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article imageOp-Ed: Impact of Powell Endorsement On Election '08

By Sadiq Green     Oct 19, 2008 in Politics
In perhaps the most important symbolic examples of Barack Obama's vast appeal, the Senator from Illinois has earned the vote of Colin Powell.
The Obama campaign will likely waste no effort in utilizing the endorsement as an answer to critics who have questioned the foreign policy and governing credentials of the first-term senator whose national electoral experience amounts to four years in the Senate.
Many voters still view Obama as a unknown figure with questionable associations and liberal leanings that may give them pause of voting for a Black man, am African-American. Powell's decision may potentially ease their minds. In many ways Colin Powell is the perfect complement to Barack Obama. He has been a major figure on the national spotlight for well over a two decades on military and international affairs. His career began as a Army man and he then performed in a variety of national security roles for four different White House administrations. His crossover endorsement is Obama's biggest yet from a myriad of Republican political figures and it could allow even more right leaners to be comfortable supporting the Senator from Illinois.
Powell will not go out on the campaign trail on Obama's behalf and he does not need to in order to help him. The two men are now joined symbolically. Powell is a larger than life figure who commands a wide following and his words on Meet The Press and in the sidewalk press conference afterwards may prove enough. At a forum on September 20th, he weighed in on the presidential race stating:
"I'm an American, first and foremost, and I'm very proud--I said, I've said, I've said to my beloved friend and colleague John McCain, a friend of 25 years, "John, I love you, but I'm not just going to vote for you on the basis of our affection or friendship." And I've said to Barack Obama, "I admire you. I'll give you all the advice I can. But I'm not going to vote for you just because you're black." We, we have to move beyond this."
This morning he had kind words to say about both of the candidates.
"Both of them are distinguished Americans who are patriotic, who are dedicated to the welfare of our country. Either one of them, I think, would be a good president. I have said to Mr. McCain that I admire all he has done."
Powell, who maintains he is still a Republican, said he was troubled by Senator McCain's narrow focus on irrelevant personal attacks over a serious approach to the unprecedented challenges America now faces. Powell said in part:
"I've also been disappointed, frankly, by some of the approaches that Senator McCain has taken recently, or his campaign ads, on issues that are not really central to the problems that the American people are worried about. This Bill Ayers situation that's been going on for weeks became something of a central point of the campaign. But Mr. McCain says that he's a washed-out terrorist. Well, then, why do we keep talking about him?"
Powell further criticized the false intimations that Obama was Muslim. Powell rightly denounced these tactics and he said were insulting not only to Senator Obama but also to Muslims. Powell stated:
"Is there something wrong with being a Muslim in this country? The answer's no, that's not America. Is there something wrong with some seven-year-old Muslim-American kid believing that he or she could be president? Yet, I have heard senior members of my own party drop the suggestion, 'He's a Muslim and he might be associated terrorists. This is not the way we should be doing it in America."
Colin Powell has held key foreign policy positions in several administrations. He was appointed by Ronald Reagan as National Security Advisor, serving from 1987 to 1989. Powell was promoted to four-star General under President George H.W. Bush and later served as the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. He went on to become the first Secretary of State under the current administration. So his measure of presidential readiness is well honed. Powell expressed the belief that John McCain's choice for Vice-President Sarah Palin did not measure up.
"I was also concerned at the selection of Governor Palin. She's a very distinguished woman, and she's to be admired; but at the same time, 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. And so that raised some question in my mind as to the judgment that Senator McCain made."
But in explaining his choice of Senator Obama over Senator McCain, Powell could not have been any clearer.
"I have watched him over the last two years as he has educated himself, as he has become very familiar with these issues. He speaks authoritatively. He speaks with great insight into the challenges we're facing of a military and political and economic nature. And he is surrounding himself, I'm confident, with people who'll be able to give him the expertise that he, at the moment, does not have. And so I have watched an individual who has intellectual vigor and who dives deeply into issues and approaches issues with a very, very steady hand. And so I'm confident that he will be ready to take on these challenges on January 21st."
Powell's endorsement is similar to the one he received from Massachusetts Senator and Democratic icon Edward Kennedy in February. As the elder statesman of Congressional Democrats, Kennedy's, endorsement ushered a wave of support towards Obama at a critical point in the primary season, on the way to his securing his party's nomination. Powell's endorsement could prove the same in the general election.
At least one right leaning pundit, Joe Scarborough of MSNBC, predicts the Powell endorsement will have a positive effect for Obama in a major swing state.
"There is a huge military population in Florida and a very large retired military population in Florida. Colin Powell's endorsement helps him probably more in Florida than any other state."
In an interview on FOX News Sunday, John McCain expressed that Powell's endorsement of Obama wasn't surprising, stating:
"Well, I've always admired and respected General Powell. We're longtime friends. This doesn't come as a surprise. But I'm also very pleased to have the endorsement of four former secretaries of state, Secretaries Kissinger, Baker, Eagleburger and Haig. And I'm proud to have the endorsement of well over 200 retired Army generals and admirals. But I respect and continue to respect and admire Secretary Powell."
That sounded like the McCain way of trying to spin a positive out of a negative. The list of former top diplomats endorsing McCain is impressive in itself, but arguably, none of them enjoy the across the board political stature of Mr. Powell. We shall see in the coming days what tangible impact this endorsement garners.
You can read a transcript of the interview here.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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