Wednesday, November 17, 2004

The One about Rice and Powell - November 17th

So Colin Powell is out and Condaleeza Rice is in.

It‘s ironic. For a bunch of intolerant redneck, race baiting members of the sexist status quo, the White House Brain Trust sure seems to depend on a lot of women and minorities. There’s Karen Hughes and Colin Powell, Margaret Spellings, Alphonso Jackson, Rod Paige, Norman Mineta, Elaine Chao, Gale Norton, Condeleeza Rice, Ann Venteman, Al Gonzales . ..

Then again, they’re not really women or people of color.

I mean, it’s not like they vote Democratic or anything.

Let’s pause to let the hypocrisy settle in . . .and now, on to business.

Unlike the majority of people who report the news on TV and in print, I’m not shedding any tears over Colin Powell’s resignation.

Before you knock on my door with pitchforks and torches, let me explain. It’s nothing personal. I admire his ’by the boot straps’ rise to power, his long and dedicated service to his country and his President, and his personality. To quote my Grandma’s highest praise, I think he’s a ’good Joe’.

I just don’t see that his performance is as great as his reputation would have you believe.

Yes, he got dealt a bum hand. He served an Administration out of favor with the mainstream media. 9/11, Afganistan, and Iraq all occurred on his watch. Circumstances put him at odds with the opinions of Old Europe, traditionally the centerpiece of Western diplomacy. He is rumored to have butted heads with the Defense Department time and again (although this is normal and healthy. By definition the State Department seeks a diplomatic resolution to conflict; likewise, the Defense Department leans toward a military solution). And frankly, our enemies in this century are not the kind of people that choose to sit down at a table and discuss a peaceful solution, making it all that much harder for a Secretary of State to change the course of events.

Unfortunate roadblocks, yes. But as an excuse to explain away the failure of our diplomatic efforts, they fall short.

The UN couldn’t be motivated to enforce it’s own declarations. Our traditional allies, influenced by their own ‘oil for food’ scandals, ignored our pleas for help. Spain succumbed to terrorist blackmail and withdrew from our alliance. Iran continues with their ‘peaceful’ development of nuclear technology. North Korea continues to snub their noses at us, despite the presence of a superpower - and nominal ‘ally’of ours - on their border.

Not exactly a resume builder.

Now I acknowledge that I could be wrong. It’s impossible to properly evaluate contemporary events. Until a few decades go by and the usual documents and memoirs come to light no one on the outside will know exactly who did what. The calmest waters often belay the most activity beneath the surface.

But I’m drawn, of all things, to a quote by Lyndon Johnson. Skewered by the press and sabotaged by leaks, he had some advice for future residents of the White House. To paraphrase, he told Henry Kissinger to read the newspapers daily and ignore everything negative they had to say. Ignore the negative, but keep an eye out for any official the papers call bright, trusted, under-rated, or any other positive adjective.

Find that person, Johnson said, and fire him. He is your leak.

I thought of that when I saw the blizzard of adjectives in recent headlines. Powell was a moderate, a voice of reason, and a gentleman, while his successor, to quote one headline of this morning, is simply a “hawk”.

Makes you wonder how straightforward Powell really is.

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