The Thinking 

Calling Out Colin Powell

March 19, 2015


Larry Elder — that rarity in post-America: a native Angeleno who still lives in LA, and a man I would call a black realist — calls out former National Security Adviser, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Secretary of State Colin Powell for telling George Stefanopoulos on ABC’s This Week he still thinks there is a “dark vein of intolerance in some parts of the Republican Party on race,” a claim Powell first made years ago and appears fond of repeating.

With more courage than most purported conservatives, who take insults such as Powell’s from men such as Powell lying down while continuing to praise minority paladins such as Powell to the skies, Elder snags Powell’s slur and slings it right back at him, asking the revered general:

General, care to name names? Who are these “intolerant” Republicans? Why engage in accusation by innuendo? By all means, name them, shame them — make them famous.

That alone is more than most conservatives would dare write, and maybe Larry Elder is not afraid of committing lèse-majesté against a black darling of the bipartisan Establishment because he is black himself.

But Elder goes further, much further.  His column is essentially a long list of racist and anti-Semitic comments and slurs on the part of assorted liberals, Democrats and community organisers that puts Powell’s egregious double-standard in sharp relief.  Unlike Powell, Elder names them.  Unfortunately for America, those Elder names are impervious to shame and already famous.

Elder’s column is welcome unblinkered realism from black America, from that lonely corner where sit Thomas Sowell, Walter Williams, Clarence Thomas (when he speaks; he’s about as garrulous as Calvin Coolidge), Elder, and few others.  It’s also a reminder of what a cretin and ingrate Colin Powell is.

Who made Powell National Security Adviser and greased his path to four stars, pushing him ahead of many better qualified and more senior officers?  Ronald Reagan.

Who made Powell Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, vaulting him over several more qualified and more senior four-stars?  George H.W. Bush.

Who made Powell Secretary of State, selecting him instead of any of a plethora of higher qualified possibilities?  George W. Bush

Which political party’s fixers gushed over the possibility of making Powell its presidential candidate?

And it was a president of which political party who chose the similarly slenderly qualified Condoleezza Rice to succeed Powell at the State Department?

What do Reagan, Bush and Bush all have in common?  We all know the answer, even if Colin Powell pretends to forget it.

Why did all three promote Powell, and Rice in her turn, so aggressively when in each instance better qualified candidates were readily available?  We all know that answer too, even if Colin Powell refuses to acknowledge it.

My first hint that Colin Powell might not be all he was cracked up to be came in 1991, right after the Persian Gulf War.  At the time several fellow fighter pilots and former squadron mates, all senior to me, were serving on the Joint Staff in the Pentagon.  I was in Washington that spring, shortly after the cease-fire of Operation Desert Storm, and called at the Pentagon to visit my comrades.  All heartily disliked being staff pogues, as we called people stuck in non-flying desk jobs.  When I said what a good job I thought Dick Cheney and Colin Powell had done with Desert Shield and Desert Storm (not least in letting General Schwartzkopf run his war without too much interference), they laughed out loud — even though we were within the walls of the five-sided puzzle palace.  They all thought both men, and especially Powell, were grandstanding politicians and that Powell in particular was very high-handed with subordinates.  From what they had seen inside the Joint Staff, they also thought Cheney and Powell (Papa Bush, too), but especially Powell, had inserted themselves far too much into the on-scene commander’s business from 7,000 miles away.  They had little or no respect for either the Secretary of Defense or the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, referring to the pair of them as the “Dick and Colon Show.”

That left me skeptical about Powell’s supposed excellence, but I still preferred to believe he was qualified and capable.  I lost all respect for Colin Powell when he went before the United Nations in February 2003 and told what he surely knew was a string of whoppers about Iraq’s “weapons of mass destruction” to justify the United States’ utterly unnecessary invasion of Iraq, the price for which Americans will be paying, in suffering and money, for decades to come.  To say nothing of the price the locals have paid and continue to pay…  If it were not for Bush, Cheney, Powell, Rumsfeld and their neocon eminences grises‘ “war of choice” in Iraq, would Iraq and Syria now be suffering the predations of the Islamic State — especially the region’s beleaguered Christian populations, who long predate Islam’s very existence and are being hounded to elimination?  In Iraq, at least, before Bush II’s invasion Christians lived relatively unmolested; indeed, Saddam Hussein’s foreign minister, Tariq Aziz, was one.

Powell’s accusation about Republicans is ridiculous on its face.  Part of the Republican Party’s problem today is that the party’s leadership, if that’s the right word, is even quicker to grovel on matters of race than Democrats are, almost always at the expense of the Americans who might actually consider voting for them.  The quickest way to reduce a typical Republican pol to a quivering jelly is to whisper “racist” in his ear.

Powell’s ongoing ingratitude illustrates another aspect of the pointlessness of Republican “outreach” to most minorities.  Not only does the pandering alienate possible supporters, but the pandered-to, even when as lavishly preferred and honored as Powell has been, are almost never grateful.  In Powell’s case, the pandered-to diversity paladin is not only ungrateful, he’s a back-stabber to boot.

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