The Untouchable, Teflon-Coated Colin Powell

Friday, January 20, 2006

The Untouchable, Teflon-Coated Colin Powell

I have always been annoyed at the free pass that Colin Powell gets from both major parties and the news media. His image is enveloped in more teflon than Reagan's ever was. Remember hearing reporters, Washington insiders and even Dems breathe a collective sigh of relief when Dubya appointed Powell as his secretary of state? Powell was supposedly going to bring a sense of balance and moderation to the Bush II administration. Yeah, right.

We now know that Powell was completely rolled.

He put his reputation on the line by going to the UN and making the administration's flawed and feeble case that WMDs were in Iraq. Later, Powell watched as Rummy and the Pentagon dismissed and ignored the post-war reconstruction recommendations offered by Powell's Department of State.

Where is Powell's sense of self-respect? Does it bother him that he was essentially used by the administration to put a more reassuring face on its often misguided policies? I asked myself these questions as I read a profile of Powell's former chief of staff, Larry Wilkerson.

Unlike Powell, Wilkerson is unwilling to gloss over or dodge the tough questions. In his profile, the Post's Richard Leiby writes:
... these days [Wilkerson] and Powell are estranged ... Wilkerson, a once-loyal Republican with 31 years of Army service, has emerged in recent months as a merciless critic of President Bush and his top people, accusing them of carrying out a reckless foreign policy and imperiling the future of the U.S. military.

... In a landmark speech in October, Wilkerson said: "What I saw was a cabal between the vice president of the United States, Richard Cheney, and the secretary of defense, Donald Rumsfeld, on critical issues that made decisions that the bureaucracy did not know were being made."

... "This is really a very inept administration," says Wilkerson, who has credentials not only as an insider in the Bush I, Clinton and Bush II presidencies but also as a former professor at two of the nation's war colleges. "As a teacher who's studied every administration since 1945, I think this is probably the worst ineptitude in governance, decision-making and leadership I've seen in 50-plus years ..."

... Some observers used to regard Powell and Wilkerson as so close that they enjoyed a "mind meld," but now Powell distances himself from the pronouncements of his former aide.
It's wrong to be combative for the sake of being combative. But it's also wrong for Powell to be compliant for the sake of being compliant.

It's one thing not to publicly criticize an administration in which you are serving. But, in baseball terms, Powell is a free agent. He must have something meaningful to say about the conduct of the war, and he doesn't even have to name names.

In the mid-1920's, it was Silent Cal. Now it's Silent Powell.

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