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Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Not about race

Colin Powell has always been an eminently respectable figure. He deserves more kudos than he gets for having been the only high-ranking member of the Bush administration who argued against the Iraq invasion. He was overruled, and pretty much directly as a result, resigned shortly thereafter. (Even better.)

Two days ago Powell, a lifelong moderate Republican who had given money to the McCain campaign in 2007, publicly endorsed Obama. He gave McCain, whom he referred to as "a lifelong friend," a lukewarm pat on the back, took the usual jabs at Sarah Palin, and then called Obama a "transformational candidate." He added that his decision was "not about race."

Of course not Colin.

In what way is four year senator Obama "transformational" if not by virtue of his race? Because he's the furthest to the left of any Presidential candidate in history?

How much better it would have been if Powell had simply said, "Yes, to be honest, race did enter into my thinking. As someone who has suffered from various sorts of racism in his life, most of it of the subtle variety, I have to admit it would give me a measure of satisfaction to see a black man as President. Frankly, I also think that it would do this country, with its troubled racial history, some good. It would be a sort of salve on the wounds of the past, and would give black people more of a sense that they are not as disenfranchised as they often feel. And I think it would even elevate our country's standing in the eyes of the world, especially the Third World, if we showed that we were open-minded enough to put a black man at the helm."

I understand this viewpoint, even if I don't see it as a reason to vote for Obama. If Powell had been straightforward enough to voice it, he might have scored even higher on the respectability meter. As it was, he lowered his credibility.

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