Monday, October 18, 2021


Matt Lewis of the Daily Beast thinks Colin Powell could have saved us from Donald Trump by running for president.
His legacy will have detractors on the right (he was a sellout who endorsed Obama) and the left (he misled us about WMDs), but I can’t help thinking what if he had been the future of the Republican Party? ...

This actually could have happened. Fourteen months before the 1996 presidential election, a Time/CNN poll found that “If the 1996 presidential election were held today, Colin Powell, running on the GOP ticket, would beat Bill Clinton 46 percent to 38 percent...”
I agree that Powell might have won a general election. His problem would have been winning the Republican primaries.
On a range of issues like abortion and affirmative action, Powell was out-of-step with the conservative zeitgeist. Gary Bauer, who was head of the Family Research Council, called him “Bill Clinton with ribbons.”
He couldn't have won. You had to meet the religious right's litmus tests then, just as you do now, to win the Republican nomination.

Lewis can imagine Powell winning, and thinks he would have avoided the Iraq debacle.
... as paleoconservative writer Jim Antle suggests, the Iraq war would likely not have happened: “As commander-in-chief, the decisions would have been his. He would have been less inclined to fall under the sway of Cheney and the neoconservatives, if they occupied prominent roles in his administration at all,” Antle writes.

No Iraq war probably means no Obama and no Trump.
That's a huge leap I'm not prepared to make. Not that it matters, because none of this could have happened.

But I wonder whether Powell could have had some impact if he hadn't limited his apostasy to endorsing Democrats for president.

People talk nowadays as if Donald Trump invented Republican extremism, but, as I've pointed out a number of times, it was a matter of concern years before Trump entered politics. Christie Whitman published a book in 2005 called It's My Party Too!, which was described by the publisher this way:
The former New Jersey governor and EPA administrator under George W. Bush presents a detailed and provocative critique of the Republican party's increasingly conservative and extremist views, recommending a moderate, solution-based approach to government that the author believes is more in line with traditional Republican principles.
What if Whitman had been joined by other prominent Republicans, among them Colin Powell, in abandoning the party altogether? Is it possible that the mainstream media and general public would have reckoned with the party's extremism early enough to prevent it from metastasizing uncontrollably?

But that was never going to happen either. Powell endorsed Obama twice, then Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden -- but as Lewis notes, he never stopped saying he was a Republican until his last year.
In 2014, Powell was asked on Meet the Press about his political affiliation. “I’m still a Republican,” he said. “And I think the Republican Party needs me more than the Democratic Party needs me.”

By 2021, he said that he could “no longer call himself a Republican.”
By that time, as we now know, he was fighting multiple myeloma and Parkinson's. Before that, he wouldn't budge.

You and I might never forgive Powell for helping to make the Iraq War happen, but he was widely respected. He might have made a difference. He chose not to try.

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