If reports are true that Colin Powell will endorse Senator Obama this weekend on Meet the Press, it may be a huge moment that gives a further shot of credibility into the arm of the Obama campaign.
I know that many progressives are upset with the role Powell played leading up to the war in Iraq. And, there's no doubt that Powell showed poor judgment in believing the fudged intelligence presented to him, which he then presented to the United Nations. At the same time, however, we do have evidence that Powell tried behind the scenes to change things and even prevent going to war. In this, he can be a powerful advocate for Obama, noting that for all the talk of lack of experience, Barack Obama was right on the Iraq war, and showed better judgment than the entire Bush administration, himself included.
Powell has been open about some of his own culpability, for presenting bad information to the UN, and accepts the fact that it will be a stain on his record, telling a reporter, "Of course it will. It's a blot. I'm the one who presented it on behalf of the United States to the world, and (it) will always be part of my record. It was painful. It's painful now."
I'm not excusing Colin Powell for doing what he did. But, at the same time, him being one of the few who was in the White House during that time puts him in a unique position -- to say he's been there and seen what happens when intelligence is no good and twisted, when we go into a war for the wrong reasons and in the wrong way, and that he's confident that Barack Obama is the guy to not only fix those mistakes, but to not repeat them.
For example, even if he doesn't bring it up on Meet the Press, we know through Bob Woodward's accounting of the lead-up to the war that Powell tried to dissuade the President from going to war, and battled it out with Donald Rumsfeld about the size of the force we planned to send in once the decision was made; arguing for a larger force that would lead to fewer SNAFUs during the invasion, and a better chance at keeping control of the country, post-invasion.
We know that he warned the president, to no avail, of the Pottery Barn rule -- You Break It, You Own It -- and tried to sound the siren that the occupation would not be easy, and that there was no clear exit plan. We know that Powell duked it out over the use of torture with members of the administration, and knew how it would reduce our standing in the world, and only encourage our enemies to torture those troops of ours that they captured.
In short, while we may criticize Powell for not resigning from the administration if he had strong objections to the war, it's clear that he did fight a lot behind the scenes, and he can imply (if not explicitly say) that he would have rather had Barack Obama as President during those months, so we never would have gone to war with Iraq to begin with.
Further, Powell can add a strong voice to some key points that Obama has been making, moving ahead. First and foremost, Powell was one of five former Secretaries of State who said we should open up lines of communication with our enemies, without preconditions, to step up the diplomatic efforts to settle the ongoing strife in the Middle East.
Second, Powell has made clear that talking to Iran and Syria is an urgent component to ending this war in the right and responsible way. Reported The Times of London, "Powell believes that a reduction in US forces will have to be accompanied by talks with Syria and Iran. "You have to talk to the people you dislike most in this dangerous world."
And, of course, all of this doesn't even account for the fact that this is the former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs -- a man who loves America and loves America's military. For all the smears being hurled about "palling around with terrorists" and "white flag of retreat," nothing can counter that like a Republican former 4-star coming out and saying "This guy loves America as much as me."
Crossposted at www.vetvoice.com
Follow Jon Soltz on Twitter: www.twitter.com/jonsoltz