When it Comes to Colin Powell, What is Bill Kristol Up To?

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powel twn 2009.jpg
General Colin Powell has shrugged off good efforts by the Obama campaign to nudge his support into the open — but while it can be understood that Obama’s agents would try to sign Powell up, what does Bill Kristol have in mind stating that he expects Powell to tilt towards Obama?
Earlier today, Huffington Post‘s Seth Colter Walls quoted former national security advisor and CSIS Trustee Zbigniew Brzezinski saying that he expected Colin Powell to endorse Obama. Bill Kristol went a step further and said that he also expects the former Secretary of State to show up in Denver at the Democratic National Convention.
When I queried General Powell’s office today, I received this statement from his office:

I am not attending any conventions and I have not decided who I am going to vote for. I have no idea why Bill Kristol started this rumor chain

Others received the same message.
So, what is Bill Kristol up to?
I have a hunch — but it’s completely speculative.
Since Steve Schmidt was given the operative reins of the McCain campaign, Schmidt has been pushing hard for flamboyant, dramatic showdowns to contrast McCain from Obama. He helped orchestrate the ongoing political theater on oil drilling. And Schmidt and his team have grabbed the Russia-Georgia conflict and tried to ratchet higher US-Russian tension rather than stand down, again to differentiate the McCain camp from what they hope is perceived as a more dovish Obama position.
My hunch is that Bill Kristol and friends don’t want interest-calculating negotiators and balanced, sensible, pragmatic realists around McCain. They are perhaps using the Russia conflict to purge their foreign policy team of those who are not neocon or neocon-friendly — and by trying to “export Colin Powell to Obama,” Kristol is really going after his close friend and ally Richard Armitage while at the same time attacking General Powell’s utility to Obama.
And who is helping Steve Schmidt and Bill Kristol orchestrate this purge and exploit this European crisis? I think Colin Powell’s old White House nemesis — Karl Rove.
Just a hunch — but McCain’s team is working on achieving national security clarity of the neoconservative kind.
— Steve Clemons

Comments

31 comments on “When it Comes to Colin Powell, What is Bill Kristol Up To?

  1. arthurdecco@start.ca says:

    Thanks for the link to McGovern’s open letter to Powell, POA.
    Kinda sums it all up, doesn’t it?

    Reply

  2. PissedOffAmerican says:

    This pretty much sums it up as far as this mewling mantle-piece Powell goes….
    http://www.antiwar.com/mcgovern/?articleid=13312

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  3. DonS says:

    Unfashionable as it may be, I’ll state what I have before: Powell is let off the hook time and again because of his race. The man deserves to be excoriated as do many other Bush lackeys. Instead, explanations for a record of shameful behaviors are constantly trotted out.
    Another possibility is that the guy is just weak, in over his head, like Condi. But I don’t think so. He does seem to have the problem of speaking truth to power or, if he does, has some misguided notion that his special status means that, presumably having spoken truth privately, he must forever uphold the military code of “good soldier”. Bull. There are active duty generals taking more risks than Colin.

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  4. don says:

    imo, Colin Powell was consistently muzzled, outflanked, and humiliated in the past by two bush higher-ups — cheney and rumsfeld.
    Maybe Kristol thinks because Powell’s been fooled before, why not say/do anything, because, well just because, the neocons think Powell is a loser.

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  5. pauline says:

    Wasn’t Kristol’s male family-tree member a Marxist? Or a neo-Marxist? And what’s the diff?
    Is son Billy, alias “Dan Quayle’s brain”, then a neo neo-con?
    The last thing I’d want to see is for this 51st state un-elected, self-appointed PNAC founding member, is to have ANY influence on a new administration — period. So that definitely puts the Az mafia boss McCrankster on my “no-no” list by default.
    Knowing what I’ve seen and read, I’d warn my enemies not to buy a used car, a vacuum or swamp land in Florida from this shyster. Want rotten meat or produce? Then invite son Billy into your living room and world — not mine, thank you.
    It’s crystal clear to me son Billy makes the Mearsheimer and Walt book read like the bible.

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  6. Tim Lewis says:

    I believe that Kristol threw this out so that if it does not happen the neocons can attack Obama by saying that Colin Powell was going to endorse but then had a change of heart and will support his old hawk buddy McCain. This will then be followed up with Obama’s inability to carry the support of Black leaders.

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  7. Tom says:

    I think Kristol did it to kill or mute in advance the buzz Powell’s endorsement and possible speech at the convention will generate.
    Flawed he may be, but Powell is well liked by most people, and superficially regarded by these same people as a loyal, competent man who at worst was duped, or perhaps overstated the case for war a bit out of that loyalty.
    What I would like to see is Powell after further thought agree to speak at the convention, to shred Bush and McCain over their idiotic handling and policy views of Georgia and eastern Europe. Even my ten year old knows you don’t pick a fight, or rush to start one that doesn’t need resolution immediately, until and unless you are prepared for it. But, by letting Georgia invade, that is precisely what the US did. The voters will get it, I think.

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  8. Farinata X says:

    Colin Powell: the Keitel or Jodl (take your pick) of the Bush administration. Your continued admiration for this war criminal is mysterious, to say the least.

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  9. Fabio says:

    The only thing is that I can swear I heard Kristal long ago, gotta be over 2 months ago now, state that he thought Powell would make an excellent choice for McCain’s VP nominee.

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  10. John B. says:

    Of course he knew. he was (once again) taking one for the team…and with Slam Dunk G Tenet sitting right behind him…

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  11. PissedOffAmerican says:

    “He is a cautious, thoughtful, careful strategist — and my view of his UN speech is that he got hoodwinked by his own team”
    Amazing.
    And the fact that a few million American lay people WEREN’T hoodwinked tells us what, Steve?
    Steve, he knew he was feeding the UN horseshit. HE KNEW.

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  12. ed says:

    “Just a hunch — but McCain’s team is working on achieving national security clarity of the neoconservative kind.”
    I guess you forgot that McCain was the Neocon’s first choice back in 2000 until they saw how much dadgum money Bush, Jr. could generate. Had McCain won that election, 9-11 may or may not have happened, but the U.S. would almost certainly have invaded Iraq.
    “When it Comes to Colin Powell, What is Bill Kristol Up To?”
    The same thing Bill Kristol is always up to: Machiavellian Douchebaggery. Duh.
    “He is a cautious, thoughtful, careful strategist — and my view of his UN speech is that he got hoodwinked by his own team. ”
    Booooo. Stop covering for Powell. Where does the buck stop, anyway? If he’s so weak as to be hoodwinked by his own team, he had no business being a general. And Powell is preferable to John Bolton and Dick Cheney? Wow, way to set the the bar high. Colin Powell had many opportunities over the years to do the right thing: Mi Lai, Iran Contra, Gays in the Military, and most recently the Iraq Invasion (and serving George Bush, Jr.’s administration, I would add). Those are huge issues, and in every case he was wrong. Loud wrong. Horribly wrong. He has yet another opportunity to get one right. I’d rather not hear about it from surrogates, but from Powell himself. He can endorse the guy who’s foreign policy isn’t wildly and increasingly NeoCon Insane or he can sit at home and think warm thoughts about what might have been.

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  13. Steve Clemons says:

    Cato — thanks for your post. Obviously, we will have to agree to disagree. Colin Powell bailed this country out of a ton of crises each one of which could have gone bad — before 9/11. He is a cautious, thoughtful, careful strategist — and my view of his UN speech is that he got hoodwinked by his own team. I’m not going to defend everything that Powell did — but I will say that if we had a lot more Colin Powells in government and a lot fewer John Bolton and Dick Cheney types — the nation would be in better hands. I don’t doubt that you question my perspective. You should. But the moment I become too predictable for all of you –then there won’t be much of a reason for this blog.
    All the best — and do know that I understand where you are coming from.
    Steve

    Reply

  14. Cato says:

    Basic point: Colin Powell is a war criminal. If he hadn’t given his speech at the UN telling LIES about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, there would have been no invasion and there wouldn’t be over 4,000 dead servicemembers (a fine way to serve the Army he was with for decades, by the way). It’s just that simple. Yet you love the guy! I seriously question your discernment at times.

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  15. Pending Comment says:

    Steve,
    I love your blog, but I really find you so unpredictable some times. Your commitment to Powell and Republican realists is odd and refreshing at the same time.
    It’s very clear that no one owns you. You’ve been one of the key pillars of pushing Chuck Hagel out there. I say bravo, but I also say that many of these folks aren’t without their downsides.

    Reply

  16. DonS says:

    We can recognize the serious consequences of American political process, but for many, including a lot of politicians and media types, not to mention the vast majority of American sheople, politics is a theater of the ego.
    Reality TV, and all the ways in which American “culture” has spawned a belief in the superficial and existentially irrelevant — aided and abetted by the economic engine of excess and superficiality — all contribute seamlessly.
    For those egos most directly involved and animating the show it is their workaday life. Competing to create the most captivating “reality” for the rest of us
    Much of the rest of the world recognizes and is appalled — I believe — at this bubble of insanity that extends far beyond the oval office

    Reply

  17. p.lukasiak says:

    the question isn’t what Kristol is trying to do, the question is whether McCain will respond. Lets not forget that the entire GOP foreign policy establishment has been discredited — Bushco’s policies may have been based on neo-con theories, but they were swallowed hook, line, and sinker by the ‘realists’. McCain seems to be far more of a foreign policy realist than a neo-con; he was very careful not to suggest that an armed response to the Russia/Georgia conflict was a possibility.
    My personal opinion is that Kristol is simply trying to isolate/discredit Powell — given his failure as Secretary of State (and despite Clemon’s excuses for Powell) a McCain presidency doesn’t need Colin Powelll’s ‘yes-man’ approach anyway.

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  18. liz says:

    What has happened to the truth in our country? Why does McCain camp play such dangerous games with all of our lives? Do we really have to watch politics twenty fours hours a day, seven days a week, four weeks every month, twelve months a year in order to protect ourselves from politicans?

    Reply

  19. Carroll says:

    I don’t get the Karl and Bill plan to purge realist and use Russia-Georgia to further hawk up McCain so he will be elected.
    Considering that fellow hawk Cheney is the only unindicted politican with a lower approval rating than Bush.
    Here’s a news blip on Georgia btw:…how could Saakashvili be as dumb as he is? I don’t get that either. Maybe it’s desperation.
    Georgian president’s Russia claims raise eyebrows
    By MISHA DZHINDZHIKHASHVILI, Associated Press Writer Wed Aug 13, 8:12 PM ET
    TBILISI, Georgia – It was a claim that could have provoked a dangerous Kremlin response: The United States is readying to take over airports and ports in the former Soviet republic of Georgia.
    The claim, by U.S.-backed Georgia President Mikhail Saakashvili on Wednesday was swiftly shot down by officials in Washington, who denied any such designs on Georgian soil.
    Yet, it was the latest in a string of overstated pronouncements by the American-educated Georgian leader that are further fueling tensions with Moscow.
    His comments — along with a stream of biased, conflicting and often false information coming from both Russian and Georgian officials — have made it hard to figure out what is really happening in the world’s latest hotspot.
    Fighting between the Russian and Georgian armies raged for days, leaving hundreds dead and some 100,000 forced from their homes. The U.S. government and world diplomats are scrambling for a way to cool the tensions.
    Warfare erupted when Georgia sought to retake control over the breakaway province of South Ossetia last Thursday and Russia responded with overwhelming military force.
    Saakashvili has been conducting daily interviews in his fluent English on international television networks and making frequent televised speeches at home.
    On Wednesday, he said in an interview on CNN that Russian troops were “closing on the capital, circling and planning to install their own government in Tbilisi.
    Associated Press reporters in the area saw no sign of an impending coup. An AP reporter saw dozens of Russian trucks and armored vehicles heading south from the central city of Gori in the direction of Tbilisi, but they later turned away.”

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  20. Carroll says:

    I don’t think Powell’s endorsement of either would mean much one way or another to dems or repubs.
    Maybe if he had tried to rehabiltate himself by speaking out like Paul O’Neil and Larry Wilkerson and some others he would have some standing and wieght with part of the public at least. As it is he’s just used his military yes man career as an reason and excuse for being silent…a zero…with no principles… and no interest other than staying on the WH guest list.
    If this is a Rove play it’s really pretty useless and meaningless. I never thought Rove was that smart anyway, he’s just a sleeze who can add and subtract. Doesn’t take brains to be dirty.

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  21. JohnH says:

    All you ever needed to know about neocons: neocon men do neocon jobs. 100% BS 24/7. It’s what drives the “news” cycle.

    Reply

  22. Mr.Murder says:

    This is a feeler for McCain. They want to test drive this by getting it out for Obama to try and note the traction it gets.

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  23. wkirkland says:

    Steve, it’s “operative reins”, not “reigns.” Thx.

    Reply

  24. syvanen says:

    There was one small ray of hope when Bush appointed Powell to Sec of State in that he seemed to be the only rational player on the team. Unfortunately, his career in the military of following orders led him to his UN speech in support of the Iraq war. There is really not much left of his reputation. His endorsement is not worth much, but it maybe worth something. Interesting idea that Rove is working overtime to deny Obama that morsel.

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  25. PissedOffAmerican says:

    It is quite ironic that the person responsible for the truly pivotal speech before the UN that cinched the deal for an Iraq invasion, keeps getting painted as some sort of poor victimized dupe. “But gee golly, can’t we just overlook the million dead Iraqis, after all, Colin’s really a stand-up guy”.
    Horseshit.
    In a nation that is what we purport ourselves to be, Colin would swing right next to Cheney and Bush.

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  26. lurker says:

    Fascinating possibility Steve. I have learned to like Powell more
    over the last couple of years because of your positive commentary
    about him. You should dig deeper into Rove’s role in McCain’s
    operations.

    Reply

  27. PissedOffAmerican says:

    Sorry for being repetitious, as I posted this on another thread. But honestly, it really cracks me up! These people aren’t just scumbags on a huge scale, but they’re even scumbags when it comes to the little things….
    http://www.newamericancentury.org

    Reply

  28. .... says:

    with bill kristol you get a lot of neocon bullshit… any way these twits spin it, doesn’t change the fact it’s bullshit spin with one purpose in mind..

    Reply

  29. Chuck Dupree says:

    A pox on both campaigns; both candidates are pushing to get Georgia into NATO. Whiskey Tango Foxtrot?
    Having said that, you gotta wonder how out of it people can possibly manage to shove themselves. Does Bill Kristol actually think? I mean, does he actually think that most Americans are as mindlessly pro-any war as he is? Despite what the polls say? Sure, the polls can be manipulated, as his side has proven many times. But isn’t it proof of insanity to believe that Americans will support a war against Russia to guarantee the right of Georgia to hold onto South Ossetians who don’t seem to want to be in Georgia?
    I guess Texans can identify with South Ossetia, in a reverse sort of way. But is there any non-Cold War explanation for why we should attack Russia? (Yes: it keeps our economy moving…)

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  30. Clare says:

    Steve, your theory about a realist purge by the neocons makes a lot of sense to me. You spoke very well to that on Rachel Maddow’s show today. Thanks for the insights.

    Reply

  31. Mr.Murder says:

    Mai Lai?
    You peaceniks want that guy on your ticket?
    The mobile labs guy?
    Schadenfreude looks good on you.
    So you get a patent non denial from Powell? Perhaps his memory ran out, because when Den Haag wants to ask him that will be his canned response.
    “I can’t recall.”
    Final Jeapordy:
    “What is the line both VP candidates will say at the next ‘debate’?”

    Reply

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