Political Animal


October 25, 2012 9:35 AM Powell Endorsement Not Part of the “Romney Momentum” Narrative

By Ed Kilgore

You’d figure the way the presidential election is shaping up, Colin Powell would be the quintessential “disappointed Obama supporter” from 2008—you know, a long-time Republican who supported Obama’s “historic” candidacy but now thinks we need to go back to a solid, secretly-moderate Mitt Romney who, among other things, will keep Pentagon spending high and provide foreign policy “stability.”

Nope. Powell announced on CBS this morning that he’s again supporting Obama, and described Romney as a flip-flopper on important foreign policy issues and as too conservative on domestic issues.

Powell’s action certainly doesn’t comport with the “momentum” meme that Republicans have so carefully built up during the last week. Perhaps not coincidentally, Twitter has lit up with conservatives claiming that Powell’s endorsement is strictly about race, not about what the general says it’s about. In other words: it’s a racially-based aberration from a general trend, since those people always stick together, doncha know.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.


  • K in VA on October 25, 2012 9:45 AM:

    I suspect Powell might have been thinking about endorsing Romney, or not endorsing anybody, until Monday night. After Romney's shows of utter unsuitedness for handling foreign affairs and military affairs, Powell had no choice but to choose Obama.

  • c u n d gulag on October 25, 2012 9:48 AM:

    And if Powell had endorsed Romney, that's ALL you'd hear about until at least Monday.

    But he didn't, so they have to downplay his endorsement, and marginalize the former SoS (who could have been a great one, but instead chose to be more like Ollie North, the good lying soldier, than George Marshall, a truly great SoS).

    But you can hear their teeth grinding right now, can't you? :-D

  • Stetson Kennedy on October 25, 2012 9:50 AM:

    I'm not sure that Powell seriously considered Romney at any point, as he distinctly mentions not liking Romney's tax plan in the interview.

    Now cue Wingnuttia with the "he's only endorsing Obama because he's black!" whine. Way to reach out, GOP.

  • Bo on October 25, 2012 9:56 AM:

    I was watching as Powell announced his decision on CBS this morning. I was most impressed with the reasons he gave for his continued support for Obama.

    If you want to experience the utter closed-mindedness of Romney's supporters, check out the comment thread on this Yahoo article --> http://news.yahoo.com/powell-standing-obama-2012-presidential-race-114641048--election.html

    The number of posters who reject his personal decision and his well-stated rationale and, instead, go immediately to the "he's black" BS is astounding! We are NOT a post-racial nation by any means. Even worse than that, the creeping extremism of the right wing (teabaggRs, fundies, neocons) and the influence of ranters like Hannity and Limpballs has destroyed critical thinking and logic for a significant portion of the population.

  • T2 on October 25, 2012 9:57 AM:

    yeah, and the 65% of white men endorsing Romney ISN'T racially tinged?

    If I were running for president and got Colin Powell's endorsement, I'd say "No thanks, I'll take my chances without the endorsement of a liar who was centrally complicit in lying the nation into a war that cost 4700+ American lives and destroyed a nation that did not attack us, at a cost of trillions of american dollars."

  • Kathryn on October 25, 2012 10:08 AM:

    But of course any mention of racism in the GOP which fairly screams out daily, shuck and jive Palin, recent Coulter and Sununu comments, birth certificate fantasies, Kenya fantasies, etc. is playing the race card, and let's not forget watermelon jokes and tee shirts saying put white back in the White House, next to posters of president with a bone through his nose.

    What a world, obvious racism is playing the race card and Colin Powell is only endorsing Obama because both he and president are African-American, what a country.

  • berttheclock on October 25, 2012 10:12 AM:

    Yes, "they" do stick together, eh? Such as Alan West and Herman Cain throwing their support behind our President.

  • Celui on October 25, 2012 10:14 AM:

    I think it's incredibly important that Powell has re-endorsed Obama's presidency and leadership, especially when Powell has outlined his opposition to Romney's 'floating mendacity' in this interview. In my world, this endorsement should reinforce the choice for Obama, and in some other world, should cause a lot of consternation among the low-information voters. This couldn't have come at a better time; Romney's 'where-am-I today everywhere Man' approach to international relations simply can't be trusted. Good point. I say, share this virally. Get to it!!

  • boatboy_srq on October 25, 2012 10:17 AM:


    Something tells me that those "conservatives" Twittering about Powell endorsing BHO based on race are the ones who think that "those people" are part of The Problem.

    God's Own Party: [only] ready for a male caucasian pResident.

  • berttheclock on October 25, 2012 10:19 AM:


    To his credit, unlike Cheney, Colin Powell has publicly admitted, both orally and in his book, that he was wrong about Iraq.

    BTW, I have never been in his camp, since, I learned about his involvement in trying to cover up the Mi Lai massacre when he was in the Americal Division.

  • karen marie on October 25, 2012 10:24 AM:

    This is exactly what happened in 2008, when Powell endorsed Obama.

    While I think Powell again publicly endorsing Obama is laudable, it hardly makes up for the damage he did to this country when he lied to the United Nations for the Bush administration to move forward the illegal Iraq invasion. The man has permanently lost his credibility with me.

  • Ron Byers on October 25, 2012 10:24 AM:

    Given the trend in the polls and Powells endorcement how long will the guys in the back of the Romney bus fall for the Mittmentum meme? My guess is that most of them will believe it right up to November 7 and will then try to explain Obama's reelection with a last minute surge.

    Groundless groupthink is alive and well in the reality free journo twitter world.

  • Mudge on October 25, 2012 10:34 AM:

    To say that Colin Powell's endorsement is all about race, racism aside, spectacularly trivializes Powell, who provided some solid reasons for his decision. Powell, for all of his yellow cake and WMD faults, knows a fair amount about the military and foreign affairs and recognizes Romney's ridiculousness and mendacity.

    For Republicans to show such disrespect to Powell out-of-hand like this is so very typical.

  • ajay on October 25, 2012 10:34 AM:

    I think it's incredibly important that Powell has re-endorsed Obama's presidency and leadership, especially when Powell has outlined his opposition to Romney's 'floating mendacity' in this interview.

    Powell himself much prefers semi-submerged mendacity. My Lai, Iran-Contra, the massacre of the Kurds in 1991 and the invasion of Iraq - arguably the worst four bits of American foreign policy in the last four decades, and Powell was involved in all four. Dogs should bark at him as he passes by and old women spit on his shadow.

  • Tom Q on October 25, 2012 10:59 AM:

    Ron Byers: They ALWAYS explain wha happens by focusing on the last shiny object they saw. Remember "Bush I was surging and would have won except for the Winberger indictment"? "Bush II would have won by a landslide except for the DUI story"? "Palin was carrying McCain to victory until Lehman intervened"? It's their BUSINESS to believe the daily bullshit they tout is what swings elections. You'll never get them to acknowledge that the overall gestalt around an administration's term is what the voters end up ratifying or rejecting -- and, in this year's case, you'll never get them to understand that a charismatic incumbent, with no intra-party challenge, a foreign policy triumph, and an economy clearly no longer in recession, has always been a pretty goos bet for re-election, no matter what a particular day or week's polling says.

  • zandru on October 25, 2012 11:04 AM:

    I'm pleased that Colin Powell is continuing his attempts to rehabilitate his reputation. However, personally I'm with berttheclock. Powell has racked up such a long history of doing the right wing's dirty work that it will take decades, if ever, for him to dig his way out.

    Moreover, back when Powell was working to support the white Republican power base, he could be touted as "our black man", and his roles as head of the Joint Chiefs and Secretary of State celebrated. Now that he's apparently turned, the "respect" is gone among the Tea-Baggin' set, and he's just another uppity....

  • sjw on October 25, 2012 11:11 AM:

    That Ro-mentum has stopped, see Nate Silver and Sam Wang today. The latter is especially amusing in his takedown of David Brooks.

  • square1 on October 25, 2012 11:12 AM:

    I find it amusing that Powell's endorsement is presented merely for what it means electorally. I.e. that it undermines the "Romney momentum" narrative.
    Excuse me if I accept that the race is effectively over and focus on the actual, real-world implications of Powell's support for Obama.
    4 years ago, like many other Democrats, I went to the polls and hoped that Obama would dramatically change the course of U.S. policy. I was far too much of a realist to expect this. But I hoped to be pleasantly surprised. 4 years later, my expectations were proven correct and my hopes proven fruitless as Obama has effectively -- and I mean this without hyperbole -- extended the Bush/Cheney/Powell military and intelligence policies.

    Obama has extended the drone strike program, failed to close Guantanamo, claimed heightened powers to assassinate Americans (and non-citizens obviously) abroad without oversight, continued and extended domestic surveillance of U.S. citizens, punished whistleblowers, and on and on.

    Nevertheless, Democratic bloggers and commentators rush to defend Powell for his support of Obama as if it is a good thing that Powell supports Obama on the merits.

    If you had told me in 2008 that Powell would endorse Obama in 2012, I would have hoped that it was based on race because the alternative would be that Powell agreed with Obama's policies.

  • Peter C on October 25, 2012 11:14 AM:

    Colin Powell’s reputation was built upon competence more than ideological purity; during the Bush Administration, we was the cool head from the military, and not one of the hot heads from PNAC (the Project for a New American Century). In the best light, he saw his role as implementing policy, not formulating it, charitably allowing the civilian government to dictate the actions of the military.

    In my mind, he completely sold his soul when he made the US presentation at the UN arguing for the Iraq war. At that point, he knew better and should have refused and resigned. If he had, I’d respect his morals (though disagreeing with his policy beliefs).

    Still, I’m delighted the Obama campaign has a “Powell Endorsement” to counter the absurd idea that Obama is not ‘up to the job’ of being commander in chief (despite having performed as commander in chief for a full term). I think it is equally important that his endorsement was withheld from Romney; the ‘competent Republican’s assessment’ is that Romney and Ryan are NOT qualified to be Commander in Chief and run our foreign policy AS WELL AS take the lead on domestic ideas. It’s a lovely ‘two-fer’ to get at this stage of the campaign. It would have been better before the debates, but Powell is a Republican after all; one cannot expect their principles to completely overcome their self-selected tribal affiliation. Again, they get power from their affiliation, and that is more important than principles.

    This is why they cheat in elections, too; they care more about getting power than winning legitimately

  • T2 on October 25, 2012 11:16 AM:

    I think Powell's apology rings a bit hollow with 4700 families. I suppose if Dick Cheney came out tomorrow and said "I'm sorry", then he'd be forgiven too?

  • esaud on October 25, 2012 11:34 AM:

    Powell's second, Lawrence Wilkerson, was the only Republican I ever heard to come out against the neocons as the dangerous, mindless radicals they are. He called them a cabal, and was particularly critical of Cheney.

    But of course, most Republicans, being obedient right wing authoritarians , accepted this radical change in foreign policy without a whimper. Here a bunch of people lied and tortured their way into a war with horrific consequences, and it's the new normal all of a sudden.

    I have to think that Powell agreed with him, but for some reason (my guess is money) he was unwilling to say it himself.

    I appreciate his endorsement of Obama, but I don't think he ever did enough penance for his disasterous involvement in the Iraq invasion.

  • Robert on October 25, 2012 7:01 PM:

    Bam! My Ma, the white Eisenhower Republican just flipped to Obama (again). She says he was the only one of the Bushies to own up to the Iraq fiasco. This will also be big for the military officer corps.

  • Doug on October 25, 2012 7:07 PM:

    "Obama has extended the drone strike program,..."
    As opposed to sending in the Marines.
    "...failed to close Guantanamo,...
    See Congress for that.
    "...claimed heightened powers to assassinate Americans (and non-citizens,obviously) abroad without oversight,..."
    WITH "oversight, it's ok? Got it.
    "...continued and extended domestic surveillance of U.S. citizens,..."
    I'd ask for citations, but then of course, you'd have to kill me...
    "...punished whistleblowers,..."
    There MAY be something in this one. I do know there are certain paths a whistleblower has to tread BEFORE going public, and thus earning protection. What I DON'T know is whether the Obama administration is "punishing" people for simply not using the prescribed methods or going after them even when they HAVE used the proper channels. There IS a difference.
    "...and on and on."
    President Obama or you?

  • Hue an Cry on October 25, 2012 9:24 PM:

    Many fortunes--POTUS is on late night show just as Mourdock's insanity comes to light, and millions hear POTUS speak of the woe of men trying to control women's lives.
    Colin Powell gives his supportive endorsement.
    And the polls rise for POTUS, the incumbent.
    Donald Trump makes an a$$ of himself that even right wingers acknowledge.
    POTUS has a cool vibe, and still no one knows who the *real* Mitt Romney is.
    Lyin' Ryan remains a walking indictment of the tea party, with ties to Akin and suppressive talk. Mourdock's appearance reeks of their collective anti-science bent.
    Anyone voting for Romney gets rated PG--for pretty gullible.
    Women converge at the pools.