THE BLOG
11/18/2008 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

A Reminder About Colin Powell...

Just a little note on Colin Powell, who many believe will appear on Meet the Press to endorse Barack Obama this weekend. If this happens, the elite media will be ablaze with stories talking about how awesome and Serious and Respected Colin Powell is. While this propaganda will be good in its short-term benefit to Obama*, it will be horrific in the long-term sense of our country's ability to recognize its worst decisions and move forward from them.

Let's just remember: Colin Powell is one of the major reasons we went to war in Iraq. In his 2003 United Nations speech, he perpetrated one of the biggest frauds in the history of international diplomacy - a deliberate and calculated fraud that, in terms of its blood-and-guts ramifications, dwarfs major scandals like Watergate. Sure, there were certainly other Bush officials who helped get us into war. But to deny that Colin Powell was a major factor in sending us into a war based on lies is to quite literally deny that the sky is blue.

The idea that being endorsed by someone like that is a good thing - well, that logic may fly in the television studios of New York and D.C., but it shouldn't fly anywhere else. A person whose most important legacy is destroying America's international credibility shouldn't be seen as a Serious or Respectable person, nor an asset to any campaign, no matter how many apologists - liberal or conservative - claim that "behind the scenes" Powell was really a good guy. He wasn't a good guy - he was one of the handful of people who knowingly lied us into a war. That the elite media imparts even an ounce of credibility to this dishonest yes-man is not a commentary on Powell's alleged positive attributes. It is a reflection of the elite media's deep disdain for the facts and truth it purports to respect.

So, just to sum up, here are two key things to remember about Powell:

1. We're probably going to hear about how "respected" Colin Powell is throughout America, but there's no evidence that Colin Powell has a huge following outside of television green rooms in Washington, D.C., or in the African American community - and there never has been such evidence. Assuming the latter in particular - without real evidence - suggests the black community is one giant monolith that reflexively supports fellow African Americans regardless of their policy preositions. I would suggest we refrain from making such blanket assumptions - it betrays an ugly stereotype of the black community as a mindless monolith.

2. The question for blind partisans should be whether Powell's endorsement helps Obama (and I'm certain there will be hand-wringing commenters berating this discussion as "hurting Obama" - because deeper issues do not matter to partisans who are totally consumed by their candidate and the latest election...by this logic, of course, if George W. Bush endorsed Barack Obama and that was somehow going to be billed in the media as a good thing, Obama partisans would say that's great by them). But the question for people involved in social movements should be whether Colin Powell is a credible voice, whether he should be a credible voice, and how to make sure he is or isn't, based on his positions on issues of importance to social movements. If you see yourself as part of the progressive movement that is against lying America into Mideast bloodbaths, then you would consequently see any effort to validate Colin Powell as an insult and a threat to the movement you purport to be a part of (and you might also be very worried about what a Powell endorsement of Obama says about Obama's stance on issues like war). Building Powell up because he happens to be endorsing the candidacy of someone you like may feel good, but it takes a steaming dump on movement goals because it imparts credibility to someone who directly undermined the movement.** So before you go out tell your friends to vote for Obama because he's endorsed by Powell, understand that by doing that, you are validating Powell (and the ideas he's all about) as a Very Important Voice - and understand further that when you do that, you have no right to complain that neocons like Powell continue to dominate our political discourse as Credible and Respected Voices.

* Again, let me reiterate for the readers who will refuse to read the whole diary, THIS IS NO CRITICISM OF OBAMA AT ALL, I don't think he needs to "reject" the Powell endorsement, and if it gets him some positive press, that's good in the short-term sense (and the partisan in me thinks that's a good thing). But - and really, I know this is difficult for blind partisans to see - this diary is about the deeper issue of why the media/political elite frame a Powell endorsement as positive (or even relevant), and why progressives cheer on that kind of framing. Put another way, this is not about Obama - it's about us. Indeed, if there's any true news value to such an endorsement, it should involve the media and activists asking why Colin Powell, a guy who deliberately lied us into war, is endorsing Barack Obama, who valiantly spoke out against that war.

**By the way, this is the same reason why it is counterproductive for progressives to praise the once-in-a-blue-moon column/statement by a wingnut that isn't crazy. It sickens me to no end that when, for instance, a lunatic like George Will says something mildly rational, the progressive blogosphere lights up with praise for George Will and excitement that a right-winger is seeing things vaguely the way we do. When we do that, we validate these wingnuts as credible voices - and thus forfeit any claim to outrage when these wingnuts are later given media platforms when they inevitably revert back to spewing extremist bile. It makes you wonder - after progressives cheer on Powell endorsing Obama, what will we say when Powell later gets all sorts of TV coverage criticizing President Obama for refusing to invade Iran? After validating him now, can we really later claim to be upset that he's getting attention?