Unbelievable: Colin Powell endorses Obama

I heard about this back in August. There was breathless speculation that Powell was going to endorse Obama. It didn’t happen, and it made the Obama campaign sound like it was crying wolf to grab headlines. Earlier this week I heard the same thing and I brushed it off. “He’s not going to do it,” I thought. How could he endorse a candidate with such irresponsible foreign policy views? Well here it is. You have to see it to believe it.

Basically what Powell says here is he likes that Obama is intellectually curious, and gathers information and views from many sources. And he doesn’t like the direction the Republican Party is going in, with certain high level people in the party wondering whether Obama is really a Muslim, and whether he really has ties to terrorists that could do America harm. Perhaps he doesn’t like that McCain hasn’t disciplined those people in the party or thrown them out, since being the nominee of the party, he is the leader of it. He also said in so many words that he didn’t like McCain’s choice of Sarah Palin for VP, because in his mind she’s not ready to be president. So he thinks Obama is ready? Is he serious?

It’s interesting that on Friday Christopher Hitchens, a long-time supporter of Bush and his policies in the “War on Terror”, also endorsed Obama on the O’Reilly Factor for the same reasons. Hitchens conceded that Obama is inexperienced and has some wrong ideas, but “he’s teachable”. I guess that’s an attractive notion to some, but I think if Obama does win he’s going to be taught more (brutally) by actual events than by experts, and we’re all going to be his guinea pigs while he learns. Great. I can’t wait.

The objections Powell had about McCain were that McCain seemed unsure about how to handle the economic crisis, that his foreign policy approach has gotten narrower, and that his campaign has focused too much on issues that are of little concern to the American people.

Have these men forgotten that it was McCain who came up with the winning strategy of the surge in Iraq, a policy that Obama opposed? Obama favored beginning the pullout of forces in 2007, a strategy that would have surely led to chaos in Iraq and the surrounding region. Has Powell forgotten that it was McCain who backed legislation in 2006 that would have regulated Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, which would have had a chance of nipping this financial crisis in the bud before it blew up on us this fall? Where was Obama on that one? He was in the Cloak Room in the Senate and couldn’t be bothered to come out and vote for it.

I’m sure McCain doesn’t believe that Obama has ties to terrorists that will do us harm, nor that he is a Muslim. I’m curious to know why Powell somehow thinks that doesn’t matter. The question from McCain’s perspective was never about whether Obama is the “Manchurian candidate”, but that Obama’s associations have never been vetted by the MSM (as they should have been), and that his associations say something about him and his judgement. That’s all.

Hearing that Obama is intellectually curious is a plus in my book. Both Hitchens and Powell said this. I’m intellectually curious myself, but I know that it’s not the end-all, be-all of judgement.

My grandmother was a nurse before she got married. She went through a nursing school that was more like a vocational school. There was book learning, but there was a lot of hands-on work. Students worked with real patients every day. By the time she graduated she knew how to work with doctors and patients, and she had probably seen it all as far as what kinds of problems patients could have. Her husband was a radiologist. Both of them told me growing up that book learning is good, but hands-on experience is invaluable. If you have a serious illness or operation, you do NOT want a doctor working on you who is just out of medical school. Get one who has been dealing with patients’ illnesses and physiology for many years. Why? The doctor just out of medical school is trained in the basics. Sure they’re competent, but they have been trained for the routine stuff, and they don’t know what they don’t know. Also what they don’t know, just from a lack of experience, is that biology can and does throw them curveballs. They’ll think one thing is going on when in fact it’s something else, and they’ll treat you (very convincingly I might add) for the wrong problem. People die in hospitals quite often, and not of natural causes. Sometimes it’s because of negligence (in which case they have a lawsuit on their hands), but often it’s because the doctor(s) did their due dilligence, but even that wasn’t good enough.

I have to admit I haven’t listened to a lot of what McCain has said about what he’d do on policy. One policy position I heard from one of his advisors that really impressed me is that he’s considering bringing in more people from different professions to serve as teachers in the public schools, rather than credentialled teachers who have gone through the education schools. This is a non-obvious solution to an obvious problem. Our schools of education (the university programs that train teachers), by and large, suck. This has been the case for decades. My mother who got her degree in education has said as much for years. This was the case when she went to school, though fortunately she found a good graduate private post-graduate program. It seems as though everyone but the people ensconsced in the education schools knows this. Many of these schools are a joke.

Anyway, that’s one policy position I listened to. The real reason I came around to McCain is I was impressed that he came up with the surge policy in Iraq, which is working well, when everyone else, including many Republicans (except Bush), wanted to throw in the towel and concede defeat. That shows judgement and leadership that Obama simply doesn’t have, and I’m surprised that Powell, who as a military man has been dedicated to success in military conflict (in my opinion), would back someone who doesn’t have the perception to understand what it takes to succeed in that theater, and who has a powerful constituency he has to please that believes war is never justified.

Colin Powell, I hate to say this, because I have long believed that you are a good judge of character, but I think you’ve fallen for a very well done PR campaign that has in my opinion caused you to go more with your feelings than with your head and sense of judgement. I am so very disappointed in you.

2 Responses to Unbelievable: Colin Powell endorses Obama

  1. ArmyWife says:

    I’m glad you’ve come around to McCain. He was not my choice for my party – his pick of Sarah Palin made me feel a lot better about it, though! I don’t know how much of a yearning Senator Obama has to learn – its seems more as if he is looking to impress upon the rest of us the teachings he embraces (Saul Alinsky would probably be the most easily recognized). I don’t think he is a Muslim or a terrorist. Its not about the people themselves, its about the shared values and judgment.

    Even if I give Senator Obama the benefit of the doubt (learning wise), and building on your doctor example, what do you call the person who graduated last from medical school? Yep -Doctor. More fitting for this case, however, is what do you call the person who graduated last from law school? Joe Biden. Thank you, but no.

    Deep down, General Powell knows what he has done here – he is an intelligent and capable person. History will look back at this and paint Powell as a once capable warrior turned wobbly.

    PS – thanks for your kind words!

  2. PIBoulder says:


    McCain was not my first choice either for the Republican nomination. I liked Giuliani, but unfortunately I had to travel out of state before the Republican caucus happened here (and didn’t get back in time), and he got out of the race before then. I was lukewarm about the other candidates, including McCain. It was only when I got to know more about his positive accomplishments, particularly that he pushed for the surge, and Gen. Patraeus to lead it, when no one else would, that I was impressed. My mother wasn’t inspired by any of the candidates. She became a solid supporter of McCain though when he chose Sarah Palin. She told me she felt like it revealed something very positive about him she didn’t know existed.

    We had both seen Palin in an interview on Glenn Beck’s program in June, and we were both impressed with her then. When we learned that McCain picked her we both said “Wow!” True story. 🙂

    Re: Saul Alinsky

    I first heard of him and his book “Rules For Radicals” when I went to a free class on press relations for political activists many years ago. I had been involved in some political campaigns and was interested in press relations. The title did not inspire confidence for me, but the teacher really plugged the book, saying it contained some very effective techniques. I didn’t read it. Some years later I saw a documentary on Alinsky (I think on PBS) that made him sound respectable, empowering minority communities to get heard on important issues they had, by big city politicians that would otherwise tend to ignore them. Tactics I don’t mind, as long as they’re legal (which as far as I know, Alinsky’s methods were). It’s the strategy behind the tactics that matters. If people use Alinsky’s tactics to get vital city infrastructure repaired, or city services responsive to the people’s needs, then I have no problem with that. As people in politics know, it’s the squeaky wheel that gets the grease. The question that we should really ask is not who’s using his techniques, but what do they want.

    Re: Obama

    In a strange way he reminds me of both presidents Carter and Clinton. His approach to issues reminds me of Carter, who conducted a moralistic campaign against past sins. His approach to rhetoric and audiences reminds me of Clinton–very smooth, but shifty. I don’t feel like I can rely on what he says because he’s changed his position on issues that are important to me, seemingly for no other reason that it polls well or some interest group has yanked his chain. He spends a lot of time in his speeches saying who he is not, not who he is. I’m really surprised that so many people go for that. Of all of the presidential candidates I’ve seen in my life Obama has gotten the least level of scrutiny, with the exception of Jeremiah Wright, and even then most media outlets were slow to cover that story. It frightens me some that most of the media is unwilling to challenge him on his background and his limited record. I would demand that of coverage for any candidate for this office.

    As far as his capacity to learn, I think what you’re talking about is his ideology. My read of him is that he uses ideology when he doesn’t know any better, or if it will win him votes. He uses it to fill in the gaps. Even though he’s very eloquent he doesn’t have the policy sophistication of Bill Clinton. He tries to make up for it by being extremely media savvy.

    The perception he has built that has the elites fawning all over him is really something to behold. As I’ve paid close attention to PR campaigns I’ve come to realize that sadly the elite in our society are just as easily fooled as everyone else is. In that realm they are no smarter than the rest of us.

    Re: “thank you for your kinds words”

    You’re welcome!

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