With just over 2 weeks until the US election, today's endorsement of Sen. Barack Obama by retired General Colin Powell is perhaps the most significant revelation since the conclusion of the party primaries (I would argue even more so than the announcement of Vice Presidential running-mates in August).
While I cringe knowing this overly US-oriented post will validate many of your preconceptions of my overly self-interested nation, I thought you might enjoy some insight given the significant amount of coverage that our elections have warranted in many of your nations.
Colin Powell is regarded by many as the preeminent American soldier/politian. A well decorated soldier in Vietnam, Powell eventually became a 4-star general and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (ie, the highest military position achievable in the US). Powell served as National Security Advisor under Republican President Ronald Reagan and Secretary of State during George W. Bush’s first administration. Given his highly visible and highly influential role in such republican administrations, his endorsement of a democratic nominee is unprecedented and is considered by many as a possible determining factor in the upcoming election.
Powell, an African American, has frequently been discussed as a possible presidential candidate himself as his distinguished military service and conservative views appeal to a majority of Americans. If you were to poll Americans up until late 2006 as to who could be the first African American president, Colin Powell would have been the unanimous choice (I am not exaggerating when I say 100% consensus with no second place, for at that time, Barack Obama was still a little known 2nd year senator and no other credible candidates had ever emerged). Powell’s possible candidacy was mentioned both in 1996 (against Bill Clinton who was seeking a second term) and again in 2001 (as a possible successor to George W. Bush following his appointment as Secretary of State). It has been reported that he chose not to seek the office of the presidency at the request of his wife, who feared for his safety after receiving hate mail—an unfortunate reality.
Powell resigned as Secretary of State following the revelation that many of his decisions regarding the invasion of Iraq were founded on unreliable information. On Sunday’s interview, he also acknowledged that there would not have been an invasion given more accurate evidence from the US intelligence community.
It is thought that an endorsement by Powell, a moderate conservative, will have significant sway with not only independent voters, but traditional republicans who feel alienated by the party’s recent shift to the extreme right. His endorsement was extremely well thought out and exhibited a keen understanding of issues—domestic and international, economic and militaristic, immediate and enduring. I can only hope that most Americans will agree with his well articulated opinions, not only regarding the outcome of this election, but the direction of the Republican Party and United States politics in general.
You can read and view the interview at a variety of news outlets. I highly recommend it.