No surprise, this endorsement -- "Colin Powell endorses Obama on "Meet the Press" this morning," writes Steve Benen, and Matthew Yglesias. Though the announcement did not surprise many people, it remains as an item of big news. It seems to me that it is very significant because Powell still calls himself Republican. He, like many others in the same situation, did not leave the party; the party left him.
Retired General Powell will help with the centrist Republican vote, and with the military vote, though he will not actively campaign. Colin Powell would not rule out helping out in an Obama administration, however. His endorsement was unequivocal and fulsome, and gave no hint of any reservation. He mentioned (I paraphrase here) Obama's steadiness in difficult situations, talent for speaking, willingness to dive deep into issues to learn more, commitment to surrounding himself with the brightest people, and having an admirable intelligence.
Senator John McCain's decision making lost Colin Powell's confidence two months ago. Powell cited a "narrowing" that the choice of Sarah Palin signified for the Republican party. McCain also lost Powell's confidence with his inability to demonstrate effective handling of the economic crisis. And Senator Barack Obama gained his confidence during what he called the candidates' "final exam" of these recent weeks.
General Powell may be passing his own re-examination by skeptics and critics, who have remained mad at him for his inability to stop the invasion of Iraq. He took a good bit of time to explain the history as he lived it, citing bad intelligence as the precipitating factor. He conspicuously took no pains to defend George W. Bush's conduct of the war, which McCain has also criticized. In several contexts Colin Powell mentioned how important United States leadership is in the world and how much it has eroded.
Colin Powell made his judgment, in my opinion, about his choice based on merit. It was not based on McCain's association with Bush. At the same time he dismissed Obama's limited association with William Ayers, pointing to the campaign charges as further "narrowing" of the Republican party. He also explained that it was not based on race, as he could have made the endorsement much earlier, if that has been the case.
In the end Colin Powell's endorsement was about leadership capacity, now about tenure or loyalty. He has known and admired Senator McCain for decades, and Senator Obama for two years. He looked at the two men's attributes to be the leader of the free world in perilous times, and made his choice based on that much more expansive judgment.View my current slide show about the Bush years -- "Millennium" -- at the bottom of this column.
(Cross-posted at The Reaction.)
My “creativity and dreaming” post today is at Making Good Mondays.