All this week, and all the next, The Black Snob is taking a look at the views of black conservatives on Barack Obama. We’re examining who likes him, who doesn’t. Who will vote for him and who won’t. So far we’ve looked at the views of Amy Holmes, Condoleezza Rice, Ward Connerly, Shelby Steele, Alan Keyes and JC Watts.
Colin Powell is the American dream. A man who comes from the hardscrabble Bronx, overcomes adversity, fought for his country in Vietnam and worked hard to as an example to himself and others of the possibility that lies in all our hearts. He was the first black National Security Adviser, leader of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and Secretary of State. He is probably the most liked and widely respected of all black Republicans.
He is the pinnacle, the prototype, the ideal. Thoughtful, but inoffensive. Loyal, but not blind. He’s admired on both sides of the aisle as a clear-eyed, practical-minded Centrist.
Powell is seen as an intelligent, unspoiled man of perseverance and vision. Many have wanted him to run from president. He risked being tarnished by the debacle in Iraq after his credibility was used by the Bush Administration to sell the invasion to the world. He cited fraudulent documents, misinformation and spoke of roving mobile labs with weapons of mass destruction that did not exist.
In 2004, Slate.com addressed how this incident and others by the Bush Administration tarnished Powell. The story recalls that after a reporter told Powell Bush was sleeping like a baby on the eve of war with Iraq, Powell said, “I’m sleeping like a baby, too. Every two hours, I wake up, screaming.”
On the high-profile issues of the day, (Powell) seems to have almost no influence within the administration. And his fateful briefing one year ago before the U.N. Security Council—where he attached his personal credibility to claims of Iraqi WMD—has destroyed his once-considerable standing with the Democrats, not to mention our European allies, most of the United Nations, and the media …
From the start of this presidency … Powell has found himself almost consistently muzzled, outflanked, and humiliated by the true powers—Vice President Dick Cheney and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld … Powell has suffered the additional—and nearly unprecedented—indignity of swatting off continuous rear-guard assaults from his own undersecretary of state, John Bolton, an aggressive hard-liner who was installed at State by Cheney for the purpose of diverting and exhausting the multilateralists.
One of Powell’s first acts as secretary of state was to tell a reporter that the Bush administration would pick up where Bill Clinton left off in negotiations with North Korea—only to be told by Cheney that it would do no such thing. He had to retract his statement.
In spite of this stain on his otherwise stellar record, Powell regained much of his respect after he became a critic of the war and more candid in regard to his experiences in the Administration.
Powell is one of those individuals who when I look at him it frustrates me about the limitations placed on people of color in our society. If he were white there would have been little question about his running for president. But his wife talked him out of it for fear of the death threats which were preemptively trickling in and the seedier side of politics willing to exploit Powell’s wife’s mental illness to shutter his bid.
I realize that all candidates have to deal with push back, but when you’re black you deal with an entirely different kind. Barack Obama was given secret service protection early last year. The Obamas don’t talk about it, but it’s obvious they too deal with some of the things Powell and his family deemed too much to take. It’s still a risky venture to be black and going for the most powerful office in the world.
Powell, like JC Watts, Condoleezza Rice and other black Republicans have tried to push the national party to be more competitive for black votes. During the 2000 Republican National Convention, Powell addressed the audience, speaking of both America’s abundance of national wealth and pride, but also addressed the issues of the poor, the imprisoned and brown.
I’ve met so many young people who believe in the dream. They’re on a road to success. They’re being raised in strong families, going to good schools, filling the finest universities, graduating and then going on to find their place and fortune in this blessed land of ours. Even the youngest of them, still in elementary school, are getting ready for the future, using computers, logging onto the Internet, while still enjoying the magic of childhood by curling up with a Harry Potter book.
There is so much that is so good and right in America tonight, my friends, that we ought to be very, very proud of this wonderful country of ours.
And yet, I cannot ignore and we cannot ignore other things I’ve seen in my travels. I’ve seen poverty. I’ve seen failing communities. I’ve seen people who’ve lost hope. Tragically, I’ve seen too many young Americans who were overwhelmed by the daily struggle just to survive. I’ve seen kids destroying themselves with drugs, kids who see violence and crime as the answer to their hopelessness, kids who no longer believe in themselves and who don’t see a reason to believe in America. I’ve seen kids in utter despair. I’ve visited kids in jail doing adult time for the crimes they’ve committed.
They are part of a growing population of over 2 million Americans behind bars — 2 million convicts, not consumers; 2 million Americans who while paying for their crimes are not paying taxes, are not there for their children and are not raising families. Most of them are men and the majority of those men are minorities.
The issue of race still casts a shadow over our society. Despite the impressi
ve progress we have made over the last 40 years to overcome this legacy of our troubled past, it is still with us.
So with all the success we have enjoyed and with all the wealth we have created, we have much more work to do and a long way to go to bring the promise of America to every single American.
I remember how thunderous applause went to slightly uncomfortable applause back to thunderous. Speaking publicly about the inequities in our society will always rankle the few who don’t want to be concerned with it. Who blame the poor and downtrodden for being poor and downtrodden. I can only image Powell’s frustration with members of his party who seemed more interested in personal gain that the good of the whole. That’s a problem in politics in both parties. Race is just a lesser examined issue in wide Republican discourse.
Like a lot of black people, Liberal, moderate, conservative or centrist, I like Colin Powell. In a just world he easily could have run for office and become president. I even think he would have been a great president. And Powell seems to get a glimmer in his eye over Barack Obama’s campaign. He has not attempted to put a mute button on his pride.
Last year summer he told Powell told NBC’s “Meet the Press” he was giving Obama foreign policy advice. He said it was “too early” in the 2008 race for him to endorse a candidate, and he said he would be backing whomever was best to lead the country in 2009. He also admitted that the Obama camp reached out for his assistance.
Powell said he has met twice with Obama, the Illinois senator. “I’ve been around this town a long time and I know everybody who is running for office. And I make myself available to talk about foreign policy matters and military matters with whoever wishes to chat with me,” Powell said.
There is a grassroots, “Draft Colin Powell” movement within Barack Obama supporters who wants Powell to join the Obama team as a full-fledged partner, even vice president.
This year, before the New Hampshire primaries, Powell went on Tavis Smiley’s PBS show and said he was “taking joy” in Obama’s candidacy.
(Powell) encouraged Americans to “enjoy this moment where a person like Barack Obama can knock down all of these old barriers that people thought existed with respect to the opportunities that are available to African Americans.”
… Powell offered this advice to the Democratic presidential candidate who may be accomplishing yet another first: “This argument about him not being black enough, that’s just absolute nonsense. He is putting himself forward not as a black man but as an American man who wants to be president of the United States of America. We should see Barack as a candidate for president who happens to be black, and not a black candidate for president.”
By far, out of all the Republicans I’ve looked at, Powell seems to be the most ebullient about an Obama presidency. Perhaps it’s out of solidarity for being a fellow barrier breaker, or an admiration for Obama doing what he felt he could not do, or if it was purely about the symbolism of Obama’s campaign, or because Powell likes Obama, likes some of his platform and honestly thinks he would be a good president.
Powell’s reaction to Obama’s win in Iowa in some ways was the thing that got me off the fence. I’m a die hard pragmatist, like Powell. I deal with logic and facts, not with flights of whimsy. I was resisting the revelry of a Barack Obama candidacy because I was so pessimistic about his prospects of him winning in the general. But when Powell’s advice was to just enjoy it, just to relax and let it wash over you and not be afraid or worried, just to accept it and submit to that joy, I said, “What the hell? If he can do it, I can to.”
And I’ve been struggling to enjoy it ever since, being dragged by the Obama bandwagon, half-relaxed, half-clenched up all the time. It’s really rough for me. I don’t feel the magic as much as I’d like. But, I don’t have any romanticism over Hillary Clinton’s campaign at all. She’s like the Borg from Star Trek. I admire her fortitude, but, I don’t know. It’s complicated with me. Like everything.
But to answer our two questions, here’s my best guess.
Chances of endorsing Obama: Powell likes John McCain. They share similar backgrounds. But I think Powell might have the fever. There’s a good chance he might come out for Obama depending on how he fairs come August. I don’t think he’s just going to punch the Republican Party in the throat on a whim. Powell has to feel like his views are being represented and that he is part of the dream.
Chances of voting for Obama: He totally is. Like that question really needed to be asked.
Check back to The Black Snob all this week and next, the series concluding on April 14th.
Sunday: Amy Holmes
Monday: Condoleezza Rice
Tuesday: Ward Connerly
Wednesday: Shelby Steele
Thursday: Alan Keyes
Friday: JC Watts
Saturday: Colin Powell
Sunday: Armstrong Williams
Monday: Michael Steele
Tuesday: John McWhorter
Wednesday: LaShawn Barber and Herman Cain
Thursday: Star Parker and Eric Wallace
Friday: Larry Elder and Thomas Sowell
Saturday: Juan Williams
Sunday: A final analysis, “Who Would Clarence Thomas Vote For?”