Former SecState Colin Powell’s endorsement of Barack Obama on Sunday is eliciting surprise from a lot more people than it should be. He’s been making sotto voce noises about it for months, and frankly his announcement on “Meet The Press” was fairly anticlimactic, and late enough in the game to look like he’s just scrambling for what space there is left on the bandwagon.
For his part, John McCain was “disappointed” that Powell didn’t think to give him a heads-up a little bit ahead of time, and that he never even took the time to meet Sarah Palin (though that didn’t stop him from trashing her as “not ready,” which is odd given the presidential candidate he’s throwing over for a newbie like Obama).
What strikes me most about his endorsement, though, is what he doesn’t say. Check the video:
When Powell goes into specifics, his reasons for voting for Obama have nothing to do with Obama, but with McCain. Powell says the senator seems “unsure” how to deal with the economic crisis; he thinks McCain’s running mate is “not ready” (once again, without having met her, which if he wanted to do all he’d have to do is ask). When he talks about Obama directly, the specifics fail him: he’s a “transformational figure;” he has an “ability to inspire;” he “reaches across lines” (leading one to wonder which Barack Obama he’s been watching, as does his assertion that Obama hasn’t jumped around from one position to the next).
Powell cites none of Obama’s positions that appeal to him; it’s all image. His statement of support for Obama is so vague and airy, it may as well have been written by the other “big O” in this race, Oprah.
Powell also gets in a hell of a cheap shot that I once thought beneath him; he ascribes the “Obama is a Muslim” rumor, long since debunked, to Republicans, when it was promulgated during the Democratic primaries and reinforced (for what it was worth) by an email traced back to the Hillary campaign showing Obama in African Muslim garb. This rumor has long since lost all meaningful currency it might once have had, and no Republican with any shred of a reputation has repeated it; for Powell to rehash it and cram it into the mouths of unnamed “members of my own party” is just low; it sounds like he’s searching for an excuse to throw in his lot with Obama.
UPDATE: Was Secretary Powell just in need of a little attention?