"What I would say is that the news media should do a penetrating expose and take a look. I wish they would. I wish the American media would take a great look at the views of the people in Congress and find out if they are pro-America or anti-America,"Gee whiz, I'd kinda thought we'd established that witch-hunts were a bad idea, even BEFORE Jefferson's time. I was obviously wrong in believing that "Have you no decency, Sir?" was a phrase that still resonated. Clearly, millions disagree. Fortunately, those millions do not include the honorable old warrior Colin Powell.
Now, that's the most diplomatic cluebyfouring I've heard in recent times. It will never be all that quotable; Mr. Powell is, I'm afraid, no master of the pithy catch-phrase. But he's certainly capable of pithing essentialist idiocies.
"Mr. McCain says that he's a washed up terrorist, but then why do we keep talking about him? And why do we have the robocalls going on around the country trying to suggest that because of this very, very limited relationship that Senator Obama has had with Mr. Ayers, somehow Mr. Obama is tainted. What they're trying to connect him to is some kind of terrorist feelings. And I think that's inappropriate. Now, I understand what politics is all about, I know how you can go after one another and that's good. But I think this goes too far, and I think it has made the McCain campaign look a little narrow. It's not what the American people are looking for."
Powell also spoke passionately against the insinuations by some Republicans that Obama is a Muslim.
"Well, the correct answer is, he is not a Muslim, he's a Christian. He's always been a Christian," he said. "But the really right answer is, what if he is? Is there something wrong with being a Muslim in this country? The answer's no, that's not America. Is there something wrong with some seven-year-old Muslim-American kid believing that he or she could be president? Yet, I have heard senior members of my own party drop the suggestion, 'He's a Muslim and he might be associated [with] terrorists.' This is not the way we should be doing it in America."
..Mr. Obama is now [called] a socialist, because he dares to suggest that maybe we ought to look at the tax structure that we have. Taxes are always a redistribution of money. Most of the taxes that are redistributed go back to those who pay them, in roads and airports and hospitals and schools. And taxes are necessary for the common good. And there's nothing wrong with examining what our tax structure is or who should be paying more or who should be paying less, and for us to say that makes you a socialist is an unfortunate characterization that I don't think is accurate.Powell has stated that he will be voting for Obama and that he still considers himself a Republican. I think it would be fair to assume that his conclusion is that people such as Mr. McCain and Ms. Bachmann do not meet his standards for probity and disciplined leadership.
Nor do I think Powell confuses reactionary social impositions with any sort of Conservatism, and while I might be wrong, I think he'd tend to guardedly agree with the next bit.
I personally think that the only decent position on matters of individual choice that should decently be considered to be private was best stated bluntly by one of the most contradictory, maddening and controversial politicians in North American history; one of the very few foreign leaders to ever be noticed by the American people - aside, of course, from Fidel Castro.
We take the position that there is no place for the state in the bedrooms of the nation. * Comment in the Canadian House of Commons on the decriminalization of homosexuality (1967-12-22)
That's a very Libertarian idea, when you think about it. It's certainly widely quoted by Libertarians, though they tend to file off the serial numbers. And though he was a self-described Democratic Socialist, that was an economic, not a social position. I might add that he's been as much of an influence upon me as William F. Buckley - and for essentially the same reason; both men were far more interesting and useful when wrong than any two ordinary politically significant figures stumbling upon the right idea for the usual populist reasons.
I thought of Trudeau in reference to Mr. Powell, who has finally come to his parting of the ways with stupidity and who has taken the high ground as the only strategic and tactical option available.
He did not say it as eloquently as Trudeau on the eve of the FLQ crisis, but in essence we are seeing similar times and a similar impatience with those who think that violence and chaos are the proper response to political frustrations.
Pierre Trudeau - "There are very few times in the history of any country when all persons must take a stand on critical issues. This is one of these times; this is one of those issues. I am confident that those persons who unleashed this tragic sequence of events with the aim of destroying our society and dividing our country will find that the opposite will occur. The result of their acts will be a stronger society in a unified country. Those who would have divided us will have united us." - Announcing the War Measures Act to a national television audience, October 16, 1970
I hope very much that leaders and statesmen such as Colin Powell can indeed rise to this challenge, can indeed forestall what seems to me a crisis of spirit and a rising tide of intolerance. While it's not at all fashionable to equate the rhetoric of Palin and McCain with the actions of people responsible for the Oklahoma City bombing, it's damn clear that they are not as far apart as any reasonable person might wish.
Reasonable and civilized leaders do not foment hatred, do not cultivate suspicion of their rivals, do not brandish the noose and the burning cross even in the subtlest and most deniable way. The reason why should be brutally obvious, but perhaps McCain and Palin are indeed willing to "rule in Hell rather than to serve in Heaven."