Former Secretary of State Colin Powell announced Sunday that he will be voting for Sen. Barack Obama. “He has both style and substance. I think he is a transformational figure,” Powell said on NBC’s Meet the Press. The Republicans have turned into Rumpilstilskin trying to spin hay into gold.
“I 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 — and you have to take that into account — as well as his substance — he has both style and substance,” Powell said. “He has met the standard of being a successful president, being an exceptional president.”
Powell said McCain has been a good friend for 25 years, but expressed disappointment in the negative tone of McCain’s campaign, as well as in his choice of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin as the Republican vice presidential nominee.
“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,” Powell said. “And so that raised some question in my mind as to the judgment that Senator McCain made.”
He harshly criticized some of McCain’s campaign tactics, such as the robocall campaign inflating Obama’s ties to former 1960s radical Bill Ayers.
“Mr. McCain says that he’s a washed up terrorist, but then why do we keep talking about him? And why do we have the 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. 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 narrow. It’s not what the American people are looking for.”
Former National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski told the Huffington Post that Gen. Colin Powell’s endorsement of Barack Obama represents a “comprehensive indictment” of the McCain-Palin ticket.
Brzezinski said he thinks Powell’s endorsement to play a major factor in the race. “I was impressed by the comprehensive indictment of the current Republican ticket that was implicit in Powell’s statement. It was not just about foreign affairs, it was a comprehensive statement that conveys the message that the more traditionally centrist Republicans are coming to view the McCain-Palin ticket as some sort of deviation — some sort of break — with the genuine traditions of the Republican Party.”
Brzezinski also rejected the notion, floated by some, that Powell’s endorsement could be discounted by undecided white voters as mere “racial solidarity,” saying: “Because of his military service, his role in the first Gulf War, his status as a past Secretary of State, it has put him above the racial divide. He’s seen more as an elder statesman.”
Political analysts generally discount the impact of endorsements on an election campaign — especially one so late in the season as Colin Powell’s Sunday of Barack Obama.
“It’s been shown endorsements don’t matter that much, except early in the game when it helps candidates raise money,” said Andrew Smith, director of the University of New Hampshire Survey Research Center.
But Powell is no ordinary endorser — an African-American who was Ronald Reagan’s national security adviser; chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff under the first President Bush and President Clinton, and a Republican who was George W. Bush’s first secretary of state.
In a former time, Powell’s name was often mentioned as the most likely person to be America’s first black president and when just before he left government in 2004, an NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll found that 70 percent of Americans had a positive opinion of him..
So when he unequivocally endorsed Obama in a seven-minute presentation on “Meet the Press” analysts were inclined to see it as a major development — though they differed on how major.
Larry J. Sabato, the director of the University of Virginia Center for Politics, used the word “devastating” to describe Powell’s point-by-point critique of the McCain campaign. Powell said McCain was “unsure” about economic policy, that Sarah Palin was not qualified to be vice president, and that the campaign’s effort to tie Obama to William Ayers was “inappropriate.”
Obama, on the other hand, Powell said, was a “transformational” leader.
Sure McCain was crushed and his campaign and his surrogates are spinning faster than a whirling dervish.
John McCain’s surrogates took to the Sunday shows to minimize the damage from Colin Powell’s endorsement of Democrat Barack Obama and challenge the hardening conventional wisdom that the presidential race is slipping away from their candidate.
House Republican Whip Roy Blunt of Missouri admitted he wished Powell would have endorsed McCain, but said that neither the endorsement nor Obama’s association with 1960s radical Bill Ayers will matter as much as Joe the plumber.
“I think Joe the plumber does matter here, not because he’s Joe or not because he’s a plumber but because of all that particular discussion represents,” Blunt said on CNN’s “Late Edition with Wolf Blitzer.”
“Endorsements are typically overrated, I think,” former Bush budget director Rob Portman said on CBS’ “Face the Nation.” “I don’t think it makes a big difference,” Portman told host Bob Schieffer, though he added that Powell “is well respected” and has said Powell “respects both men but he’s always had a special admiration for Sen. Obama.”
Missouri’s Republican Gov. Matt Blunt told Schieffer, “I don’t know that it will make a difference in Missouri,” and he downplayed the record 100,000-person crowd Obama drew Saturday in St. Louis.
“He obviously has a great celebrity status,” Blunt said of the Illinois senator. “That doesn’t always translate into votes.”
Powell got it wrong when he called Obama “transformational,” Rudy Giuliani said on “Late Edition.”
“I don’t see the same things in Barack Obama that Colin Powell sees,” said the former New York mayor, who acknowledged he has “the highest regard” for Powell and wanted him to seek the GOP presidential nomination in 1996.
“What I see [in Obama] is a very traditional liberal Democrat, really a throwback — even a throwback before the Clintons, Giuliani said, charging that Obama would engineer a government takeover of health care and strip workers’ rights to secret ballots in union elections.
In the immediate aftermath of Secretary Powell’s appearance on Meet The Press, several prominent GOP officials – ranging from the established to the extreme – defined the announcement more by skin color than ideology.
The most crass interpretation came from talk radio host Rush Limbaugh, who wrote the Politico’s Jonathan Martin the following:
“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.”
Around the same time, esteemed conservative columnist George Will was also explaining Powell’s decision as part of a larger, more psychological sway that Obama held over other African Americans.
There will be “some impact,” Will declared. “And I think this adds to my calculation — this is very hard to measure — but it seems to me if we had the tools to measure we’d find that Barack Obama gets two votes because he’s black for everyone he loses because he’s black because so much of this country is so eager, a, to feel good about itself by doing this, but more than that to put paid to the whole Al Sharpton/Jesse Jackson game of political rhetoric.”
There were, down the conservative line, other voices who gave credence to the race-over-politics theory. A prominent Republican attorney in Maine, Dan Billings, accused Powell of racism, stating: “If Obama was a white man, Powell would not have made the endorsement.
Spin all you want- but Colin Powell’s endorsement was thoughtful, eloquent and his indictment was insightful and right on the money.