way of doing business that will serve us well,” Powell said.


But it gets so much better. In one breath Powell glowingly praises our nominee, and in the next he casts doubt on McCain’s judgment and sternly excoriates his own party. It started gently enough…

“I have some concerns about the direction that the party has taken in recent years. It has moved more to the right than I would like to see it, but that’s a choice the party makes.”

…but then he went on to question McCain’s ability to deal with the economy, hint at his inability to pick an approach and stick to it, and criticize his judgment in selecting Sarah Palin as his vice president.

“. . .in the case of Mr. McCain, I found that he was a little unsure as to how 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 did not 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.”

Colin Powell, Oct. 19, 2008 [emphasis mine]

He didn’t stop there, though. He indicted his entire party and condemned the disgraceful tactics currently being employed by the McCain campaign. He even went so far as to highlight the hypocrisy inherent in the juxtaposition of McCain’s determination on the trail to link Obama to Bill Ayers alongside his flippant reference to Ayers (during the debate) as a mere “washed out terrorist”.

“I also believe that on the Republican side, over the last 7 weeks the approach of the Republican Party and Mr. McCain has become narrower and narrower.  Mr. Obama at the same time has given us some more broader inclusive reach into the needs and aspirations of our people.  He’s crossing lines– ethnic lines, racial lines, generational lines.  He’s thinking about all villages have values, all towns have values, not just small towns have values. And I’ve also been disappointed frankly by some of the approaches that Senator McCain has taken recently, or his campaign has, 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 he’s a washed out terrorist-well, 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, now Mr. Obama is tainted. What they’re trying to connect him to is some kind of terrorist feelings, and I think that’s inappropriate.

“Now I understand what politics is all about, I know how you can go after one another. And that’s good. But I think this goes too far. And I think it has made the McCain campaign look a little narrower. It’s not what the American people are looking for.

“And I look at these kinds of approaches to the campaign and they trouble me.”

Colin Powell,Oct. 19, 2008 [emphasis mine]

Then Powell stands up for the Supreme Court.

“And the party has moved even further to the right, and Governor Palin has indicated a further rightward shift. I would have difficulty with two more conservative appointments to the Supreme Court, but that’s what we would be looking at in a McCain administration.

And then Colin Powell says what every decent man and woman in this country should have been saying over all these long, long months:

“I’m also troubled by…what members of the party say, and is permitted to be said, such things as, ‘Well you know that Mr. Obama is a Muslim.’ Well, the correct answer is, ‘He is not a Muslim, he’s a Christian, he’s always been a Christian.’

“But the really right answer is, ‘What if he is? Is there something wrong with being a Muslim in this country?’

“The answer’s ‘No, that’s not America.’

“Is there something wrong with some 7-year-old Muslim American kid believing that he or she could be president? Yet I have heard senior members of my own party drop the suggestion he’s a Muslim and he might be associated with terrorists.  This is not the way we should be doing it in America.”

Colin Powell, Oct. 19, 2008 [emphasis mine]

I clapped.

Because that’s what everyone should have been saying all along. That’s what many of us have wanted to say all along. Maybe some of us have been more diligent about it than others, but for many of us, perhaps it became a “pick your battles” sort of moral dilemma. I certainly know I’ve said and typed “He isn’t a Muslim” far more often than I’ve said or typed “He isn’t a Muslim, but it wouldn’t make any difference if he were because there’s absolutely nothing wrong with being a Muslim.” I hate bigotry and prejudice in all its forms, yet I have defended Obama against charges that he is a Muslim the way I would defend him against charges of being a serial killer. Anytime I run across someone who thinks he’s a Muslim, I find myself wasting long minutes of my time attempting to assure him/her of his Christian credentials.

But why?

Because I was picking my battles. This country has allowed “Muslim” to become a dirty word, a scary word, a word people use to frighten small children. Saying “Obama is a Muslim” is like saying “Obama is the bogeyman (and don’t forget — a black, foreign one!!!).” I knew I couldn’t convince anyone in a few minutes time that there’s nothing wrong with being a Muslim — but maybe, just maybe, I could convince him/her that Barack was a Christian. There is something fundamentally wrong with this line of thinking, though — it concedes a point too important to be conceded. To fight “Obama is a Muslim” with “No, no, no, but he isn’t!” is an extraordinarily flawed approach. For months I (yes, even as a Clinton supporter), along with many others, have helped reinforce the idea that being a Muslim is a bad thing, simply by fighting the “smear” the wrong way — and despite our efforts, it never fully “lost its legs” (though it’s now being used primarily as a cover for good old fashioned racism). It’s difficult to fight ignorance. I won the “OMG, Obama is a Moozlim!!” battle with one person, and it was with my grandmother — it took weeks — and though she’s clear on Obama, she doesn’t feel any differently toward Muslims.

What have we accomplished by fighting the talking point this way? It’s hard to say. Hopefully a few more people know that Obama isn’t a Muslim. Hopefully he’ll get a few more votes, like my grandmother’s. No matter what happens, Muslim Americans have come out losers in this election. We’ve been cutting a weed at the surface instead of pulling it from the source. Maybe this was the only way to handle it in the short term. Being an Obama supporter and defending Islam too loudly in front of people who are convinced he’s an Arab… well, it isn’t an easy thing to do. It raises questions in the minds of the ignorant, it raises eyebrows. So I picked my battle — the easier battle, the more imminent battle — yet, to my knowledge, won it only once.

From The Caucus:

Mr. Powell also told reporters on Sunday that he was troubled that a number of Americans believe that Mr. Obama is a Muslim, although he did not directly link that supposition to the McCain campaign. At a recent town-hall style meeting, Mr. McCain told an audience member who said she thought that Mr. Obama was an “Arab,” “no, ma’am, he’s a decent family man.”

“These are the kinds of images going out on Al Jazeera that are killing us around the world,” Mr. Powell said. “And we have got to say to the world it doesn’t make any difference who you are and what you are. If you’re an American you’re an American.”

Precisely. Much of the country has been going about this the wrong way, and Powell called us on it. NavyBlueWife’s excellent diary gives us a poignant glance at the young Muslim American man Powell mentioned in his endorsement, a young man who gave his life for his country.

Powell concludes his endorsement:

“Now we have got to stop polarizing ourselves in this way. And John McCain is as nondiscriminatory as anyone I know, but I’m troubled about the fact that within the party, we have these kinds of expressions.

“So when I look at all of this and I think back to my army career, we’ve got two individuals.  Either on of them could be a good president. But which is the president that we need now? Which is the individual that serves the needs of the nation for the next period of time? And I’ve come to the conclusion that because of his ability to inspire, because of the inclusive nature of his campaign, because he is reaching out all across America, because of who he is and his rhetorical abilities, as well as his substance, he has both style and substance, he has met the standard of being a successful president being an exceptional president, I think he is a transformational figure, he is a new generation, coming onto the world stage, the American stage,

“And for that reason, I will be voting for Barack Obama.

Gen. Colin Powell, Oct. 19, 2008

The Republicans still have a maverick, but it isn’t John McCain.

It’s almost over, folks, and our position has never been stronger. Keep blogging, keep donating, keep making calls, keep registering voters, keep canvassing. Whatever it is you do, keep doing it — and do more of it. There’s a light at the end of a long, dark tunnel, and we’re almost there. Keep moving. On November 4th, this nation is going to rise up. We’re going to reclaim our government, our country, our dignity, our honor.

Yes, we can.

Yes, we will.


  1. sricki

    to get his take on the endorsement. And what did he have to say?

    “Powell’s a Democrat, just like I always told you.”

    Yes, that’s right. Sricki’s daddy isn’t just a Republican, he’s a neocon. He fancies himself a libertarian, but… not so much. Amazing I got out of that house alive — or sane.

    Oh, and my other reason for taking so long to post this: Morbid curiosity. I wanted to see what the freepers and their ilk were doing to Powell. It isn’t nice, let me tell you. King of the dittoheads Limbaugh had this to say in an email this morning:

    “Secretary Powell says his endorsement is not about race. 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 [Powell’s] 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 [general] and secretary of state and appointing his son to head the FCC. Yes, let’s hear it for transformational figures.”

    Scathing, yes? I certainly hope general Powell takes it as a compliment of the highest order.  

  2. Those who do not associate themselves strongly with the base of either party.  Surprisingly, the majority of the country is typically not represented by the political parties, who spend most of their time playing to the activists that provide them most of their support.

    Powell is deeply respected by that majority in the middle.  I will not be at all surprised to see a Powell bump in the polls over coming days.

  3. rfahey22

    Regardless of what he did or did not do in the Bush Administration, the endorsement came across as sincere and well thought-out.  Even better were the slams on McCain and Palin.

  4. spacemanspiff


    Even with my Colin Powell overdose I was feeling this diary.

    The question now is…

    Does he get a cabinet post?

  5. hootie4170

    I was struck by his comments regarding Kareem Khan.  What a brave young man.

    I was also in agreement with how other countries perceive the U.S. when following our election.  We have a high ranking officials (McCain campaign, RNC and that POS Bachmann) inferring or outright stating that Obama and some members of congress are Anti-American.  Are you freakin’ kidding me?  They should charge these people with a crime.  It really pisses me off.

  6. Texas Gray Wolf

    Some won’t. He was very moderated in tone (“And so that raised some question in my mind as to the judgment that Senator McCain made”, for instance). Everything comes out soft and moderate and calm.

    I think that’ll speak far more strongly than would’ve a more ringing denouncement of — continuing the example above — McCain’s judgment for his choice of Palin will have, at least to the people we need it to speak to. You simply can’t credibly accuse Powell of being “in the tank”, and yet when you put everything he says together, you find he’s said nice things about Obama and nice things about McCain, and bad things about McCain and… hrm, not much bad to say about Obama. So even as he says that they would both make good Presidents, it’s clear that this was not a close decision.

    I admit that my first thought was relief; I’ve been worried that Powell would either non-endorse or that his friendship with McCain would trump his (not inconsiderable) intellect.

    But this will help Obama, just as you noted; it’s a huge amount of noise drowning out McCain, it’s sand in the gears of the “not ready to be CiC” argument, and it hits McCain just where we want him hit. In short, this summarizes well as “prominent friend of McCain with decades of Republican loyalty sees him as too erratic, too narrow, and lacking the judgment required of a President”. That he proceeded to, calmly and with careful language, demolish the negative campaigning is an extra bonus; that he took on Bachmann later is even more of a bonus.

    Merely endorsing Obama would’ve been great; Powell went well beyond that (and one assumes he’ll be all over the media for a few days, so that even without campaigning for Obama he will be).

    And as the last little bonus — if there’s any Powell bump, even a small one, McCain’s “comeback kid” ploy gets sunk.

    Great diary and thanks for it.

  7. Neef

    What was most impressive to me was not the endorsement itself, but the complete dismantling of McCain’s argument for the Presidency. It was an oddly military critique, with all the thoughts laid out neatly from cause to effect to conclusion.

    There wasn’t any passion in it, per se, but it was such an incredibly well articulated position, that you couldn’t help but nod your head. It wasn’t a putdown asmuch as it was an analysis, which makes the ultimate conclusion (McCain isn’t ready) all the more devastating.

    In fact, I’d argue that being unmoved by his words is sort of a litmus test for blind partisanship. Of course, i say that as a blind partisan =).

  8. Kysen

    I clapped.

    I bet you did!

    And the thought of it makes me grin.

    I was cheering him on myself.

    I bet A LOT of people were.

    Good on him.

    Good on you for this diary.


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