The Powell Endorsement

Transcript of the endorsement on Meet The Press:

I know both of these individuals very well now. I’ve known John for 25 years, as your setup said. And I’ve gotten to know Mr. Obama quite well over the past two years.

Both of them are distinguished Americans who are patriotic, who are dedicated to the welfare of our country. Either one of them, I think, would be a good president.

I have said to Mr. McCain that I admire all he has done. I have some concerns about the direction that the party has taken in recent years. It has moved more to the right than I would like to see it, but that’s a choice the party makes.

And I’ve said to Mr. Obama, “You have to pass a test of, do you have enough experience, and do you bring the judgment to the table that would give us confidence that you would be a good president?”

And I’ve watched him over the past two years, frankly, and I’ve had this conversation with him. I have especially watched, over the last six or seven weeks, as both of them have really taken a final exam with respect to this economic crisis that we are in, and coming out of the conventions.

And I must say that I’ve gotten a good measure of both. In the case of Mr. McCain, I found that he was a little unsure as to deal with the economic problems that we were having, and almost every day, there was a different approach to the problem.

And that concerned me. I got the — sensing that he didn’t have a complete grasp of the economic problems that we had.

And I was also concerned at the selection of Governor Palin. She’s a very distinguished woman, and she’s to be admired. But at the same time, now that we have had a chance to watch her for some seven weeks, I don’t believe she’s ready to be president of the United States, which is the job of the vice president.

And so that raised some question in my mind as to the judgment that Senator McCain made.

On the Obama side, I have watched Mr. Obama, and I watched him during this seven-week period. And he displayed a steadiness, an intellectual curiosity, a depth of knowledge and an approach to looking at problems like this and picking a vice president that, I think, is ready to be president on day one, and also, in not just jumping in and changing every day, but showing intellectual vigor.

I think that he has a definitive way of doing business that would serve us well. I also believe that, on the Republican side, over the last seven weeks, the approach of the Republican Party and Mr. McCain has become narrower and narrower.

Mr. Obama, at the same time, has given us a more inclusive, broader reach into the needs and aspirations of our people. He’s crossing lines –ethnic lines, racial lines, generational lines. He’s thinking about all villages have values, all towns have values, not just small towns have values.

And I’ve also been disappointed, frankly, by some of the approaches that Senator McCain has taken recently, or his campaign ads, on issues that are not really central to the problems that the American people are worried about.

This Bill Ayers situation that’s been going on for weeks became something of a central point of the campaign. But Mr. McCain says that he’s a washed-out terrorist. But then, why do we keep talking about him?

And why do we have these robo-calls going on around the country, trying to suggest that, because of this very, very limited relationship that Senator Obama has had with Mr. Ayers, somehow, Mr. Obama is tainted?

What they’re trying to connect him to is some kind of terrorist feelings. And I think that’s inappropriate.

Now, I understand what politics is all about. I know how you can go after one another, and that’s good. But I think this goes too far. And I think it has made the McCain campaign look a little narrow. It’s not what the American people are looking for.

And I look at these kinds of approaches to the campaign, and they trouble me. And the party has moved even further to the right, and Governor Palin has indicated a further rightward shift.

I would have difficulty with two more conservative appointments to the Supreme Court, but that’s what we’d be looking at in a McCain administration.

I’m also troubled by, not what Senator McCain says, but what members of the party say. And it is permitted to be said such things as, “Well, you know that Mr. Obama is a Muslim.”

Well, the correct answer is, he is not a Muslim; he’s a Christian. He’s always been a Christian.

But the really right answer is, what if he is? Is there something wrong with being a Muslim in this country? The answer’s no, that’s not America.

Is there something wrong with some seven-year-old Muslim-American kid believing that he or she could be president?

Yet, I have heard senior members of my own party drop the suggestion, “He’s a Muslim and he might be associated terrorists.” This is not the way we should be doing it in America.

I feel strongly about this particular point because of a picture I saw in a magazine. It was a photo essay about troops who are serving in Iraq and Afghanistan.

And one picture at the tail end of this photo essay was of a mother in Arlington Cemetery, and she had her head on the headstone of her son’s grave. And as the picture focused in, you could see the writing on the headstone. And it gave his awards — Purple Heart, Bronze Star — showed that he died in Iraq, gave his date of birth, date of death. He was 20 years old.

And then, at the very top of the headstone, it didn’t have a Christian cross; it didn’t have the Star of David; it had crescent and a star of the Islamic faith. And his name was Kareem Rashad Sultan Khan, and he was an American. He was born in New Jersey. He was 14 years old at the time of 9/11, and he waited until he can go serve his country, and he gave his life.

Now, we have got to stop polarizing ourself in this way. And John McCain is as nondiscriminatory as anyone I know. But I’m troubled about the fact that, within the party, we have these kinds of expressions.

So, when I look at all of this and I think back to my Army career, we’ve got two individuals, either one of them could be a good president. But which is the president that we need now?

Which is the individual that serves the needs of the nation for the next period of time?

And I come to the conclusion that because of his ability to inspire, because of the inclusive nature of his campaign, because he is reaching out all across America, because of who he is and his rhetorical abilities — and we have to take that into account — as well as his substance. He has both style and substance. He has met the standard of being a successful president, being an exceptional president.

I think he is a transformational figure. He is a new generation coming into the world — onto the world stage, onto the American stage, and for that reason, I’ll be voting for Senator Barack Obama

Transcript of his conversation with reporters following the endorsement:

Reporter: Sir, what part did McCain’s negativity play in your decision, the negative tone of the campaign?

Powell: It troubled me. We have two wars. We have economic problems. We have health problems. We have education problems. We have infrastructure problems. We have problems around the world with our allies. So those are the problems the American people wanted to hear about, not about Mr. Ayers, not about who’s a Muslim or who’s not a Muslim. Those kinds of images going out on Al-Jazeera are killing us around the world.

And we have got to say to the world, it doesn’t make any difference who you are or what you are, if you’re an American, you’re an American. And this business, for example, of the congressman from Minnesota who’s going around saying, “Let’s examine all congressmen to see who is pro-America or not pro-America” — we have got to stop this kind of nonsense, pull ourselves together and remember that our great strength is in our unity and in our diversity. And so, that really was driving me.

And to focus on people like Mr. Ayers and these trivial issues, for the purpose of suggesting that somehow Mr. Obama would have some kind of terrorist inclinations, I thought that was over the top. It was beyond just good political fighting back and forth. I think it went beyond. And to sort of throw in this little Muslim connection, you know, “He’s a Muslim and, my goodness, he’s a terrorist” — it was taking root. And we can’t judge our people and we can’t hold our elections on that kind of basis.

So, yes, that kind of negativity troubled me, And the constant shifting of the argument. I was troubled a couple of weeks ago when in the middle of the crisis, the [McCain] campaign said, “We’re going to go negative,” and they announced it, “We’re going to go negative and attack [Obama’s] character through Bill Ayers.” Now I guess the message this week is, “We’re going to call him a socialist, Mr. Obama is now a socialist, because he dares to suggest that maybe we ought to look at the tax structure that we have.”

Taxes are always a redistribution of money. Most of the taxes that are redistributed go back to those who paid them, in roads and airports and hospitals and schools. And taxes are necessary for the common good. And there is nothing wrong with examining what our tax structure is or who should be paying more, who should be paying less. And for us to say that that makes you a socialist, I think is an unfortunate characterization that isn’t accurate.

I don’t want my taxes raised. I don’t want anybody else’s taxes raised. But I also want to see our infrastructure fixed. I don’t want to have a $12 trillion national debt, and I don’t want to see an annual deficit that’s over $500 billion heading toward a trillion. So, how do we deal with all of this?

See Also: Powell Endorses Obama, Colin Powell’s Obama Endorsement, Axelrod on Powell and Iraq: “Have You Seen His Numbers?”, October Surprise: ” ‘Cause the One on the Right was on the Left”, Colin Powell Endorses Obama, Endorsements, and that, Washington Post Crashed, Burned, and Smoking Watch (George Will Edition), Powell for Obama, The Howl of Powell; Does It Matter?, Gen. Colin Powell: “But the really right answer is, what if he is [a Muslim]?”, Powell Endorses Obama, Colin Powell endorses Barack Obama, and Endgame.


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