WASHINGTON—Former Secretary of State Colin L. Powell endorsed Senator Barack Obama for president on Sunday morning as a candidate who was reaching out in a “more diverse and inclusive way across our society” and offering a “calm, patient, intellectual, steady approach” to the nation’s problems.
Mr. Powell’s endorsement exposed a fundamental policy rift in the fractious Republican party foreign policy establishment between the so-called pragmatists, a number of whom have come to view the Iraq war or its execution as a mistake, and a competing camp, the neoconservatives, whose thinking dominated President Bush’s first term and played a pivotal role in building the case for war.
Mr. Powell, who is of the pragmatist camp and has been critical of the Bush administration’s conduct of the war, was said by friends in recent months to be disturbed by some of the neoconservatives who have surrounded Mr. McCain as foreign policy advisers in his presidential campaign. The McCain campaign’s top foreign policy aide is Randy Scheunemann, who was a foreign policy adviser to former Senators Trent Lott and Bob Dole and who has longtime ties to neoconservatives. In 2002, Mr. Scheunemann was a founder of the hawkish Committee for the Liberation of Iraq and was an enthusiastic supporter of the Iraqi exile and Pentagon favorite, Ahmad Chalabi, who was viewed with suspicion and distaste at the State Department when Mr. Powell was secretary of state.
I was hoping someday for a Powell presidency, but his appearance before the UN selling the Iraq War pretty much killed that. It appears that throwing him under the bus like that has come back to haunt the GOP--as well it should.
The Republican party will undoubtedly react poorly to this, distancing themselves from Powell while not being too critical for fear of racism allegations. It's very possible some lower level operatives and emerging hacks will blame this on some sort of race thing, but it won't be official line. Regardless, however, I expect the party big-wigs to be personally--if only privately--offended as some sort of grand disloyalty. They are missing the larger point that not only McCain, but the larger GOP itself has lost its bearings and has offended a large number of us in the name of Christian populism.