“If I’ve lost Walter Cronkite, I’ve lost Middle America,” said President Lyndon B. Johnson at the time of the Communist Tet Offensive in Vietnam in 1968. Walter Cronkite was then the CBS News anchor man, often described as “the most trusted man in America.” Just a few weeks after he said that, LBJ withdrew from his party’s nomination contest.
No one thinks President Obama is in that much trouble—yet. But he has just been criticized by his highest profile endorser from the 2008 campaign. When retired four-star Gen. Colin Powell backed Barack Obama for President two years ago, it was a huge leg up for the liberal Democrats’ prospects. Gen. Powell, a former Secretary of State and a former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, gave Obama instant credibility on defense and foreign policy issues.
Now, Gen. Powell is criticizing the Obama administration. This is a very high level defection, if defection it is. If Gen. Powell is not the most trusted man in America today, it would be hard to name someone of higher standing. In fact, if Colin Powell had been pro-life, he probably would not have had to run for President. He would have been carried into the White House on his supporters’ shoulders. In that event, Barack Obama would probably still be sitting in the Illinois State Senate.
Gen. Powell still considers himself a Republican. He says Obama must provide a “razor blade” focus on the economy, on bringing down the 9.6% unemployment rate. Gen. Powell is especially concerned about minority youth. Unemployment among black and Hispanic young people is above 20% in many urban barrios and inner cities.
“America is going to be a [majority] minority nation in one more generation. Our minorities are not getting educated well enough now. Fifty percent of our minority kids are not finishing high school. We’ve got to invest in education.”
The general may be right about that. That’s why he could help minority youth by getting behind parental choice in education. The Obama administration took a razor to the District of Columbia’s Opportunity Scholarships. A mere $13 million dollars went to parents who chose successful schools for their poor and minority kids. Now, that program has been cruelly cut. If we had Colin Powell pumping for school choice, it would help him and help the children.
Gen. Powell even gives President Obama credit for something every other Republican in the country seems to be against: health care reform. Still, Powell says: “As far as the American people are concerned, the main attack is employment.”
Gen. Powell has not said he would endorse President Obama’s Republican opponent in 2012. It’s still much too early for that. Colin Powell is probably the most prestigious Republican “moderate” we have in the nation. But the real source of his standing comes from his 40 years’ service to the nation on the battlefield and at the highest levels of command.
President Obama needs to be very careful. If he loses the support of Colin Powell, it could be devastating. Obama will not have the same bright, shiny patina he had in 2008.
He no longer could claim to be the J.F.K. of the black community. Instead, he’ll have a record to defend. Even his strong appeal to minorities and women will be diminished unless he changes course. He has given us record levels of unemployment and all-out support for abortion. Every poll shows that women are more pro-life than men. Minorities are more pro-life than whites. If the economy were humming, the President might get away with his anti-life policies. But with people hurting materially and spiritually, he could be in for rough sledding.
Ken Blackwell is a visiting professor with Liberty University School of Law and senior fellow with the Family Research Council. He is the co-author of The Blueprint: Obama’s Plan to Subvert the Constitution and Build an Imperial Presidency.