Mike Allen & Jonathan Martin
Sunday, October 19, 2008
Retired General Colin L. Powell, one of the country’s most respected Republicans, stunned both parties on Sunday by strongly endorsing Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) for president on NBC’s “Meet the Press” and laying out a blistering, detailed critique of the modern GOP.
Powell said the election of Obama would “electrify the world.”
“I think he is a transformational figure,” Powell said. “He is a new generation coming … onto the world stage and on the American stage. And for that reason, I’ll be voting for Senator Barack Obama.”
As a key reason, Powell said: “I would have difficulty with two more conservative appointments to the Supreme Court, but that’s what we’d be looking at in a McCain administration.”
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Powell, once considered likely to be the nation’s first African-American presidential nominee, said his decision was not about race.
Moderator Tom Brokaw said: “There will be some … who will say this is an African-American, distinguished American supporting another African-American because of race.”
Powell, who last year gave Republican John McCain’s campaign the maximum $2,300, replied: “If I had only had that in mind, I could have done this six, eight, 10 months ago. I really have been going back and forth between somebody I have the highest respect and regard for, John McCain and somebody I was getting to know, Barack Obama. And it was only in the last couple of months that I settled on this.”
“I can’t deny that it will be a historic event when an African-American becomes president,” Powell continued, speaking live in the studio. “And should that happen, all Americans should be proud — not just African-American, but all Americans — that we have reached this point in our national history where such a thing could happen. It would also not only electrify the country, but electrify the world.”
Obama communications director Robert Gibbs said the two men spoke for 10 minutes at 10 a.m., and that the candidate thanked Powell for his endorsement and said “he looked forward to taking advantage of his advice in the next two weeks and hopefully over the next four years.”
Obama spokeswoman Jen Psaki said the campaign had not been told of the endorsement: “We didn’t know until General Powell spoke on ‘Meet The Press’ .”
Powell, making his 30th appearance on “Meet the Press,” said he does not plan to campaign for Obama. He led into his endorsement by saying: “We’ve got two individuals — either one of them could be a good president. But which is the president that we need now — which is the individual that serves the needs of the nation for the next period of time.
“And I come to the conclusion that because of his ability to inspire, because of the inclusive nature of his campaign, because he is reaching out all across America, because of who he is and his rhetorical abilities — and you have to take that into account — as well as his substance — he has both style and substance, he has met the standard of being a successful president, being an exceptional president.”
Powell said that he is “troubled” by the direction of the Republican Party, and said he began to doubt McCain when he chose Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin as his running mate.
“Not just small towns have values,” he said, responding to one of Palin’s signature lines.
“She’s a very distinguished woman, and she’s to be admired,” he said. “But at the same, now that we have had a chance to watch her for some seven weeks, I don’t believe she’s ready to be president of the United States, which is the job of the vice president. And so that raised some question in my mind as to the judgment that Senator McCain made.”
The endorsement is likely to help the Illinois senator convince skeptical centrists that he is ready to handle the challenges of commander in chief, and undercuts McCain argument that he is better qualified on national-security issues.
This article was posted: Sunday, October 19, 2008 at 3:38 am