Gingrich's rhetorical question was ironic since Powell himself has said that he was taken in regarding the intelligence he was given as secretary of state on Saddam Hussein's reputed weapons of mass destruction. In fact, Powell said this as recently as the October 19 edition of NBC's Meet the Press, the forum he used to announce his endorsement of Obama. Recalling his pre-Iraq War UN Security Council speech, wherein he presented the case that Hussein possessed WMDs, Powell said: "I know the importance of that speech, and I regret a lot of the information that the intelligence community provided us was wrong."
Tom Brokaw asked Powell on Meet the Press: "Removing the weapons of mass destruction from the equation, because we now know that they did not exist, was it then a war of necessity or just a war of choice?" Powell did not challenge Brokaw's premise that the WMDs did not exist. Instead, he responded:
Without the weapons of mass destruction present, as conveyed to us by the intelligence community in the most powerful way, I don't think there would have been a war. It was the reason we took it to the public, it was the reason we took it to the American people to the Congress, who supported it on that basis, and it's the presentation I made to the United Nations. Without those weapons of mass destruction then Iraq did not present to the world the kind of threat that it did if it had weapons of mass destruction.
But the big news story regarding Powell's Meet the Press appearance was not this incredible admission, but his endorsement of Obama.
Moreover, the media have focused much more heavily on Powell's endorsement of Obama than on the fact that Powell also said that either Obama or McCain would make a good president. "We've got two individuals, either one of them could be a good president," Powell said. But according to Powell, Obama is the president we need now "because of his ability to inspire, because of the inclusive nature of his campaign, because he is reaching out all across America, because of who he is and his rhetorical abilities — and we have to take that into account, as well as his substance — he has both style and substance; he has met the standard of being a successful president, being an exceptional president. I think he is a transformational figure. He is a new generation coming into the world — onto the world stage, onto the American stage, and for that reason I'll be voting for Senator Barack Obama."
Brokaw noted Powell's military and foreign policy experiences and pointed out that there's nothing in Obama's history paralleling that. "And he knows that," Powell said of Obama. "And I have watched him over the last two years as he has educated himself, as he has become very familiar with these issues.... And he is surrounding himself, I'm confident, with people who'll be able to give him the expertise that he, at the moment, does not have."
One of those people, Obama foreign policy adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski, advised John McCain on foreign policy when McCain ran for president in 2000. Brzezinski is also a member of the internationalist-minded Council on Foreign Relations — as is McCain, and as is Powell. Brzezinski was Democrat Jimmy Carter's national security adviser, and Powell, who has now endorsed Democrat Barack Obama for president, was national security adviser and secretary of state under Republican presidents.
CFR members have influenced both Republican and Democratic presidential administrations for decades in favor of an interventionist and internationalist foreign policy. It is not surprising — given the records of both Obama and McCain — that Colin Powell would be comfortable with either one as president.
— AP Images