Sunday, October 19, 2008

Parsing Powell

I'll leave it to people much smarter than I to determine whether or not Colin Powell's endorsement of Barack Obama this morning will actually matter at the polls on Nov. 4.

My initial impression is that it won't add up to much. Especially an endorsement coming from someone so closely aligned to the Bush Administration and the fiasco in Iraq. Not to mention, some pundits are already discrediting the decision as a show of racial solidarity - I imagine some other "working-class" voters might feel much the same way.

But, more than that, I'd like to highlight a couple of important things that Powell said NBC's "Meet the Press":

Powell also said "the approach the Republican Party and Mr. McCain" are taking on the campaign trail is getting "narrower and narrower" while Obama has been "inclusive." In a shot at Palin's remarks about small town values being superior, Powell -- born in Harlem, raised in the Bronx -- said Obama pushes the idea that "all villages have values, all towns have values." Powell said he was "disappointed" in McCain for tacking issues he found "no central" to the nation's challenges, specifically McCain's focus on Obama's association with education professor William Ayers, a former member of the violent radical group the Weather Underground.

... Powell, who served as Secretary of State for President George W. Bush, said he was also "troubled what members of the Republican party" have said along the lines of , "We know that Mr. Obama is a Muslim." First off, Powell said, Obama is a Christian. But more to the point, he said, "is there something wrong with being a Muslim?" He worried about the message the GOP was sending to a hypothetical 7-year-old Muslim American who thinks he can grow up and be president some day.

Right. With all the focus on Obama's continued battle against belief - mostly among some fringe wingnuts - that he's a Muslim, we've lost sight of the inherent discrimination in that charge. I know Muslim has become a bad word in this country since Sept. 11, at the least, but we really need to think about what it means to even regard this charge with any legitimacy. Someday, I think we're going to be ashamed of this trend toward Islamophobia.

Also, Powell completely nailed the part about "all villages have values, all towns have values." It's also important to remember that about 75 percent of Americans inhabitants live in cities and suburbs. If our cities and suburbs aren't "real America," then an awful lot of us are going to be considered fake Americans in Palin's eyes.
UPDATE: I said I'd let smarter people determine the impact of this endorsement. Well, Steve Benen certainly qualifies. With each passing moment, I'm starting to lend credibility to the idea of a "Powell bump." It's not just the endorsement; it's the total repudiation of McCain's campaign tactics and the direction of his party. Powell is just killing them today.

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