Crossing Lines: Colin Powell and My Own DC Snobbery

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Last night, I got a phone call from New York Sun writer Eli Lake, a thoughtful and serious writer who is more hawkish than I am and closely associated with neoconservatives (though I don’t consider him to be one — he’s too empirical for that), about Colin Powell speaking at a huge motivational conference in September along with Sugar Ray Leonard, Steve Forbes, Robert Schuller, and Zig Ziglar.
Lake got me at a good time as I had just seen the giant full page ad for the Verizon Center conference and thought it really odd — and just something not quite fitting Colin Powell’s stature. I offered a quote, and Eli Lake got what I said right though I think that the comments said something more about me than they did Powell. I was snobbish and shouldn’t have been.
Anyone who reads this blog knows that I admire Secretary Powell. He did much to clean up messes behind the scenes early in the tenure of this administration. He helped squash what could have been an incredibly destructive escalation with China in April 2001. He oversaw Armitage’s efforts in defusing a potential nuclear exchange between Pakistan and India.
Powell gave his North Korea-focused diplomats who began in earnest working on the current North Korea deal protection from Cheney’s wing of the national security establishment. He put John Bolton in a “box” when Bolton agitated as Under Secretary of State for International Security and Arms Control. Powell has called for Guantanamo to be shut down. He has made another brave, true statement that the Quartet envoy Tony Blair is going to have to find a way to communicate with Hamas.
I have no doubt that many of my readers are going to share alternative views that Secretary Powell could have done more to shut down the Cheney-Rumsfeld machine, or have exposed details from inside the Bush White House that might have prevented a worsening of the debacle in Iraq, or could have said more about how he was seriously misled by George Tenet and other parts of the government before his address to the United Nations in early 2003 on Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction capabilities and assets. But I stand by my support of Powell — and feel that things would have been even worse than they are today had Powell and his team not been in the administration from the beginning.
There are things I wish Powell would do and say — but that responsibility and burden is for him to carry — and I think that Powell weighs in on matters like Guantanamo and Hamas when he thinks it will provide a “tilt” and matter.
So, back to my regretted snobbishness. The fact is that I am of two minds about the whole speaker fee issue.
When I was in the very early stages of helping to establish the Nixon Center in 1993 and was then working at the Richard Nixon Library & Birthplace, I was contacted by a representative of one of Japan’s largest economy-focused newspapers, the Nihon Keizai Shimbun, who felt that I knew a lot of political folks and wanted to use me as an intermediary to invite former President George H.W. Bush to Japan.
This kind of invite was a sensitive political issue because the Reagans had accepted a trip to Japan financed by Fujianskei Communications which cost the firm somewhere between $8 and $10 million — with a substantial chunk of that going as compensation to the former President.
I contacted President Bush then who was then working with a single staff member in a new Texas office — and got him on the phone. He was very sensitive to appearances and did not want a repeat of the Reagan’s situation — and thought that there was a way to go to Japan for a decent fee, but not so substantial as to seem inappropriate. That particular deal never came through because the newspaper group simply wanted to have the former President appear at multiple functions around Japan charging people to attend — and it just seemed well, unseemly.
I admired the current President Bush’s father for that kind of sensitivity.
I got to know the elder Harry Walker via President Bush who handles many of the top political talent in the country — and at one point thought about doing more to help line up talent for Japan venues. But in the end, I didn’t have the interest and financial deals have never been my motivator.
The point for this back story is that I have thought about the issue of audiences, speakers, fees, and the like before — and I do believe that it is essential for smart leaders to get out into the country and meet normal Americans who don’t have the benefit (or curse) of being exposed to high octane politics 24/7. In the case of Bush the elder, that case was not about motivating Americans, or trying to connect with people who weren’t political junkies.
I should not have “looked down my nose” at Colin Powell’s decision to speak to thousands of people who do not normally have the opportunity to rub shoulders with people like him. They get to pay a small fee — and perhaps they take members of their family who need some motivational kick-start. If I had the opportunity to speak to 10,000 people, I’d do it because it’s an opportunity to try and instill some of the realities of “hard choices” that this town has to struggle with frequently and which many in the country don’t have connection with.
So, Eli Lake got my snobbish comments correct. I do think that I erred in offering them because I should have said that while the ad glitz was just not my kind of thing, that doesn’t matter. What matters is that someone like Colin Powell is going to connect with a sizable number of Americans who are probably not as informed as they might be on matters of national importance today — and that it is good for the barriers of inside the beltway and outside to be blurred a bit.
I should probably even go and see what this Zig Ziglar and motivational scene is all about in any case. Maybe they’ll give me a blogger’s discount.
— Steve Clemons

Comments

40 comments on “Crossing Lines: Colin Powell and My Own DC Snobbery

  1. Rob says:

    I applaud your support of Colin Powell. Many who castigate the General do so simply because of and for narrow partisan advantage & interests. Others are so far out on the anti-war limb that the faintest praise or consideration of the General’s contributions and service to America set them ablaze with heated indignations and unfair accusations. I won’t deny I too was somewhat taken aback by the General’s remarks before the UN in 2003, but I decided to hold my fire in respect for the man, patriot and servant of the republic, a decision I am glad I made.
    Many forget or refused to appreciate at the time the triumph and rapid ascendancy to power of not only the neocons, but of ultra-nationalists like Cheney and other related interests after 9-11. It also didn’t help that the most inept personality in all of US Presidential history inhabited the White House, who on many occasions disrespected and humiliated his Secretary of State. The NSC adviser then was Rice, among whose many principle functions was to obtain a working balance between the powerful personalities in the V/P’s office and Dept. of the SoS, but in fact stabbed the General in the back to her mentor’s great chagrin and ire. I don’t think Brent Scowcroft has forgiven her yet for that infamous deed.
    Its also forgotten about the purges of ‘realists’ within the various civil agencies and military departments of the executive branch conducted under Cheney and the neocons. It was reported in the press during this time that James Baker the III was “scathing about the current occupant of the White House” in private discourse, the principle architect and adviser of the Bush dynasty!!!
    The last redoubt for ‘realists’ in the first term of the Bush presidency was under the General in the SoS office, where they and the General successfully fought a siege preventing that departments takeover by the neocons, among the many other accomplishments you noted, securing the bridgehead over which ‘realists’ would counterattack and win back the policy making apparatus in this administration.
    ‘Realists’ knew it was only a matter of time before these arrogant and self described “cabalist’s” would fail and fall into defeat, ignominy and despair. The General planned well and successfully executed the strategy for the advent of that day, which in fact started in all out earnest in early January of 05 of the administrations 2nd term.
    The General is owed much among the power and foreign policy elite in this country. I further believe his accomplishments and legacy will be redeemed and its the American people who will be rehabilitated from their acute misunderstandings. And though Colin Powell has served in many civil as well as military positions of authority, he will always be the General to me, an officer this old cold war warrior will always stand to and salute.

    Reply

  2. Rob says:

    I applaud your support of Colin Powell. Many who castigate the General do so simply because of and for narrow partisan advantage & interests. Others are so far out on the anti-war limb that the faintest praise or consideration of the General’s contributions and service to America set them ablaze with heated indignations and unfair accusations. I won’t deny I too was somewhat taken aback by the General’s remarks before the UN in 2003, but I decided to hold my fire in respect for the man, patriot and servant of the republic, a decision I am glad I made.
    Many forget or refused to appreciate at the time the triumph and rapid ascendancy to power of not only the neocons, but of ultra-nationalists like Cheney and other related interests after 9-11. It also didn’t help that the most inept personality in all of US Presidential history inhabited the White House, who on many occasions disrespected and humiliated his Secretary of State. The NSC adviser then was Rice, among whose many principle functions was to obtain a working balance between the powerful personalities in the V/P’s office and Dept. of the SoS, but in fact stabbed the General in the back to her mentor’s great chagrin and ire. I don’t think Brent Scowcroft has forgiven her yet for that infamous deed.
    Its also forgotten about the purges of ‘realists’ within the various civil agencies and military departments of the executive branch conducted under Cheney and the neocons. It was reported in the press during this time that James Baker the III was “scathing about the current occupant of the White House” in private discourse, the principle architect and adviser of the Bush dynasty!!!
    The last redoubt for ‘realists’ in the first term of the Bush presidency was under the General in the SoS office, where they and the General successfully fought a siege preventing that departments takeover by the neocons, among the many other accomplishments you noted, securing the bridgehead over which ‘realists’ would counterattack and win back the policy making apparatus in this administration.
    ‘Realists’ knew it was only a matter of time before these arrogant and self described “cabalist’s” would fail and fall into defeat, ignominy and despair. The General planned well and successfully executed the strategy for the advent of that day, which in fact started in all out earnest in early January of 05 of the administrations 2nd term.
    The General is owed much among the power and foreign policy elite in this country. I further believe his accomplishments and legacy will be redeemed and its the American people who will be rehabilitated from their acute misunderstandings. And though Colin Powell has served in many civil as well as military positions of authority, he will always be the General to me, an officer this old cold war warrior will always stand to and salute.

    Reply

  3. Alan says:

    All this hand wringing. Lookit: the insiders play this game for all it is worth: travel, fees, contacts, and mutual reinforcement. Do they say anything worthwhile? anything to change the status quo? anything that smacks of rigorous criticism of the government of the day? No: this is a show that keeps going round and round. The topics vary, the players are interchangeable: Republican or Democrats this is a let’s take of our guys club.

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  4. Rich says:

    Admire him all you want. He was much liked by foreign service people for unglamorous stuff he did to bolster State Dept, but he has been an authority deferring disaster since Vietnam, so he needs much more to redeem himself. Among Army officers, his reputation was that of being a “politician”, which is one of the lower forms of military life. As Gary Tudeau said of GHW Bush, “he put his manhood in a blind trust”.

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  5. ... says:

    impeachment… may as well start talking about it steve as it isn’t going away..

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  6. David N says:

    — “Powell helped keep the Bush Administration from falling apart, and he should be acknowledged for that.” —
    Powell should be arrested for keeping this regime from “falling apart.” If he had let them fall apart, and be blamed for their criminal behavior, we might have avoided much of the damage they have done.
    For that and many other reasons, I really don’t feel like giving this enabler any slack, or any privilege of picking the times and places of his own choosing, to his own advantage, for acknowledging his mistakes and criticizing the Bush regime.
    Why should he have that privilege? Because, unlike the rest of us, he could have done something to prevent it, and didn’t? Because, unlike many of us, he could have foreseen this disaster, and didn’t? Because, unlike the rest of us, he gets paid thousands to natter at people? Because, unlike the rest of us, he spends zero time at these or any other events listening to the views of others?
    Steve, you can suck up to power all you want. It is clearly to your financial advantage. Don’t expect the rest of us to admire you for it.

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  7. Nathan says:

    Refreshing to read.
    I have been to a few of these type events and other conferences. I usually am surprised by the quality of attendees- smart people that take the time out of their day to improve and better themselves.
    Being only in my early twenties, I have had the privelge to give a hand full motivational and informative speeches. There is nothing more satisfying than speaking to people that are listening and weighting each word you say.
    Snobbery aside, it might be a good thing that ‘common’ people can see ‘influential insiders.’
    Might break some of the superiority complexes in the beltway.

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  8. Sandy says:

    Thank you, e. and b. for the articles. Colin Powell is no “hero”.
    He’s a criminal. A war criminal. Instrumental in sickening cover-ups and accessory to murder.
    I feel sick.

    Reply

  9. croatoan says:

    When he was first given the first draft of his speech to the UN (written by Scooter Libby!), he threw it down and said “I’m not reading this. This is bullshit.”
    http://www.truthout.org/docs_03/060403B.shtml
    He read it anyway.

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  10. croatoan says:

    On February 24, 2001, Colin Powell said Saddam Hussein “has not developed any significant capability with respect to weapons of mass destruction. He is unable to project conventional power against his neighbors.”
    On May 15, 2001, he said, “The Iraqi regime militarily remains fairly weak. It doesn’t have the capacity it had 10 or 12 years ago. It has been contained. And even though we have no doubt in our mind that the Iraqi regime is pursuing programs to develop weapons of mass destruction — chemical, biological and nuclear — I think the best intelligence estimates suggest that they have not been terribly successful.”
    http://www.thememoryhole.com/war/powell-no-wmd.htm

    Reply

  11. pauline says:

    Steve,
    I think I distrust Powell the son more. I know you offered your very strong opinion of Powell the son back in ’04.
    December 16, 2004
    “MORE ON MICHAEL POWELL & CONFLICTS OF INTEREST”
    “I have had a surprisingly strong reaction to what I wrote yesterday about a very anti-competition decision from the FCC that allows Baby Bells to choke off fair access to local facilities under their control.
    I thought these kinds of competition and telecom issues would not generate much interest — but I have already had more than 100 emails in reaction.
    These facilities were once part of the AT&T telecommunications monopoly — arguably bought and paid for by U.S. consumers paying monopolistically determined rates for those facilities now under the control of these Baby Bells. To ensure competition, the Congress passed the 1996 Telecommunications Act to compel those controlling these facilities to provide wholesale access to competitors — so as to promote competition and in order to benefit the consumer.
    Well, because of the FCC’s decision yesterday and other recent FCC rulings, America is back in the pre-1996 era, and consumers are screwed.
    I argued yesterday that the pattern of decisions that Michael Powell and his cabal have pursued make no sense because they so blatantly fly in the face of the public interest. Whose interests are being served?”
    http://www.thewashingtonnote.com/archives/000239.php

    Reply

  12. MEP says:

    I’ve read you weekly for a couple of years without posting. This morning you have motivated me into action. Here is a flash for you Steve. Those of us who gladly identify with the rabble do not need your confession. We figured your motivations out long ago. With this post you removed all doubt as the strength of your bone structure. I find it disgusting and sad that a person of your obvious intellect would spend time on this subject while the Republic is being pissed on. Gee Steve, how about sharing your all encompassing view concerning W’s EO issued last week 7-17-07. I find it criminal that a person of your potential influence is silent on this and related subjects. As to my opinion of Mr. Powell I am in total agreement with PissedOffAmerican. We are “just citizens” and I for one will readily admit my own obvious lack of social status and decorum, which is why I will state, Fuck you and Mr. Powell for remaining silent while this bunch of criminals wipe their blue blood butts with the Constitution.

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  13. Marcia says:

    I think we have all paid a very high price to hear Colin Powell speak…at the UN.
    At a time when his speaking out or resigning might have changed the course of events he remained silent.
    We are now adrift at sea in a vessel taken over by pirates and he still remains silent.
    Personally I would not pay a cent to hear him speak.

    Reply

  14. eCAHNomics says:

    dan gets it right. Check out http://www.usvetdsp.com/story13.htm
    Colin Powell has always been what I call an Astroglide A**hole. There is nothing to admire in that man and I wouldn’t answer the door if he showed up at my house. He is a disgrace to the uniform.

    Reply

  15. Linda says:

    I’m sure Dan Ellsberg got speakers’ fees and needed them to raise legal defense funds–after he spoke out, got the Pentagon Papers published,and exposed what the Vietnam War was about. He had something to say that was important. Powell has to know similar things about the Iraq War. As for motivational speaking fees, I wonder what would motivate Powell to tell what he knows. I think that speech would be patriotic.

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  16. Nancy Jean says:

    Hi Steve! lol,had to stop by and let you know you’re on Cspan 3 right now! cheers!

    Reply

  17. PissedOffAmerican says:

    I have to believe that Powell possesses information that, if disclosed, would virtually guarantee Cheney and Bush’s impeachment, and very likely their indictment.
    Fuck Colin Powell, he’s a traitor in every sense of the word.

    Reply

  18. dan says:

    I will never have respect for Colin because of his involvement in the coverup of the MY Lai killings in VN. Never. We killed innnocent kids and women and Colin helped cover it up. It was shameful. It is a disgrace till this day.

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  19. ... says:

    non beltway talk becoming beltway talk?
    Impeachment?
    http://talkingpointsmemo.com/archives/015836.php

    Reply

  20. ... says:

    enon – bingo…

    Reply

  21. enon says:

    Steve,
    I’ve been reading The Washington Note for some time but never felt the need to comment before.
    This time you’re really showing your inside the Beltway credentials.
    George G. W. Bush has accepted buckets of money from the Moonies. There’s nothing sensitive about the man who claimed he was “out of loop” on Iran-Contra. It’s nothing but PR.

    Reply

  22. Jessica says:

    Colin Powell has done many good things in his political life. However, I feel like a lot of his good work is overshadowed by his aid in instigating the Iraq War. I remember listening to him address the UN in 2003, begging for support on scant evidence. I don’t think even he believed what he was saying and for that reason, I lost a lot of respect for him. To date, the war has cost over $340 billion dollars—money which could have been spent much more wisely and with better end results. It is estimated, for example, that the expenditure of a mere $19 billion would eliminate starvation and malnutrition worldwide. In a time when the current defense budget is $522 billion, the goal of eradicating world hunger is clearly well within reach. Thus, it is clear that the occupation of Iraq needs to end, and it needs to end now without regard to what this will do to United States interest in Iraq’s oil. There are simply much more important issues that need to be addressed. Thus, in my book, Mr. Powell was put in a tough situation by the Bush administration and I can understand why he did what he did; I only wish he had acted upon his own beliefs instead.

    Reply

  23. Carroll says:

    Posted by profmarcus at July 25, 2007 12:36 PM
    >>>>>>>>>
    Ditto everything you said.

    Reply

  24. rapier says:

    Powell could have been president but he settled for speaking fees to help move his net worth up through the 8 figures. He stood next to Bush at the ranch during the selection drama and even I could already see Cheney’s knives already sticking in his back, but there he stood, like a good soldier. I like to call him General Colin Quisling, is that too harsh?

    Reply

  25. Zig Nobody says:

    I admired Colin Powell and then, the General got all messied up with the Bushistas. How sad. However and all that being said, it would be a truly great American spectacular IF Gen. Colin Powell (ret) just one time got up and punched G. Bush squarely between his eyes and dropped President Piss-ant right on his pampered fanny. Yeah I said it and I meant it. Got that Secret Service? G. Bush is a punk and Colin Powell is a decorated war hero and veteran. Was once upon a time Chairman of the Joint Chiefs. Yeah, just one time…blam right between those beady little eyes. So it just goes to show you why I’m a nobody and Gen. Colin is a somebody. Nuff said!

    Reply

  26. dan says:

    Heard Mr. Powell speak many years ago, post Bush I era I believe. He had been quite well coached and was very good. The speaker’s circuit–industry conventions–is standard fare. Bill Clinton finally made some money speaking, for eg. I don’t see anything wrong with it. Did Powell speak before a group he regulated??? Negotiated with?? Was the fee obscene?? If not, what’s the problem? Good governments servants, talented people, deserve to make a buck when they break away from govt. Making a living isn’t always 100% clean. Speaking fees seem a relatively clean way to cash in.

    Reply

  27. rich says:

    Steve:
    Since you won’t quote yourself, let ME:
    >>”It was bizarre, it looked like something you would see at 3:00 a.m. if you had insomnia,” he said. “Is Colin Powell going to sell us real estate in Boca Raton next? This is pretty sad. Everyone from Bill Clinton to George Bush’s father to Richard Armitage to Richard Clarke to John Bolton are out making speaker fees. Typically, the kinds of speaker fee arrangements they get are done for corporations, labor unions, and trade associations, clubs, people interested in broader issues, public policy. Even though the speakers are being compensated, there still seems to be something worthy and enlightening in the exercise.”
    “This just looks like a pretty gross selling of his status,” Mr. Clemons said. Mr. Clemons has worked closely with Mr. Powell’s second chief of staff, Lawrence Wilkerson, to advance the criticism that the president and vice president often ignored foreign policy professionals in the run-up to the Iraq War.”<<
    Well said! And not snobbish. And that comes from one who IS/(was) snobbish about motivational speakers. I’ve come to respect them for what they are, and I don’t even mind Powell joining them for a (reasonable) fee.
    Thing is, if Colin Powell is to get a fee, this is the venue and type of topic he should be compensated for.
    YET—Let’s keep the public in public service. Hell, let’s keep the service in public service.
    I’d think Wilkerson’s and Powell’s experience confusing their loyalty to Bush and BushPartisanship with their loyalty to America and the American people–ought to’ve taught them a few things about when to speak out, why, one what–and whether it should be for a fee.
    1. Perhaps their work as “public servants”–if their years as OUR employees can honestly be self-advertised as public service (& it can)–means the product of their experience ought also to be public property in some sense.
    Aren’t Americans paying a double fee–being double-taxed–for some such speaker fees? Where the group can afford it, and the talk isn’t directly addressing matters of State and current debate, I dont’ mind a fee at all.
    Where that fee is essentially gate-keeping American citizens’ ability to access the insider game–or debate critical issues of national importance–then perhaps such ‘public servants’ should lecture for free. (yes, how unsound… how impractical…)
    For some functions, sure, a (reasonable) fee, why not? If the purpose is to serve–to debate, inform, bind the country together–and even to learn themselves, wouldn’t they be out there generating a healthy body politic by giving lectures for free? At libraries and community centers? OOOoooooh how impossible!

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  28. Joe says:

    Powell lost me long before Iraq. His foot-dragging on the ethnic conflict in former Yugoslavia and public contradiction of his CnC about gays in the military back in the mid-1990s were both red flags on his judgment.

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  29. Punchy says:

    Shorter Mr. Clemons: I like Powell, because, ya know, even though he nearly single-handedly started one of the most destructive, repulsive, expensive, and unnecessary wars of all time…well, he now wants reversies.
    So it all evens out, in Mr. C’s world.

    Reply

  30. ... says:

    profmarcus quote >>if we’re lucky, each of us is called upon at least once to declare their most deeply held inner principles regardless of the potential consequences… colin powell had that opportunity and chose not to take it…<<
    steve choses not to take it either as i see it.
    more beltway news and a chance to absolve oneself of some minor sense of guilt over some minor issue about colin powell and a speaking engagement. steve never directly or indirectly calls for impeachment, let alone answering a direct question on it from his readers. he is a man of the beltway and his loyalty is deep much like colin powell.. it explains why steve admires him so much as well.. 2 peas in a pod is how i see it, both working for the beltway.

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  31. Paul says:

    You may know this, your posting doesn’t make it clear. Powell has been doing this Zig Ziglar seminar all around the country for years. He appeared in Charlotte NC at the same seminar back in ’04 or ’05. It must be a lucrative gig, so appearances be damned. A man’s gotta make a living.

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  32. Sandy says:

    Now he makes it official — the sell-out of his soul and supposed integrity complete. Gotta make a buck. And, why not? (his reasoning). Follow the money.

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  33. Ian Kaplan says:

    “defusing a potential nuclear exchange between China and India”
    Ah, don’t you mean “defusing a potential nuclear exchange between Pakistan and India”?
    On Colin Powell: He destroyed his reputation and any legacy he might have at the alter of being a good soldier for G.W. Bush. Appearing with Zig Ziglar is just the final step in selling out. Powell always was a political general. It appears that his real legacy will be that he was a politician without the character to stand up for his country.

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  34. Erica says:

    Powell helped keep the Bush Administration from falling apart, and he should be acknowledged for that. I am curious if he played a part in Bush’s foreign humanitarian policies, or if that even exists in any of his policies. According to the Borgen Project, the United States is one of the lagging followers in the fight against poverty. The United States should be at the top, being that it’s one of the top richest countries that can fund 340 billion dollar wars.

    Reply

  35. profmarcus says:

    as a mba professor who teaches advanced graduate seminars in leadership, i have a keen eye for what constitutes real leaders and what does not… the old saw that “managers do things right but leaders do the right things,” while true, only goes half the way… “leaders do the right things right,” to my mind, more accurately captures the essence of authentic leadership…
    in the past 6 1/2 years, we have seen our constitutionally-based, democratic republic subjected to a degree of criminal abuse the likes of which i never imagined i would see in my nearly 60 years of living on this earth… if we’re lucky, each of us is called upon at least once to declare their most deeply held inner principles regardless of the potential consequences… colin powell had that opportunity and chose not to take it… had he done so, maybe, just maybe, the dire state of affairs we are now experiencing in the united states might have been avoided…
    i have followed the global shows of zig et al for years, and marveled at both the price and the shallowness of what is actually provided… if one wants to “rub shoulders” with “leadership celebrities” and highly-paid motivational speakers, by all means, fork over the money and register, but understand that it’s nothing more than the old cliche about chinese food – you’ll be hungry again in an hour…
    for colin powell to lend his name (as rudy giuliani and norman schwarzkopf have done) is only a further cheapening of his reputation, although i am not at all sure it could be cheapened further than he has already managed to do prior to this…
    http://takeitpersonally.blogspot.com/

    Reply

  36. 11B40 says:

    In trying to separate the issues here – your supposed self-confessed snobbery, Powell’s checkered past, speaking fees, etc. – I’d just like to suggest one meta-issue, Steve.
    Once again, somebody from Beltway, Inc. is venturing out among us commoners to explain why they do what they do in top-down format so that we’ll better understand and can comply with future directives more enthusiastically.
    The entire concept that government exists to represent **our** interests has been subordinated completely to court behavior and language worthy of the Mikado or Versailles. Instead of representing us, the government-pundit complex now represents **itself** to the rest of us. I don’t know how this adiabatic wall between DC and the rest of the nation (let alone the world) can be breached, but what I see is a governing elite that has gone completely off the rails and is tracing some bizarre course through events without reference to its constituents save as a source of revenue.
    Over at Pat Lang’s blog a couple of weeks ago, there was a spirited debate about whether the U.S. remains a republic (“…if we can keep her.”) or has succumbed to imperial ambitions. I’m afraid that your post is one more data point that suggests the latter.

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  37. collapsible says:

    Steve predicts accurately: “I have no doubt that many of my readers are going to share alternative views that Secretary Powell could have done more to shut down the Cheney-Rumsfeld machine, or have exposed details from inside the Bush White House that might have prevented a worsening of the debacle in Iraq.” But it’s more than that.
    Colin Powell has done some things he can be proud of and some things that he should be ashamed of. If he’s not ashamed of his performance regarding the My Lai Massacre, Iran-Contra, and the Iraq War, to cite a few of his career lowlights, he harbors a character defect that I don’t find admirable.
    Regarding the “debacle in Iraq,” he had opportunities to resist the “Cheney-Rumsfeld machine.” Did he do all he could? I don’t know all that he could have done, but I do know that he could have told on them and he could have resigned. He didn’t. He cooperated and acted to further the administration’s criminal (that’s right: they were breaking laws) goals.
    Your “might have prevented a worsening of the debacle in Iraq” is way too dainty. Powell might have prevented the debacle itself. We’ll never know, because he chose to go up to New York and lie to the United Nations instead.
    What would you have done in his shoes? Knowing what he did, and knowing the players as well as he did, would you have participated in war crimes? Is it unreasonable to expect some minimal ethics from those who hold positions of trust?
    And it’s obscene that he continues to collect mountains of pennies for his thoughts.

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  38. SomeCallMeTim says:

    (though I don’t consider him to be one — he’s too empirical for that)
    I wouldn’t swear to it, but I think Lake cops to being a neocon (or maybe has in the past, but doesn’t anymore?). And he writes for the Sun, for gawd’s sake. Not a big point, in any case, I suppose.

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  39. JohnH says:

    I would encourage you to go, Steve. Personally, I would not pay to see any Washington insider. By the time they hit the conference circuit, they have so internalized the Washington group think that they have trouble recognizing reality when they see it.
    Let us know if he explains why we went into Iraq. The least Powell could do to atone for his participation in this administration is to tell us the truth about that. If he trots out the same old BS, you know you’ve wasted your time, because he’s decided to avoid anything of substance.

    Reply

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