Only within one of those strange election season scenarios could Colin Powell find himself repeatedly being asked to defend comments made by Dick Cheney.
But that’s exactly the situation in which Powell found himself during a series of Sunday talkshow interviews. He was presumably making the rounds because he wanted to discuss the genocide in the Sudan. He was also making the rounds as a good soldier in this election year (although he has used his position to avoid much of the season’s purely political discourse).
Who else is the administration going to send around to answer the questions from Tim, Wolf and and George on Sunday morning? Rumsfeld? Cheney?
On Meet the Press, Powell addressed a couple of key campaign topics.
On Cheney’s assertion that a Kerry presidency would invite a terrorist attack:
“As commander in chief, I think he’d respond in a robust way. The vice president clarified those remarks later in the week. He wasn’t casting any aspersions on Mr. Kerry by those remarks. What he was essentially saying is, ‘You know how this president has responded, how President Bush has responded to this kind of terrorist attack, and so you know where we’re coming from and how we will deal with this kind of threat.’
… There’s no commander in chief, no president of the United States, who would not respond to terrorism. Now, how he would respond, and which strategies that individual would use — I can’t predict the future.”
Can you imagine how ridiculous it must feel for Powell to say something like: “He wasn’t casting any aspersions on Mr. Kerry by those remarks.”
And on the connections between Saddam and 9/11 (to which Cheney still alludes and of which a significant percentage of Americans are still convinced):
“I have no indication that there was a direct connection between the terrorists who perpetrated these crimes against us on the 11th of September, 2001, and the Iraqi regime. We know that there had been connections and there had been exchanges between al-Qaeda and the Saddam Hussein regime and those have been pursued and looked at, but I have seen nothing that makes a direct connection between Saddam Hussein and that awful regime and what happened on 9/11.”
Wouldn’t it be amazing if one day we found out exactly how Colin Powell was feeling over these past couple of years? You know he just has to cringe every time he hears a Texas toughguy, bowlegged threat coming out of the mouth of Bush or Cheney. You know he has to be sickened by the fact that he was the guy selected to make the WMD case in front of the U.N.
And all of us who travel internationally have heard and earful from friends, acquaintances and bellhops who continually complain about America’s general trend towards unilateralism and our specific choice of a leader. Think how Colin Powell must feel, month after month, trip after trip.
Maybe the perception of Powell as the administration’s odd man out is just one of those Washington myths. But I doubt it. Like John McCain, I think Powell has often found himself faced with a variation of the most famous Shakespearian dilemma:
To be or to be…
To be loyal to your party and your president or to be loyal to your own values and beliefs.
Perhaps Powell is primarily looking forward to getting the next few months over with so that he can just be left alone.