June 11, 2007

Is Colin Powell An Obama Advisor?

See Eli Lake's response below.

The New York Sun offers a tantalizing headline that makes it appear that Colin Powell has changed his political affiliation from Republican to Democrat. In an Eli Lake article titled "GOP's Powell Is Now Advising Obama", the Sun appears to report that Powell has joined Obama's team:

Colin Powell, who only a decade ago was being discussed as a possible Republican presidential nominee and who more recently served as President Bush's first secretary of state, is advising a Democratic presidential candidate, Senator Obama of Illinois.

Appearing on NBC's "Meet the Press" yesterday, Mr. Powell said it was "too soon" to say whether he would endorse the Republican nominee for president, and he added that he is reserving judgment for now.

Lake doesn't clarify what this means until the third paragraph:

"I've been around this town a long time, and I know everybody who is running for office," Mr. Powell said. "And I make myself available to talk about foreign policy matters and military matters with whoever wishes to chat with me."

In other words, this means very little. Many former officials decline to limit their advice to members of their own party, but they do not become advisors. For instance, Richard Nixon made himself available to all of the presidents that followed him, although I believe Jimmy Carter declined to meet with him. Before Ronald Reagan entered his dark twilight, he publicly consulted with Bill Clinton, which as I recall annoyed more than a few Republicans.

Yet the headline and the lead to the Sun story implies something else, especially with the breathless introduction of Powell as a one-time potential draftee for a Republican nomination. It turns out that Powell merely has made himself available as a resource. Powell told anyone who'd listen that he had no interest in electoral politics, but instead had a deep interest in policy. This position is entirely consistent with his statements.

There is truly nothing to see here, even though the normally-solid Sun seems to want to make everyone think this is a significant defection.

UPDATE: Eli Lake graciously responded to this post:

While it is true that former high officials of both parties advise candidates from time to time, this is usually done discreetly. Powell announced this on Meet the Press and also said it was "too soon" to say whether he would endorse the Republican. I covered the man for four years at the State Department, and I argue this is all quite deliberate.

I quote Eli often on the blog, because he's a damned good reporter working for a damned good newspaper. The Sun is almost always the first paper I read in the mornings. Otherwise, I'll let Eli have the last word here.

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Comments (10)

Posted by stackja1945 [TypeKey Profile Page] | June 11, 2007 6:20 AM

"GOP's Powell Is Now Advising Obama" to do what.? Powell did lead Bush 1 to Desert Storm but then retreat. Now does he want Bush 2 and whoever follows him into the WH to retreat?

Posted by Terry Gain | June 11, 2007 6:23 AM

Powell abdoned the Republican Party-and the country -when he remained silent about the fact Armitage had leaked Plame's so-called covert status even as the media continued their daily attacks on the administration and the CIC in a time of war because of the so-called leak.

Posted by Patrick | June 11, 2007 6:34 AM

Colin Powell, then deputy national security adviser, along with other advisers, urged President Reagan to remove the famous line, "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!", from his 1987 speech in Berlin. The President chose to ignore Mr.Powell's foreign policy advice.

Posted by RKV | June 11, 2007 6:57 AM

"Never interrupt your enemy when he is making a mistake." Napoleon

Yep Barrack, I hope you and Colin work closely together. Heh.

Posted by Dustin | June 11, 2007 7:48 AM

"Powell did lead Bush 1 to Desert Storm but then retreat."

And if I remember my history correctly which Gulf War was it that went to hell in a hand basket? I'm pretty sure it's not the one where we followed Powell's advice...

Posted by markg8 | June 11, 2007 10:26 AM

If Powell is looking for redemption he ought to endorse Obama for president next year and work to convince non insane Republicans he's the best choice.

If he's looking for another high level job in any administration he can forget it. Not gonna happen.

Posted by molonlabe28 | June 11, 2007 10:44 AM

Colin who?

His awful stint at Foggy Bottom overshadows his superb military career and service to our country in the 1991 Desert Storm campaign.

I always thought that he was a Democrat in drag, kind of like Guiliani, Bloomberg, Lindsay Graham and Chuck Hagel.

Posted by Lew | June 11, 2007 11:49 AM

I've always thought of Collin Powell as an "Ike Redux". Remember back in 1952 that Eisenhauer was courted by both Republicans and Democrats because nobody could quite tell what he was until he told them. He'd spent so many years being the quintessential military bureaucrat, getting all those egomaniacal cats to scramble in roughly the same direction, that he'd never developed any well thought out long term political ideas of his own. He'd been a "fixer" his whole life and a very good one at that, and I think Collin Powell is very much of that mold, too.

The one idea that Powell has brought to the public discussion has been that "If you're going to bring Americans into a war you'd better be damned serious about it and bring overwhelming force to bear so that you can determine the outcome.". It seems to me that that's what American military types are supposed to do, and I can't imagine anyone finding too much fault with that notion, at all.

Posted by David M | June 11, 2007 12:21 PM

Trackbacked by The Thunder Run - Web Reconnaissance for 06/11/2007
A short recon of what’s out there that might draw your attention.

Posted by gaffo | June 11, 2007 9:36 PM

Chuck Hagel and Lindsay Graham - RINOs?

LOL. this group really is right of Gangus Khan ain't it?

Hegal's record is more conservative than 90-percent of you kooliarders here! oh ya, he's against Iraqnam folly - so that means RINO RINO RINO!!

So Neocon Billlary must be an arch Conservative right? we all know Lieberman is!!

you people crack me up!