Former Secretary of State Colin Powell is declining to renew the endorsement he gave Barack Obama four years ago, when he called Mr. Obama “a transformational figure.” . . . Mr. Powell told NBC’s “Today” show, “I always keep my powder dry, as they say in the military.” He credits Mr. Obama with stabilizing the financial system and “fixing the auto industry” but said he should have spent more time on the economy. . . . Mr. Powell, who served under President George W. Bush, also said, “I don’t want to throw my weight behind someone” at this point in the campaign.
Conservative foreign-policy gurus will have a hearty guffaw over that one. To be blunt, Powell has no real weight to throw around; it’s hard to fathom that voters are hanging on his decision.
More to the point, Powell has acquired quite the reputation on the right for suck-uppery to the Beltway establishment and the Davos-hopping, Aspen Institute-blathering, “Charlie Rose”-admired set. He is less than (ok, entirely un-) beloved by those offended by his gross moral failure in the Scooter Libby case and those who went to bat for the surge in Iraq. When he came out to endorse the entirely under-prepared Barack Obama in 2008, heaping scorn on his longtime colleague Sen. John McCain, the universal reaction among hawks (aside from the involuntary retch) was that this was yet one more play to the Georgetown cocktail circuit.
That Powell is now contemplating withholding his support for the once-“transformational” Obama says nothing about Mitt Romney, and everything about which way the wind is blowing in Washington. No one who fancies themselves as a wise elder and who hopes ever to serve again in government (especially on a well paid and lightly attended board or commission) has the nerve to defend Obama’s record robustly. Privately, many roll their eyes in disgust. But better to be mum for now, since everyone who is anyone or who might be helpful to another’s career will certainly understand not wanting to come right out and say the emperor has no clothes. I mean, how many people in government have Mayor Cory Booker’s integrity?
And for those fretting about Romney’s conservative bona fides, you can rest easy. Powell’s decision — if he ever makes one — is entirely a matter of political convenience. Isn’t it always?