Sunday, October 19, 2008


I met Bill Bennett in November of 1995 at a book signing in New Orleans. It was actually a convention but I snuck in because I learned that Bennett was there. He was nice and posed for pictures that I no longer have. I asked him why he wasn’t running for President and he said that General Powell was the man. I shook my head and said no you are. He and Jack Kemp of Empower America were behind that draft Powell movement that went nowhere. I was a big fan of Bennett back then. He was a fixture on pundit shows and he called into Rush all the time. Less than a year later I would sour on him when he got behind Lamar Alexander, a Republican that has always annoyed me.

Although I have tried, I have never been able to get through one of his books. He’s much better in an electronic format and he’s certainly good on his daily talk show. I’m tempted to call into the show on Monday morning and ask how he feels about Powell now. But I don’t think I want to call so badly that I’ll be up at 6am.

Remember back when liberals hated Powell the warmonger? I use to read stories about how he was elevated to NSC and to the Chairmen of the Joint Chiefs simply to be a token black Republican. I think one article said he was promoted ahead of 17 more qualified people. It didn't work to have the most powerful black leader be a Republican. He didn't become admired on the Left until Bob Woodward made him the voice of reason in the Bush White House. Now the media can love him fully.

It seems pretty obvious that Powell wants to rehabilitate his reputation post Iraq War. What other reason is there to endorse Obama besides the obvious identity politics part of it? Maybe it’s a combination of the two, but the reputation part is certainly a factor.

I know a guy who was his tour guide for a few days during an event and he said that Powell was more arrogant than any of the famous actors he has toured, not at all personable with anyone. When he told me the story I started looking for it when I saw Powell on television and he does seem all business. I wonder if that is the real reason he never ran for President. He couldn't take the glad handling and pancake breakfasts. It's hard to imagine the country electing a president who took himself too seriously. Rumsfeld has taken all the real hits in the war and he doesn't seem to care. A guy as deadly serious as Powell minds a great deal.

Powell insisted on being Secretary of State. He didn’t want any other cabinet post although he would have seemed to make a natural Secretary of Defense. Dan Coats lost the Defense job because he was wary that Powell would try to control the Pentagon from the State Department. Rummy was the result of needing someone who could stand toe to toe with Powell. So you could certainly argue that the Iraq War or at least the way it was run would have been different if Powell had taken the job. And you could further argue that anything that Powell finds distasteful about the Iraq War is the result of his demanding the other job.


Dude said...

Powell is the Chauncey Gardner of modern politics - people project their idealizations onto him and he doesn't fight it. Nobody knew anything about him until he stepped down from his command in the wake of the Clinton-era 'don't ask don't tell' ruling. Suddenly he was a notable Republican, and why not play that role if there's a cabinet post in it for him?

I think his 'defection' is notable and not just from the race angle. I've got to admit, I've got no idea what it's like to be a black American, but I can pretty much guarantee that if I was black, and even moderately conservative, I would be voting for Obama in this election.

Powell's swing to the other side of the aisle is indicative of the weakness of the Republican candidate more so than the strength of the Democratic ticket. The GOP has taken a tremendous PR hit during the Bush admin and McCain/Palin, in the larger historic view, really isn't offering much to get the party back on track. There is not much in the Republican playbook these days that isn't already in the liberal playbook with a few numbers switched around. Hopefully, losing this election will shake up the party leaders enough to look to institute some real changes/improvements in the GOP agenda for the next election cycle.

Dude said...

I forgot to name drop: I met Powell years ago when he spoke at the Dolphin Resort in Orlando. It was during his heyday as a national figure. I made small talk when I put the mic on him and he was pleasant. I wanted to chat more but he did give off an aloof vibe. At the time, I figured maybe he was nervous, but maybe now I can recast it as arrogance. When he spoke, he lead with one of the funniest anecdotes I'd ever heard. I don't recall it exactly but it made his wife the hero while he was just a schmo, so I'll vouch for his sense of humor.

E said...

Fellas, we don't pay you enough for this kind of analysis.

Was it ever any secret that Powell was going to endorse Obama so that his bumper sticker could forever read: "Don't Blame Me, I Drove the Final Stake Into Bush"?

Tom said...

I think Powell as the blank slate is pretty right on, another reason he never ran for anything. That he realizes that no man is a King to his wife would be a vote in his favor.

As to E's point it is amazing how you can resurrect your reputation at least in short term by ganging up on your former boss, Bush. Now, Powell to his credit hasn't directly attacked Bush like McLellan, Clarke, Tenet, O'Neill, etc. But the message is just as clear.

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