October 21, 2008
What can I say about Colin Powell’s endorsement of “The One” that has not already been said? Fans of “The One” were pleasantly surprised, and Republicans were shocked. In the last couple of days we have heard talking heads on the news give their impressions, and also talkers on the radio giving their takes as well. So why I am doing a blog entry on this? Well, it’s personal to me, and it’s my blog, so I get to do what I want!
When I was still in high school, the first Gulf War erupted in its full, what is now considered brief, fury. Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait; Saudi Arabia was presumed to be his next target. Much of the world’s supply of oil was up for grabs. The oil-rich, militarily-weak, regimes of the Persian Gulf region could not defend themselves against the threat. Action was needed to preserve stability. The U.S. military was called upon to go into action.
Daily press briefings throughout the buildup occurred. After hostilities between Allied Forces and Iraqis started, the briefings continued. The chief commander in the field was Norman Schwarzkopf. The chief commander back at the Pentagon was Colin Powell. General Powell was on my TV quite a bit in those days. I developed a healthy amount of respect for him, which continues to this day. I read his book that was released after his retirement from the military. I followed his career in the George W. Bush administration. I watched him carry the water for a new invasion of Iraq. I saw his briefing to the U.N. (now as Secretary of State). I saw later, much of the information he presented was based on faulty intelligence. My perception is that Colin Powell has not forgotten this incident either. He wants to redeem himself for the sake of history.
From what tidbits I have heard here and there over the years as a consumer of news, it appears Colin Powell was quite upset about being used in this way to promote a war. A war, which many believe, Powell never really agreed with; but nevertheless, while as a loyal cabinet member, had to act to support the administration to the best of his ability. It is clear to all, that something caused friction between Powell and other members of the administration, because after two years as Secretary of State, he retired again. This is one of the things that makes you go: hmmmm.
Powell has always been a moderate. He favors affirmative action, is pro-choice, and has somewhat liberal views on sex education and distribution of condoms. Religiously, he is an Episcopalian. This is something he has in common with George H.W. Bush, under whom he was Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. I mention this, because in his endorsement, Powell mentioned he was not comfortable with the prospect of more conservative justices being appointed to the Supreme Court. If you are old enough to remember the elder Bush as President, you will also remember his appointment of David Souter to the Supreme Court. David Souter is also an Episcopalian and not exactly a conservative on the bench. George H.W. Bush also appointed Clarence Thomas (who attended an Episcopal church at the time; but later went back to the Roman Catholic Church he grew up in). However, the overall balance of conservative vs. liberal justices was not significantly altered during that administration.
It has been rumored that G.H.W. Bush has been extremely disappointed in his son’s prosecution of the war in Iraq. This rumor has credence, because the elder Bush ceased all hostilities once our forces had pushed Iraq out of Kuwait. He did not want to invade Iraq, and even had our forces withdraw from Iraqi territory they had seized as they pushed north through Kuwait. Contrast this attitude with the current administration, which is trying to wage wars on two fronts, simultaneously, with a vastly smaller military. It is my belief, that Powell still holds a grudge about being overruled on the decision to go into Iraq.
During the campaign, two lead candidates emerged. John McCain, who Colin Powell has known for many years, and “The One”. John McCain was raised Episcopalian, and remained in that church for many years. He, like Powell, has had a reputation as a moderate in the Republican Party. However, in recent years, the Episcopal Church has careened off the road, taking a hard left towards a long political cliff no candidate for President could survive. Perhaps because of this, McCain, as we have only learned in the last year, is now Baptist. To help shore up his base, McCain picked Sarah Palin as his V.P. She is from the right wing evangelical part of the Republican Party. This apparently, is a wedge driving Powell apart from McCain. He expressed criticism of the choice of Palin. Powell has long had a dislike for evangelicals, and I think this has created some discomfort on his part with the Republican Party. Which brings me back again, to the war in Iraq. Some of the biggest supporters of the war are evangelical Republicans, who believe our combat troops’ mission is part of God’s Plan. For those that believe that, no logic or reason can be applied to change their minds on the issue. They have their minds quite made up, thank you very much. McCain’s biggest issue where he has differentiated himself from “The One”, is on the war in Iraq. The McCain/Palin ticket is very much in the same place as the right wing evangelical partisans on this.
Powell, is also a very shrewd man. He wants to redeem himself, and McCain is behind in the polls with less than a month to go before the election. “The One”, like McCain, rejected his church for taking a hard left turn off the road (although his church followed black liberation theology, instead of a more general liberal theology that grips the Episcopal church). However, in the last year, “The One” has not made any announcement of what, if any church, he attends. He only came to be religious while working with African-American churches as a community organizer. He has tried to distance himself from religious extremism since getting his party’s nomination. In terms of spirituality, “The One” is now more moderate than McCain.
It needs to be mentioned, although he denies it, I do believe that race is at least a factor in Powell’s endorsement.
Politically, religiously, spiritually, he sees himself as disconnected from the Republican Party. He believes that McCain is no longer moderate enough. He probably has come to resent Palin’s conservative evangelical background, which he most likely associates with those beating the war drum loudest in the current administration. “The One” has taken a lead in the polls, and Powell believes he will govern in a more moderate fashion, which is more comfortable to him, given his views. Also, if he is to redeem himself, he needs to do something to get the next President to call on him for his service again. By choosing to endorse the candidate he sees as the eventual winner, he may just get the chance.
To see the article and video of the endorsement, go Here