Colin Powell: Planning for an exit
September 1, 2002 10:11 AM   Subscribe

Colin Powell: Planning for an exit Plans to leave but claims he will wait out the Bush first term. Is this good or bad new for administration?
posted by Postroad (52 comments total)
it really does sound like wishful (or terribly scary) thinking that the last (seemingly) sane man in the white house may be getting out. Wishful because it could possibly mean he'll be to getting real work done (with the volunteering efforts) or possibly get talked into politics. Scary because if he's gone the bush administration won't have anyone questioning their decrees from inside the white house.
posted by NGnerd at 10:24 AM on September 1, 2002

Are we talking about the Bush presidency or the Sun King's regime? “He serves at the pleasure of the President,” Boucher said. That used to mean you served as long as you were wanted and had better not even think about quitting. Off with his head!
posted by gordian knot at 10:35 AM on September 1, 2002

Yikes. I think it takes a great deal of frustration to relinquish the Sec State post at time when international relations have never been more critical to the country. He knows that whoever replaces him will probably be less moderate than he. Just how much does he disagree with the administration's direction?
posted by gsteff at 10:38 AM on September 1, 2002

Given he had to be strong-armed into serving in the first place, implying a good deal of quid-pro-quo that one would assume would have given him more autonomy, the events that have transpired have clearly left him fighting for every scrap of territory. That's not a recipe for someone staying.

That said, the average term for the SoS is about 3.5 years. It's an enormously stressful job that more than almost any other in Washington means for continuous foreign travel and separation from family. It's a job that frequently changes even when a President receives a second term. This isn't really new.

It's interesting to wonder who'll replace him; hardly anyone on an imagined short list could stand up to Rumsfeld & Co. if it comes to that. The new SoS will likely be nowhere near as solicitous of the permanent diplomatic corps, and certain voices may choose that time for an exit as well, knowing they'll have an uphill battle just getting through to the secretary. Still, one can also envision an amicable situation, once changed, resulting in serious infighting -- as happened in the Reagan cabinet.

Would Powell's exit mean a victory for the warmongers, as NGnerd seems to imply? For one thing, he has indicated it would take place in 2005, so I'm not sure anybody can say we'll be contemplating major action beyond that date. If we do go after Iraq militarily, it's going to have a chilling effect on anybody else playing into that kind of position. Afghanistan alone has had significant effect in our relations with Russia and even quasi-failed states like Sudan, where (unnoticed to the overly focused liberal scandalmongery) quiet diplomacy by the Bush administration (envoy John Danforth) has (very nearly) sealed a deal outlined back in the Clinton era but never implemented. I wouldn't stereotype their actions now, nor predict major changes, without knowing the personalities involved. So it's far too soon to tell.

Anybody hazard a guess who might be asked?
posted by dhartung at 10:43 AM on September 1, 2002

Well, the Bush administration is heading for a full-fledged foreign affairs disaster. Oh wait, it's already in full development: the neo-con supertanker is heading for the iceberg! Powell has only been able to delay the inevitable. Get outta there Colin, stayin' can only hurt. And Condoleezza would love the job.
posted by ugly_n_sticky at 10:50 AM on September 1, 2002

If Colin's out - it's all-out "get yer war on" at people who even look at the US funny. Conservatives will be less one "example of diversity" as well.
posted by owillis at 10:55 AM on September 1, 2002

From an external perspective (UK), the SoS role doesn't appear particularly politically aligned, or at least not in the same manner as domestic politics. It has always seemed to me that Powell would fit well into a Democrat administration and might be inclined to take on such a role if given given a free rein in his area of responsibility.
posted by daveg at 11:02 AM on September 1, 2002

any bets on when Condoleezza goes? (continually having to educate Bush on everything should be wearing on her about now)

Powell seems like a good guy, but has he been able to accomplish anything or turn the administration to his (more moderate) point of view? He walked into a situation where the decks were stacked against him from the start...
posted by amberglow at 11:07 AM on September 1, 2002

Powell actually served as Chairman of the JCoS for a few months of Clinton's first term, said he couldn't stand it.
posted by gsteff at 11:13 AM on September 1, 2002

A recent poll said that Powell was by far (not counting Bush) the most popular member of the administration.
posted by cell divide at 11:37 AM on September 1, 2002

Perhaps we can examine Powell's handwriting or throw the I Ching for clues. Or read this analysis from Foreign Policy in Focus about Powell's Predicament: its most recent snub, the Bush administration overruled Powell's stance on funding for the United Nations Population Fund. While the Pentagon is awash in new funds to combat terrorism, the State Department is suffering from a lack of trained personnel in key posts abroad (especially in Asia) and has had to beg for increases to its foreign aid budget. Both civilian and uniformed Pentagon officials have had a higher profile in Southeast Asia than any State Department personnel.

[A single link to a two-paragraph news story sourced only to anonymous folks "close to Powell?" You couldn't be bothered to find anything to add to that before posting, Postroad?]
posted by mediareport at 12:13 PM on September 1, 2002

daveg: the same applies to the Foreign Secretary's role over here, which is why you could have a firebrand of the labour movement such as Ernest Bevin in the role during Attlee's period in office, and why Thatcher could afford to offload affable Tory wets there, such as Howe and Hurd. (John Major's very, very brief tenure of the Foreign Office was not a success.)

I'd bet on Condi as Powell's replacement. I hate to throw around stereotypes, but I can't help thinking 'Lady Macbeth' whenever she gives a speech or an interview.

(Oh, I think that's a bit unfair on Postroad, mediareport: the only bit of research I'd have done would be to see if Powell's made a habit of using Time for his 'sources close to' leaks, in the way that most politicians have their pet publications for these things. The coded language of Sunday-paper gossip is well enough established.)
posted by riviera at 12:17 PM on September 1, 2002

I'll hazard a (wild) guess, dhartung. Try Bob Dole. I wonder if he'd be able to hold his tongue long enough to be sworn in, but he does have a certain elder-statesman gravitas utterly lacking in W. He is currently singing Bush's tune wrt Iraq. Plus, it could help Liddy Dole's chances in her Senate run. Who knows?
posted by trondant at 12:43 PM on September 1, 2002

An early, semi-informed speculation on Powell:

Powell is departing the administration early enough that he can distance himself from Bush when the 2004 election arrives, in the manner that Al Gore tried to do with Bill Clinton. Powell will run for President either on an independent ticket (not likely) or actually steal the Republican nomination from Bush (I believe Bush has to win the GOP nomination even on re-election).

And on the flip side? Gray Davis of California, assuming he wins the gubernatorial re-election, has a chance at taking the DNC ticket in 2004.

So, there you have it, speculative as it is. Powell vs. Davis, 2004. Ding ding!
posted by tim451 at 12:46 PM on September 1, 2002

Haha, I can hardly imagine a more unlikely scenario tim451.
posted by mogwai at 12:59 PM on September 1, 2002

More on the family planning thing and Powell's isolation in this July 31 Brookings Institution op-ed:

The most recent rebuff was Mr Bush's decision to withhold US support for UN family planning funding because of allegations that the money was being used for coerced abortions, despite the findings of a State Department report commissioned by Mr Powell that said this was not the case. [emphasis added]

No wonder he's leaving.

[I was thinking about recent discussions in MeTa about single-link news story posts, riviera; a simple Google search for additional material would have been nice here.]
posted by mediareport at 1:05 PM on September 1, 2002

Powell, the aide says, will “never run for President.”

One can only imagine his success in the Republican primaries, especially in the South
posted by matteo at 1:18 PM on September 1, 2002

No no matteo, he runs as a *democrat*, wins the nomination, draws all democrat voters and a ton of crossover republicans. He won't do that, of course, but I think he'd have a real shot at winning.

I'll save any of my speculation on 2004, too far away.
posted by malphigian at 1:41 PM on September 1, 2002

I read that Paul Wolfowitz was a possible replacement candidate which is a scary thought indeed.
posted by muta at 2:02 PM on September 1, 2002

Maybe Bush would just promote John Bolton.

posted by homunculus at 3:06 PM on September 1, 2002

Oops, posted too soon. I doubt it would really be Bolton, that would be too scary. I think Wolfowitz is the most likely candidate.
posted by homunculus at 3:11 PM on September 1, 2002

Beat me to it, homunculus. John Bolton is even scarier than Michael Bolton. And has equally dodgy hair.
posted by riviera at 3:22 PM on September 1, 2002

Great Jerusalem Post article about Powell's public contradiction in a BBC interview today of Cheney's "who cares about weapons inspectors" spew last week. Lots of other details, too.
posted by mediareport at 3:28 PM on September 1, 2002

Mediareport: I had put in a call to Mrs. Powell but she had no comment and said I should ch3eck to see if any of Powell's people denounce the story. Powell called me to let me know that he feels all the Bushites seem opposed to him. I suggested that if things go wrong for Bush, he team up with Nader and run against Bush for GOP nomination for next convention. He is mulling it over and said to see what Newsweek, Insight, or US News and World Report might say.
posted by Postroad at 3:32 PM on September 1, 2002

Managed to miss this morning's interview with Powell, mediareport, but the partial transcript is revealing enough. And the Indy appears confident enough to run this slanted, but pointed, front-pager.
posted by riviera at 3:58 PM on September 1, 2002

Powell seems to me too loyal a soldier to run as an Independent, although it'd be interesting to be proven wrong about that.

Btw, now might be a good time to take another look at Powell's history and the press' infatuation with him by reading the five-part series Behind Colin Powell's Legend (links to all of them here).

[Postroad, I don't know if you read MeTa, but this has been discussed there a lot recently. No one wants to ban single-link news posts, but the consensus seems to be that a couple of analysis or context links to deepen the discussion would be a good thing.]
posted by mediareport at 4:10 PM on September 1, 2002

My theory...

Powell knows Bush is toast in 2004, no matter who runs against him.That is, if a Democratic Capitol Hill hasn't already impeached Bush before then.

Powell won't run for President because he's more interested in the private sector. I doubt his wife has changed her mind about it either and she was the most vocal one about him not running in the first place.

Unless, she's got to hang out with Laura Bush enough to get a taste of that First Lady stuff.Then, all bets are off.

Colin Powell is off-the-chart overrated anyway.
posted by BarneyFifesBullet at 4:40 PM on September 1, 2002

posted by BarneyFifesBullet

Sure you don't mean BarneyFranksBullet?

You greatly overestimate the public, and underestimate Bush's ratings.
posted by goethean at 5:23 PM on September 1, 2002

Powell would NEVER run as a democrat. No one will be able to steal the GOP nomination from Shrub in 2004. Powell is smart enough to know that in the present political climate, independents can not win the presidential ticket. I can't recall the last time the president was something other than democrat or republican. Certainly not within my lifetime.

Powell didn't run for president last time predominantly because of his family, and their fears for his safety were he to run. We may have come a long way but we still have a long way to go. If Powell ran for president on any ticket, there's still a painfully large number of closed-minded, racist fools who would conspire to assassinate him simply due to the color of his skin.

If any black man alive today could become president of the U.S., it's Powell. However, the inauguration ceremony would either be the biggest security risk in history, or the worst bloodbath in history. Either way, Powell's wise to avoid it. Make no mistake. I WANT Powell as president. Not because he's Republican. Not because he's black. Because he's a republican with a moderate -- almost liberal bent. He's Daniel in the Lion's Den. David facing Goliath. Colin Powell follows his heart. I disagree with him a lot, but I LIKE how he operates. I like his spunk. And the only person I want as president of the U.S. is a man who doesn't want the job. A man who would see it as a duty to his fellow Americans, and not as an opportunity to screw people over.

Powell was convinced at one time that Bush was his man. Bush would make a difference and help this country. Powell has seen on the inside that he was wrong. He wants out. He just can't bail out as if this were a bad party. Too many eyes are watching, so he has to bow out slowly and gracefully.

He'll return to his volunteering efforts. He'll learn that he does more as Colin Powell the man than he can as Colin Powell the statesman.

Powell's not a man of the people. He's a man for the people. I wish him the best in whatever he ends up doing. I for one would fight along side him if given the opportunity, and as a pacifist, that's quite a big admition for me to make.
posted by ZachsMind at 6:12 PM on September 1, 2002

Sure you don't mean BarneyFranksBullet?

Well, goethean, I'm independent, not a Democrat. Thanks for playing.

You greatly overestimate the public, and underestimate Bush's ratings.

Uh, and just what are you doing?
posted by BarneyFifesBullet at 6:25 PM on September 1, 2002

Bush will never survive having to back down from attacking Iraq, as is happening as we speak.

Cheney and Bush have painted themselves into a corner, and the opposition to their insistence that Iraq must be attacked is at this point, in a word, intense. They can't possibly reverse course without looking like war-crazed imbeciles, before the world, if not America.

At this point they have to attack and hope it works out successfully, otherwise once again, they are toast for getting the US military mired in another viet-mess.

The sad thing is, they're already too late. Even if they are able to getIraq out from under Saddam's thumb, he has all the pieces in place to get his revenge, whether he's still alive or not.

Its one hell of a chess game going on. Good thing the Supremes so wisely chose the(ir) right guy for the job.
posted by Fupped Duck at 6:58 PM on September 1, 2002

He will not be rushed to judgment by those with no war experience other than beating the war or peace drums on TV.

Bob Dole

Wishful thinking, irony or unsubtle hint?
posted by y2karl at 7:41 PM on September 1, 2002

zach: The last time a president was elected from a party other than Democrat or Republican was Millard Fillmore, who was a Whig (which is almost, but not quite, a predecessor to the Republicans). The largest percentage of the popular vote won by an independent is Teddy Roosevelt, whose roughly 30% of the vote placed him second as a candidate for the Progressive (Bull Moose) Party.

I really don't think Powell wants to run for the job. He didn't even want the VP spot, and he had to be strongarmed, as I noted, into taking this post. It's a combination of factors, but chief among them are that while he's most comfortable as a Republican, few conservative Republicans are comfortable with him. He would be pro-choice, for example. Also, he certainly doesn't want to deal with the ramifications of a campaign that would necessarily, no matter how much everyone on either side contorts themselves, have elements of race. It's just not in him.

As for successors, remembering that we're talking about a 2005 exit, Wolfowitz is out. He's had a history of being, you know, a little too frank. Rice is a good bet, but she and Dubya have developed a symbiotic relationship, and he may not want to lose that. (By the way, Clinton didn't know much about foreign policy when he started, either. That's not a really impressive criticism.) If it isn't her, then I'd look at a retired senator, or perhaps someone like Armitage. It may well depend on who holds the Senate, as the nominee will have to pass muster with the foreign affairs committee, i.e. under the Democrats, Biden. (Heck, I wouldn't put it past these guys to offer it to Biden himself, in a pinch. Get him out of running two committees that give them a lot of grief!) Danforth is another possibility, though he's getting on; he was on the short list for Powell's job, and he's been pulling diplomatic duty for the administration.
posted by dhartung at 8:29 PM on September 1, 2002

The real question here is why is Powell leaking this now?
posted by CunningLinguist at 8:45 PM on September 1, 2002

Is there a way to convince Powell to leave before the election?

The real question here is why is Powell leaking this now?

The press has been predicting Powell's departure on a monthly basis since he took the job.
posted by revbrian at 8:46 PM on September 1, 2002

> And the only person I want as president of the U.S. is a man who doesn't want the job. A man who would see it as a duty to his fellow Americans, and not as an opportunity to screw people over.

It's a mad dream that that could still happen in America today, but a sweet one. I'm not certain why everyone loves this guy so much, to be honest (I'm off to read mediareport's link), but if he's half the man people claim he is, maybe he could restore the nation to some semblance of greatness and leadership...

Dream on, I guess.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 9:05 PM on September 1, 2002

Having read that link from mediareport (I should have done it before commenting earlier), it would seem, if it is at all accurate, that ol' Col's just another slave to expediency, another piece of political shit, but with better PR. *sigh*.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 9:31 PM on September 1, 2002

The Guardian today has Powell directly contradicting Cheney's pro-war rhetoric last week and taking a stand against the chickenhawks?. It also has this:

"Opinion polls yesterday showed the US public to be overwhelmingly on the side of the moderates. In a Newsweek survey, 81% said it was important to gain the formal support of the UN for military action and 86% said it was important to get support from most of Washington's European allies."

Which seems to go against everything that we outside the US have been hearing, is in line with Powell's comments yesterday and is a more pro-UN/multilateral approach than even that of the British public.

The Guardian also has Powell way ahead of Bush in the opinion polls which could explain why he's able to flex his muscles at last:

"He (Powell) was supported by 78% of those asked, compared with an approval rating of 69% for Mr Bush, 51% for Mr Rumsfeld and 49% for Mr Cheney."
posted by niceness at 2:53 AM on September 2, 2002

dhartung, Lincoln had to run for 1864 reelection as a candidate on the National Union Party rather than as a Republican candidate due to division over the progress of the war. Look at the bottom of this page for the hairy details.
posted by alumshubby at 5:27 AM on September 2, 2002

I don't necessarily believe Powell is leaking this now. It could just as easily be a leak by the other guys trying to undermine him. Nevertheless, I think seeing this as "peacemaker Powell" vs. "risorgimento Rumsfeld" is disingenuous. If Powell comes out in favor of inspections, you can absolutely bet that statement was cleared through the White House. It's becoming clear that the administration sees the value of pressing the inspections point much harder in order to solidify international support, even if the Rummy/Wolfy crew believe that carpers will shut up and sign on as soon as we truly act -- which is probably true. This is a period when carping by allies can be most effective, even if it's intended more as a bargaining chip for other considerations -- which some of it undoubtedly is.

alums: good point (and memory jog), though it depended on a peculiarity of the way I phrased my comment. Clearly, this wasn't a new party, but a tactical cosmetic name change. That very article returns to phrases such as "Republican campaign". Notably, the Congressional Quarterly's Guide to US Elections calls Lincoln a Republican candidate except in the detailed discussion of the convention.
posted by dhartung at 8:34 AM on September 2, 2002

OK, you guys are lucky. I had written a thirty-page thesis (slight exaggeration), in which I outlined with brilliant prose and impeccable logic how the so-called “rift” in the Bush administration is a fabrication of media speculation about action in Iraq, and only loosely based in what the administration is actually saying. Unfortunately, my server crashed as I attempted to post it, and, I’m sad to say, my brilliance will not be preserved for posterity (or at least until MeFi cleans out their archives). I don’t feel up to reproducing it, so I’ll give you the abbreviated version.

Bush has, from the beginning, proposed a strategy of restraint backed by firm resolve. Yes, he stated unequivocally that “Saddam must go”, and the administration has consistently (and in my opinion, effectively) built a case concerning the threat Saddam poses to the world. However, Bush has carefully defined “pre-emptive” action within a broad framework including diplomatic, economic and military options, and has consistently reiterated the need for the US to consult our allies and gather international support, if possible, prior to any action. Personally, I think we will move militarily against Iraq (OK, I don’t have to be a genius to form that opinion), and I think it’s necessary for the president to do some more talking before we do (both to the US public and the international community). However, I’ll withhold judgment on his performance until after it occurs.

Take a look at what Cheney said in his speeches to the Veterans of the Korean War and the VFW, and compare it to Powell’s comments to the BBC. Their difference of opinion is evident, although subdued. Cheney supports a more aggressive approach and is much more skeptical about the effectiveness of UN inspectors to contain the threat Saddam poses, but both present opinions within the framework of what Bush has stated as his policy in the campaign on terrorism. Hardly a “rift” within the administration. Rather, I see it as healthy debate. Personally, I feel much more comfortable knowing Bush has put together a team with a healthy range of opinions.

It seems to me that too many people are relying on headlines to form their opinion on Iraq and the performance of the Bush administration, and I’m tired of the overused attacks on Bush as “dumb” and “selected, not elected”. I could be wrong, but every time I've read something about what Bush said concerning Iraq or the "Bush Doctrine" and thought "That's outrageous!", I've checked the source and found the quote was either taken out of context, a clarification was omitted, or it was simply a writer's (willful?) misinterpretation. Every. Single. Time. Forgive me for being cynical about the opinions those better informed than I who tell me what I should think about a topic.

As far as the BBC, Guardian, Independent, or even the NY Times are concerned, I’m skeptical of anything I read in those publications and always try to check the source. Bush’s doctor could announce the president is suffering from constipation, and the Independent would headline “Top Experts Say Bush Full Of It”, or Bush could have an allergy attack at a press conference and the NY Times would trumpet “Bush Sneezes At UN Concerns”.

Hopefully, my abbreviated rant didn’t put anyone to sleep. As I said at the beginning, it could have been worse.
posted by chazw at 8:44 AM on September 2, 2002

Plus, my first version didn't have those stupid boxes.

posted by chazw at 8:52 AM on September 2, 2002

My Lai always comes to mind when I read such blind hero worship of Colin Powell as has been posted here: colin powell: don't ask about my lai, don't tell about iran-contra, from disinformation, just for the record.
posted by y2karl at 8:58 AM on September 2, 2002

y2karl: blah blah blah "..when I read such blind hero worship.." blah blah blah

I never said the guy was perfect. I disagree with him a lot. No one is perfect and we all have our skeletons. Heck, if you're wanting perfection for the presidency, try voting in The Pope, m'kay?

Personally, I just want a human being in there for once.
posted by ZachsMind at 9:09 AM on September 2, 2002

Heck, if you're wanting perfection for the presidency, try voting in The Pope, m'kay?

*spits coffee out of nose over monitor*
posted by mediareport at 9:16 AM on September 2, 2002

It says a lot about the current situation when we look to the military as the voice of reason but whichever way you assess it, Powell is currently pragmatism personified versus Cheney and Rumsfeld's crusades.
posted by niceness at 9:24 AM on September 2, 2002

dhartung: Powell's statements were cleared by the White House? How about Cheney's, which directly contradicted Powell's (i.e., inspections aren't important, would in fact be dangerous, etc.)? Is there a problem with the White House Executive Branch Statements Coordination and Clearance Team? Is Cheney just allowed to say whatever the hell he wants, because he's Dick, and gosh knows, no one at headquarters wants him keeling over if he gets too upset? Even if it's true that the statements were vetted by some White House crew, why is the Dubya brain trust changing its collective mind from day to day? Or is it Dubya who's changing his mind all the time? Inspires confidence, doesn't it?
posted by raysmj at 9:54 AM on September 2, 2002

No one is perfect and we all have our skeletons.

My Lai, Iran-Contra and Panama, to name but a few, are not your average closet skeletons, not to mention what a close review of his record reveals. Personally, I would want someone in there who isn't a projection screen for feel good fantasies for once.
posted by y2karl at 10:28 AM on September 2, 2002

And zachsmind: blah blah blah Powell's not a man of the people. He's a man for the people. I wish him the best in whatever he ends up doing. I for one would fight along side him if given the opportunity, and as a pacifist, that's quite a big admission for me to make...blah blah blah...
I take it then, that before honking off herein, you did not click on mediareport's Behind Colin Powell's Legend link either?
I scanned right past it myself...
posted by y2karl at 10:52 AM on September 2, 2002

McCain & Powell in 2004 on a Democratic ticket? Of course they will have to face Bush & Giuliani (Cheney is toast).
posted by wfrgms at 11:39 AM on September 2, 2002

So, um, where you gettin' your smoke, wfrgms?
posted by y2karl at 2:10 PM on September 2, 2002

y2karl: just a little late clarification. I'm reading Lawrence Walsh's account of the Iran-Contra conspiracy and cover-up (his words), Firewall, and Walsh seems to consider Powell's role rather less important than one might think from reading the Disinformation link you provided.
That said, I do generally agree with Disinformation in finding Powell to be first and foremost a man concerned with not screwing up his berth.
posted by Nicolae Carpathia at 1:56 AM on September 3, 2002

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