Colin Powell

Remember when, for a time, the conventional wisdom was that if we were going to have an African-American president in our lifetime, it would be retired Gen. Colin Powell?

I was reminded of this last Sunday while watching “Meet the Press.” Powell was a guest on the NBC show, and I was captivated listening to his civil discourse with host David Gregory. A large part of Powell’s appeal is his firm but friendly presentation that commands respect, and it helps tremendously that he always sounds like he knows what he’s talking about because his opinions seem well thought out.

Sounds like the man who did become the first African-American president, doesn’t it? But I digress.

Powell provided thoughtful insight into some of today’s issues during his Sunday morning set. In my opinion, his best commentary was about the tea party movement and the (not necessarily related) divisive rhetoric in politics today.

“I think it is a fascinating change in our political life to see this kind of movement gain such momentum and strength,” Powell said of the tea party movement. “And this is good. People want to see this. But at the same time, this movement doesn’t become a real force until it starts to talk to the issues. I want to cut spending. I want to have lower taxes. But how do you do that? You can’t just have slogans. … You have to have an agenda.”

Powell cautioned that the tea party movement could follow in the short-lived footsteps of the Reform Party if it doesn’t come up with some real, doable solutions to the problems it seeks to fix.

“We all believe in the Constitution, we all want lower taxes, we all want less spending, lower deficit, everything else, more freedom,” Powell said. “But at the same time, how do you get all of that and at the same time make sure that we are investing in our children, investing in our infrastructure? How do we bring the deficit down by cutting spending, and where do we cut that spending? It’s not enough to just say, ‘Let’s do it.’”

Powell also was spot-on when discussing some of the more ridiculous character attacks being levied against President Obama. If you disagree with his policies, then feel free to criticize them based on their merits or lack thereof. But there is no constructive reason to just make up things in an attempt to discredit the president.

“Think carefully about some of the stuff that is coming across the blogs and the airwaves,” Powell said. “Let’s make a couple of points. One, the president was born in the United States of American. Let’s get rid of that one, let’s get rid of the birth thing. Let’s attack him on policy, not nonsense. Next, he is a Christian. He is not a Muslim. Twenty percent of the people say he is a Muslim, 80 percent of the people apparently do not believe he’s a Muslim.”

As usual, what Powell says makes sense. It’s just too bad there is a sizable contingent of people who don’t want to hear what he has to say because of his involvement with the Bush administration (Democrats) or his later disavowing of it (Republicans).

And sadly, some people just don’t want to listen to anyone who speaks common sense.

This column was also published in the Sept. 23 issue of Ottawa Delivered.


I generally try to ignore what Dick Cheney says these days, but I took notice Sunday when the former vice president said Colin Powell is no longer a Republican.

Here’s the gist of the matter, as reported on CNN’s Web site:

Appearing on CBS’ “Face the Nation,” Cheney was asked about a dispute between Powell — who was secretary of state in the Bush-Cheney administration — and radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh over the role each plays in the GOP.

“My take on it was Colin had already left the party,” Cheney said. “I didn’t know he was still a Republican.”

The former vice president noted that Powell endorsed then-Sen. Barack Obama in last year’s presidential race. “I assume that that’s some indication of his loyalty and his interests,” Cheney said.

Powell, in a speech last week, said “the Republican Party is in deep trouble” and said the GOP would be better off without Limbaugh, according to a report by the National Journal.

Limbaugh fired back on his program Wednesday, saying, “What Colin Powell needs to do is close the loop and become a Democrat instead of claiming to be a Republican interested in reforming the Republican Party.”

So Cheney and Limbaugh consider Powell a Democrat because he endorsed Obama for president? Does that mean they consider Joe Lieberman a Republican because he endorsed John McCain for president?

Interestingly, Cheney wants to boot Powell from the GOP but claims “there is room for moderates in the Republican Party” :

But, he added, “I don’t think the party ought to move dramatically to the left, for example, in order to try to redefine its base. We are what we are. We’re Republicans. We have certain things we believe in. And maintaining our loyalty and commitment to those principles is vital to our success.”

The next journalist who interviews Cheney needs to ask him for some examples of acceptable GOP moderates, because I’m curious who would be on that list.

Just as both major political parties have done when down in the past, the Republican Party will regain prominence — but first Republican leaders need to embrace moderate voices within their party. Unfortunately for them, tolerance of GOP moderates is hard to envision when vocal partisans like Cheney and Limbaugh are quick to expel any Republican who dares to disagree with them. The Republican Party needs vocal leaders who are more tolerant of true GOP moderates, and those vocal leaders must be able to out-shout Limbaugh and company. Until that time comes, it is likely the GOP will continue to struggle for relevancy on a national level.