Monday, October 20, 2008

It's Official: Powell Endorses Obama!!!

Former Secretary of State Colin Powell leaves federal court in Washington, Friday, Oct. 10, 2008, after testifying at the corruption trial of Sen. Ted Stevens, R-Alaska.
(AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

Video: Powell Endorsing Obama On Meet The Press

Powell Endorses Obama As 'Transformational'

Mike Allen, Jonathan Martin of Politico

Retired Gen. Colin L. Powell, one of the country's most respected Republicans, stunned both parties Sunday by strongly endorsing Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) for president on NBC's "Meet the Press" and laying out a blistering, detailed critique of the modern GOP.

Powell said the election of Obama would "electrify the world."

"I think he is a transformational figure," Powell said. "He is a new generation coming ... onto the world stage and on the American stage. And for that reason, I'll be voting for Sen. Barack Obama."

As a key reason, Powell said: "I would have difficulty with two more conservative appointments to the Supreme Court, but that's what we'd be looking at in a McCain administration."

Powell, once considered likely to be the nation's first African-American presidential nominee, said his decision was not about race.

Moderator Tom Brokaw said: "There will be some ... who will say this is an African-American, distinguished American supporting another African-American because of race."

Powell, who last year gave Republican John McCain's campaign the maximum $2,300, replied: "If I had only had that in mind, I could have done this six, eight, 10 months ago. I really have been going back and forth between somebody I have the highest respect and regard for, John McCain, and somebody I was getting to know, Barack Obama. And it was only in the last couple of months that I settled on this."

"I can't deny that it will be a historic event when an African-American becomes president," Powell continued, speaking live in the studio. "And should that happen, all Americans should be proud — not just African-American, but all Americans — that we have reached this point in our national history where such a thing could happen. It would also not only electrify the country, but electrify the world."

Obama communications director Robert Gibbs said the two men spoke for 10 minutes at 10 a.m. and that the candidate thanked Powell for his endorsement and said "he looked forward to taking advantage of his advice in the next two weeks and hopefully over the next four years."

Obama spokeswoman Jen Psaki said the campaign had not been told of the endorsement in advance. "We didn’t know until Gen. Powell spoke on 'Meet The Press,'" she said.

Powell, making his 30th appearance on "Meet the Press," said he does not plan to campaign for Obama. He led into his endorsement by saying: "We've got two individuals — either one of them could be a good president. But which is the president that we need now — which is the individual that serves the needs of the nation for the next period of time.

"And 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, he has met the standard of being a successful president, being an exceptional president."

Powell said that he is "troubled" by the direction of the Republican Party, and said he began to doubt McCain when he chose Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin as his running mate.

"Not just small towns have values," he said, responding to one of Palin's signature lines.

"She's a very distinguished woman, and she's to be admired," he said. "But at the same, 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 Sen. McCain made."

The endorsement is likely to help Obama convince skeptical centrists that he is ready to handle the challenges of commander in chief, and it undercuts McCain's argument that he is better qualified on national security issues.

The Arizona senator, appearing on "Fox News Sunday," sought to minimize the endorsement by noting his support from other former secretaries of state and retired military flag officers.

"This doesn’t come as a surprise," McCain said. "But I'm also very pleased to have the endorsement of four former secretaries of state ... and I'm proud to have the endorsement of well over 200 retired generals and admirals. I respect and continue to respect and admire Secretary Powell."

While McCain only reiterated his respect for Powell when asked about the move, others in the GOP were more candid.

One prominent conservative who knows both McCain and Powell said that for all the secretary of state's criticism of McCain and his praise of Obama, the move had less to do with the two candidates for president than the current occupant of the Oval Office.

"Powell cares a lot about his reputation with Washington elites, and he thinks he was badly damaged by his relationship with the Bush administration," said this Republican. "So this is a way to make up for what he regarded as not being treated well by the Bush administration, not being given the due deference he thinks he deserves."

And that Powell would make his decision known in the closing weeks of the election, as it becomes increasingly clear that Obama is the favorite, reflects a calculated political move, says this source.

"Let's be honest — do we think Powell would be doing this if Obama had been trailing 6 or 7 points in the polls?" the source asked, deeming Powell's endorsement "a profile in conventional wisdom."

A friend of the former secretary of state sharply dismissed the idea that Powell's move had anything to do with making up for his service in the Bush years.

"Anybody who is making the argument about 'rehabilitation' was not listening to what he had say today," said the friend, suggesting Powell made clear that he was unhappy with the state of the party. "It's absolute horseshit."

Rush Limbaugh suggested Powell's move was very much related to Obama's status as the first African-American with a chance to become president.

"Secretary Powell says his endorsement is not about race," Limbaugh wrote in an e-mail. "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.

"I was also unaware of his dislike for John Roberts, Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, Anthony Kennedy and Antonin Scalia. I guess he also regrets Reagan and Bush making him a four-star and secretary of state and appointing his son to head the FCC. Yes, let's hear it for transformational figures."

But others in the party were less dismissive, acknowledging the heft of the respected retired four-star general and the popularity he enjoys across the country.

"The Powell endorsement is a big deal," said Scott Reed, Bob Dole's campaign manager in 1996 and a close friend of McCain campaign manager Rick Davis. "It has been bantered about since August and shows both Powell and Obama know how to make an impact in the closing days of a tight campaign."

Kevin Madden, a GOP veteran who was the press secretary for Mitt Romney's presidential bid, said that "Colin Powell was a proxy for our party's ability to persuade Democrats and independents to join a center-right coalition of ideas built around economic conservatism and a strong national defense. The endorsement is emblematic of the challenges we face as a party when it comes to winning back these voters."

"What that just did in one sound bite — and I assume that sound bite will end up in an ad — is it eliminated the experience factor," said former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, a Republican, in an appearance on ABC's "This Week with George Stephanopoulos." "How are you going to say the former chairman of the Joint Chiefs, the former national security adviser, former secretary of state was taken in?"

Powell, 71, also used his "Meet the Press" appearance to criticize McCain and his campaign for invoking the former domestic terrorist William Ayers.

"Sen. McCain says he a washed-up old terrorist — then why does he keep talking about him?" Powell asked.

"They're trying to connect [Obama] to some kind of terrorist feelings, and I think that's inappropriate," Powell said. "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. And I look at these kinds of approaches to the campaign, and they trouble me. And the party has moved even further to the right, and Gov. Palin has indicated a further rightward shift."

Powell said he has "heard senior members of my own party drop the suggestion [that Obama's] a Muslim and might be associated with terrorists.

"This is not the way we should be doing it in America. I feel strongly about this particular point," Powell said. "We have got to stop polarizing ourselves in this way. And John McCain is as nondiscriminatory as anyone I know. But I'm troubled about the fact that within the party, we have these kinds of expressions."

Powell, a four-star Army general, was national security adviser to President Ronald Reagan; chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff during the 1991 Persian Gulf War, when George H.W. Bush was president; and was President George W. Bush’s first secretary of state.

Powell has consulted with both Obama and McCain, and the general’s camp had indicated in the past that he would not make an endorsement.

Powell said that as he watched McCain, the Republican “was a little unsure as to how to deal with the economic problems that we were having, and almost every day, there was a different approach to the problem, and that concerned me, sensing that he didn't have a complete grasp of the economic problems that we had."

Powell said a big job of the new president will be “conveying a new image of American leadership, a new image of America’s role in the world.”

“I think what the president has to do is to start using the power of the Oval Office and the power of his personality to convince the American people and to convince the world that America is solid, America is going to move forward … restoring a sense of purpose,” he said.

"This Powell endorsement is the nail in the coffin," said one Republican official, speaking anonymously to offer candid thoughts about the party's nominee. "Not just because of him, but the indictment he laid out of the McCain campaign."

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