Sunday, October 19, 2008

Colin Powell Endorses Obama

Powell is possibly the last important name left to endorse a candidate. Why? Because he is a center-right Republican who's independence and thinking still hold a lot of respect from Democrats, Independents, and Republicans alike. There's not another similar figure in American politics: a General who is also an experience political hand, and who is crossing party lines to endorse a candidate.

Powell's endorsement of Obama today on Meet the Press is significant not only for who Powell is, but also for what he said. He gave a passionate and well-reasoned argument for Obama that should help persuade a number of undecided independent voters who align their thinking with his own.

1. Powell offers a compelling reason why Obama has the temperament, thoughtfulness and leadership ability to be commander in chief. After suffering the insufferable Bush for four years, no doubt Powell finds Obama's thoughtfulness and calmness refreshing.

2. Powell voices respect for McCain but explains what most people have been feeling about the Republican party and McCain's campaign: that they have run a nasty, exclusionary campaign that is not what the country needs in a time of crisis. He contrasts that to Obama's style of inclusion (Obama is already talking about putting Republicans like Chuck Hegel and Dick Luger into his administration.) No doubt, Powell has had enough of these identity-politics shenanigans as we have, and appreciates the idea of an inclusionary President.

3. Powell forcefully calls the Ayers line of attack "demagoguery" and takes on the Republican party's racial fear mongering. He gives a compelling description of how Arab Americans have served this country and died in Iraq, and puts the party's campaign to shame.

4. McCain not only praised Obama but offered a sobering critique of McCain's temperment, especially how he has lurched for a solution during this economic crisis. He also criticized his choice of Palin and called Palin "not ready." For someone who is a lifelong friend (and well admired by) McCain, this was scathing.

5. There's a moment in the endorsement where Powell says not simply that Obama is the preferred candidate, but that he has the potential to be "Great." Great both in terms of his rhetorical and intellectual abilities, but also in terms of inspiring Americans and the world. I think that's what a lot of us have seen in this candidate...and in the end what Powell is saying is that in these times, Americans should reach for greatness. I think it's a message that will reasonate.

Watch the endorsement for yourself:

I think that Obama is reaching a maximum level of support so there isn't much room left to move in the polls. But the Powell endorsement will be an important story line to help Obama play out the clock till election day.

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