Sunday, October 19, 2008
It was a mild surpise to people when former Secretary of State Colin Powell endorsed Senator Barack Obama for President. There are certainly a number of Republicans who are angry at Powell's move. The anger is understandable. It was Republican President Ronald Reagan who made Powell his National Security Adviser. It was Republican President George H.W. Bush who plucked Powell from an obscure command to be Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. According to Powell's own book, it was Democrat Bill Clinton and his staff that made Powell eager to retire his post. It was President George W. Bush who made Powell Secretary of State.
That said, I will not be joining those Republicans who blast Powell for his endorsement. I am disappointed, but I understand. It is a prime example of what has went wrong in the Republican Party in recent years and how it forgot the basic lessons of how to treat people.
Throughout history, including our own American Revolution, personal insults and mistreatment have led to big events as much as policy differences. I believe that is the case with Powell.
General Powell is one of the great geopolitical minds of our time. He helped engineer the closing of Reagan's Cold War victory over the Soviets and was the mastermind behind the success of Desert Storm. Men such as General Powell do not deal well with people who use them for their credibility while all but ignoring their input on policy.
The Bush Administration did just that to Powell. As Secretary of State, Powell's credibility and name were used as it was needed, but his input was ignored. Foreign policy was ran around him at the end of his tenure. Though I might not agree with some conclusions made by General Powell, one can not expect to use a great man's name, all but ignore his input, and then expect him to remain an ally. Men and women of any substance simply won't be led around like that.
It is the stark failure of many of today's Republican operatives. They don't seem to realize that how one treats people in politics matters just as much as uniformed conformity to ideology and campaign contributions.
As a result, an old soldier waited in the tall grass for the right time to pounce. He pounced this morning, doing the most damage politically he could do without directly insulting George H.W. Bush, one of the men Powell admires the most.
It is a big lesson for the current GOP operation. Perhaps we as Republicans should, while not compromising our core principles, spend more time reading books on how to win friends and influence people, instead of patronizing memos from some poly sci grad telling us how to "get" this or that person.
I realize that is not what Republicans want to hear, but it is, as George Jones once sang, "The Cold Hard Truth."