Thursday, April 10, 2008

Powell for Obama

Former Secretary of State Colin Powell had some awfully nice things to say about Barack Obama, and labeled himself an "undecided voter." Steve Benen wonders if an endorsement might eventually come out of it.

I almost hope it doesn't. Not because I really hold a grudge against Powell for his role in the Iraq fiasco -- of all the characters in that particular farce, he does not rank among the more risible, and I believe he still has a valuable role to contribute in our public discourse.

No, it's because I can't imagine anything that will destroy Powell as a public figure more than this endorsement.

Sure, Democrats will probably trumpet it for awhile. But Republicans (never much to countenance this sort of "betrayal") will flay him alive, in two ways. First, they'll scapegoat him for the Iraq war. I doubt that one will stick. But second, they'll undoubtedly portray him as a "race man", someone who let's his skin color dictate his political opinions -- basically no better than a Klansman. And I wouldn't be surprised if the media let that narrative run a little, if in slightly less stark terms. It's already been surprisingly (or maybe not so surprisingly) difficult for folks to get their heads around the fact that Black people might want to vote for a Black candidate because they genuinely think he's the best person for the job, not out of mere race loyalty. When the subject is a high-profile defection like Powell, it'll be even harder to impress that point on the mainstream media. And this one, I fear, might hold together.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

A Powell endorsement would do a lot to shore up Obama's foreign policy credentials. I share your apprehension that the GOP will try to assassinate Powell with the race-voter meme if he did endorse Obama (which I hear more often coming from Clinton's camp these days, but I'm sure it'll poke its ugly head into an Obama-McCain general), but I'm not sure if Powell ought to hold his tongue because of it. It would be a tragic demise, but I don't think silence is the best antidote for this particular variety of attack, which, after all, aims to call the legitimacy of *all* black votes for Obama into question. An open defection from Powell, who in the minds of many is one of the sane voices that skews to the right, would do a lot to discredit that kind of nonsense even it ended his political prospects within the GOP.

That being said, I actually think Powell has enough of a conservative streak to be genuinely undecided, which also mitigates against an endorsement.