Colin Powell hides from media questions after surprise Obama endorsement
Former Secretary of State Colin Powell, a retired general and long-serving Republican, has gone into hiding after he detonated his surprise endorsement of President Barack Obama, whose national security policies have contradicted Powell’s most prominent contributions to public policy.
“Powell has been on the road traveling all week,” his secretary wrote in response to an interview request by The Daily Caller.
“In any event, he said what he had to say and does not plan to do any further interviews regarding the election,” she added.
Powell’s late hit was a surprise that gave Team Obama footage for a new ad that ran in 10 swing states starting Nov. 1.
The ad, titled “Solid,” shows a portion of Powell’s Oct. 25 appearance on CBS when he endorsed Obama and cited shared views on social policies.
“I voted for him in 2008, and I plan to stick with him in 2012, and I’ll be voting for he and for Vice President Joe Biden next month,” Powell says in the CBS clip in the ad.
“I didn’t give anybody an early notice” of the endorsement, Powell told CBS. However, he added, “I speak to the president on a regular basis.”
The endorsement was razzed by John Sununu, a leading surrogate for Gov. Mitt Romney.
“When you take a look at Colin Powell, you have to wonder whether that’s an endorsement based on issues or whether he’s got a slightly different reason for preferring President Obama … [which is], I think, when you have somebody of your own race that you’re proud of being president of the United States,” he said.
Powell’s endorsement came as a surprise to many pundits because President Obama’s policies have differed substantially from those Powell once advocated.
The so-called “Powell doctrine,” for example, urged the massive use of force to produce rapid and decisive results.
Obama has not followed that policy during his intervention in the Libyan wars, even after the U.S. Embassy in Benghazi was assaulted and destroyed Sept. 11.
In fact, Obama did not even deploy more than a handful of ground forces, ensuring the new Libyan government was exposed to threats by Islamist groups like the one that assaulted the embassy.
The president has apparently shifted from Powell’s policy views in other areas, as well.
Powell is famous for decrying steep defense budget cuts after the Vietnam War, for example, while Obama is pushing for steep defense cuts in the military after withdrawals from Afghanistan and Iraq.
As Secretary of State under President George W. Bush, Powell also promoted the so-called “Pottery Barn” rule, or the “you break it, you bought it” rule in foreign policy.
Powell cited that rule in 2003 when trying to persuade Bush against removing Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein. “You are going to be the proud owner of 25 million people. You will own all their hopes, aspirations, and problems. You’ll own it all,” he told Bush.
When in government, Powell himself followed that rule by helping Bush build a international census for replacing Hussein’s role with an elected government.
However, Obama has not followed that rule.
Instead, he has scaled back U.S. support after helping remove the governments of Egypt and Libya, and has also directed the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq and Afghanistan.
All four countries now face extended periods of instability, with minimal U.S. support.
Powell also served as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff from 1989 to 1993 under President Bill Clinton.
That’s when he helped arrange the compromise “don’t ask, don’t tell” laws governing the treatment of gays and lesbians in the military. The measure was needed, he said, to help the military manage its personnel in peace and war.
The law allowed gays and lesbians in the military, but effectively barred endorsement of homosexual behavior.
However, Obama pushed Congress to end that law in December 2010, allowing Obama’s deputies to issue regulations effectively leveling the military’s treatment of homosexuality and heterosexuality.
Military law still imposes tough penalties for sexual offenses, such as adultery and harassment.
However, Obama’s change has been echoed by Powell, who said in May 2012 that he support changes to marriage rules that would allow single-sex marriages.
In the CBS interview, Powell showed his liberal viewpoints.
“I’m more comfortable with President Obama and his administration when it comes to issues like what are we going to do about climate? What are we going to do about immigration? What are we going to do about education?” he told CBS. “Lots of things like that. I don’t want to see the new Obamacare plan thrown off the table.”
Follow Neil on Twitter