Yesterday, Colin Powell endorsed Barack Obama for president, explaining that he believes the incumbent has done a good job on the economy given the situation he was handed. As a former secretary of state and former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Powell also took serious issue with the foreign policy stances of Obama’s opponent, Mitt Romney, saying that ” I’m not quite sure which Governor Romney we would be getting with respect to foreign policy”:
“One day he has a certain strong view about staying in Afghanistan, but then on Monday night he agrees with the withdrawal. Same thing in Iraq. On almost every issue that was discussed on Monday night, Governor Romney agreed with the President with some nuances. But this is quite a different set of foreign policy views than he had earlier in the campaign. And my concern, which I’ve expressed previously in a public way, is that sometimes I don’t sense that he has thought through these issues as thoroughly as he should have, and he gets advice from his campaign staff that he then has to adjust to modify as he goes along.
INTERVIEWER: Are you concerned about the people that are advising Governor Romney?
POWELL: I think there’s some very, very strong neo-conservative views that are presented by the Governor that I have some trouble with. There are other issues as well, not just the economy and foreign policy. I’m more comfortable with President Obama and his administration when it comes to issues like what are we going to do about climate, what are we going to do about immigration? What are we going to do about education? Lots of things like that. I do not want to see the new Obamacare plan thrown off the table. It has issues, you have to fix some things in that plan. But what I see when I look at that plan is 30 million of our fellow citizens will now be covered by insurance. And I think that’s good. We’re one of the few nations in the world, with our size, population and wealth, that does not have universal health care.”
To which John Sununu, top surrogate for Mitt Romney replied:
“When you take a look at Colin Powell, you have to look at whether that’s an endorsement based on issues or he’s got a slightly different reason for endorsing President Obama. I think when you have somebody of your own race that you’re proud of being president of the United States, I applaud Colin for standing with him.”
Earlier in the day, Sen. John McCain lashed out at Powell as well.
“I think one of the sad aspects of his career is going to the United Nations Security Council and telling them things about Iraq that were absolutely false,” McCain said, going on to tell Powell that “you disappoint us and you have harmed your legacy even further by defending what has clearly been the most feckless foreign policy in my lifetime.”
UPDATE: Just in case anybody thought McCain merely had a bad moment, he repeated his childish little sniping today:
“Colin Powell, interestingly enough, said that Obama got us out of Iraq,” McCain said, standing outside of an American Legion hall. “But it was Colin Powell, with his testimony before the U.N. Security Council, that got us into Iraq.”
Sununu’s statement, which he later tried to back down, is deeply troubling. No one alive today possesses Powell’s level of experience at the highest levels of military and foreign policy, yet Sununu attempts to reduce him to a one-dimensional cartoon character motivated solely by racial affinity.
But personally, as I indicated yesterday in comments, McCain’s statement is more unforgivable. For whatever reason, Powell did indeed mislead the United Nations in his presentation regarding Iraq’s alleged possession of weapons of mass destruction, and he has acknowledged that as a blot on his record. But McCain was selling the WMD angle every bit as hard if not harder than Powell. Nobody in Congress was lobbying harder for an invasion of Iraq. Here is McCain in 2002:
Given that record, McCain’s swipe at Powell for his UN presentation comes off as extremely petty, utterly without dignity or integrity. It reveals the smallness of the man who uttered it. All in all, what McCain and Sununu have said tells us much more about their own character than it does about Powell.
– Jay Bookman