Colin Powell, retired four-star general and secretary of state in President George W. Bush’s administration, has for the second time endorsed President Barack Obama, sending shockwaves through the political landscape.
Powell officially announced his endorsement of Obama and Vice President Joe Biden on Thursday during a segment on "CBS This Morning."
After alluding to his support for Obama’s reelection, host Charlie Rose asked Powell directly if this was Powell’s way of saying he endorses the president.
“Yes, And let me say why. When he took over, the country was in very, very difficult straits; we were in one of the worst recessions we had seen in recent times, close to a depression. The fiscal system was collapsing. Wall Street was in chaos. We had 800,000 jobs lost in that first month of the Obama administration and unemployment would peak a few months later at 10 percent. So we were in real trouble,” said Powell, who also served as commander of the U.S. Armed Forces Command and chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. “The auto industry was collapsing. The housing industry was starting to collapse, and we were in very difficult straits. And I saw over the next several years stabilization come back in the financial community, housing is now starting to pick up after four years, it's starting to pick up. Consumer confidence is rising. So I think generally we've come out of the dive and we’re starting to gain altitude. It doesn't mean we are problem-solved; there are lots of problems still out there.
“The unemployment rate is too high. People are still hurting in housing. But I see that we are starting to rise up. I also saw the president get us out of one war, start to get us out of a second war and did not get us into any new wars,” Powell continued. “And finally, I think that the actions he's taken with respect to protecting us from terrorism have been very, very solid. And so I think we ought to keep on the track that we are on.”
Powell also questioned the economic proposals put forth by Republican challenger and former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney, saying Romney’s plan essentially boils down to ‘Let's cut taxes and compensate for that with other things.’ But that compensation does not cover all of the cuts intended or the new expenses associated with defense.”
Powell reiterated his endorsement of Obama to CNN’s Fareed Zakaria.
While Democrats celebrated Powell’s endorsement – White House communications director Dan Pfeiffer said the president did not have previous knowledge of tit - GOP stalwarts weren’t so convinced of its impact.
“The endorsement came as no surprise, as Powell obviously endorsed then-Senator Barack Obama in 2007,” said Tribune correspondent and longtime Republican insider Robert Traynham. “Powell is a moderate Republican who has openly talked about the virtues of the Republican and Democratic parties. So this is not a surprise in any way, shape or form.
“Historically, endorsements really don’t matter that much, and usually do not sway voters one way or the other. It’s more symbolic than anything else,” Traynham continued. “This race is highly partisan, so I just don’t see it having an effect.”
Phone calls to former Pennsylvania Republican State Committee Chairwoman Renee Amoore, the Republican Party of Pennsylvania headquarters in Harrisburg and to Mitt Romney’s state campaign headquarters were unreturned as of Tribune press time.
According to conservative outlet Politico, Republican former White House challenger Sen. John McCain, blasted Powell’s endorsement. Powell endorsed Obama over McCain in 2008.
“All I can say is: General Powell, you disappoint us,” McCain said Thursday on Fox News radio, Politico reported. “And you have harmed your legacy even further by defending what is clearly been the most feckless foreign policy in my lifetime… I think one of the sad aspects of his career is going to the United Nations Security Council and telling them things about Iraq that were absolutely false.” Powell has since apologized for that ill-advised speech at the UN.
McCain wasn’t the only conservative disappointed by Powell’s endorsement.
“Saddened and disappointed,” former ambassador, consultant and Republican strategist Tom Korologos told Politico. “But not surprised.” Republican lobbyist and strategist Peter Madigan sounded a more neutral tone, saying that Powell was hung out by the Republican Party before.
“General Powell is a good man and has given great service to our country. He has decided that he will not be left on the sidelines in this campaign, and that he can help put Obama over the top. So we have ‘Meet the Press’ do a segment on the Colin Powell endorsement - by the way, this would not have been a segment had he come out for McCain,” Madigan wrote at Politico. “The last time General Powell stood up for something he was not totally sure about was going to Iraq. He got burned, set up, trusted the intelligence, but did what he thought was right.
“Colin Powell's standing as a general officer and great public servant will not be diminished or enhanced by this endorsement,” Madigan continued. “It's just kind of too bad he felt so compelled to get back in the game and make news that he got set up again – this time by the news media and the Obama campaign.”
Still, the endorsement of Powell – the first and only African American to serve as chairman of the Joint Chief of Staff and one of only several dozen servicemen to attain the rank of four-star general – can be seen as a boost to Obama’s military and foreign policy agendas.
Politico and The Associated Press contributed to this story.