In 2008, when former Secretary of State Colin Powell endorsed Senator Barack Obama for president, it was later cited by election observers–along with John McCain’s flailing response to the financial crisis and his disastrous selection of Sarah Palin as his running mate–to have been one of the keys that decisively tilted the election toward the Democrat. Throughout the current election cycle, pundits have been wondering what choice the former general would make, or if he would make any endorsement at all. This morning, he ended the suspense by telling Charlie Rose on the CBS morning program that he will again be voting for President Obama, and he explained why. Below is video, followed by a transcript and analysis.
ROSE: Will you endorse President Obama this race?
POWELL: Well, you know I voted for him in 2008 and I plan to stick with him in 2012, and I’ll be voting for he and for Vice President Joe Biden next month.
ROSE: That’s an endorsement for President Obama for re-election?
POWELL: 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%. So we were in real trouble. 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. 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. With respect to Governor Romney, I have the utmost respect to him but as I listen to what his proposals are especially with respect to dealing with our most significant issue, the economy, it’s essentially 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.
From later in the interview, Greg Sargent points out in Plum Line, ”Perhaps the most interesting part of the interview came when Powell hit Romney on trust,” an aspect of Romney’s character that the Obama campaign has been seeking to undermine:
Powell: I have concerns about [Romney's] views on foreign policy. The Governor, who was speaking on Monday night at the debate, was saying things that were quite different from what he said earlier. So I’m not quite sure which Governor Romney we would be getting with respect to foreign policy….It’s a moving target. One day he has a certain strong view about staying in Afghanistan, but then on Monday night he agrees with the withdrawal. Same thing in Iraq. On almost every issue that was discussed on Monday night, Governor Romney agreed with the President, with some nuances. But this is quite a different set of foreign policy views than he had earlier in the campaign. And my concern, which I’ve expressed previously in a public way, is that sometimes I don’t sense that he has thought through these issues as thoroughly as he should have, and he gets advice from his campaign staff that he then has to adjust to modify as he goes along.”
The conclusion of Sargent’s analysis:
“The Obama camp now has video of Powell making the case that Romney isn’t being forthright about his foreign policy proposals, an arena in which voters presumably want to see evidence of steady leadership. Many pundits have argued that Romney did manage to reassure voters with his Monday performance, by clearing what they like to call a “commander in chief threshold.” But Powell has now directly undermined this case, too; expect this to be incorporated into Obama’s larger closing case against his GOP challenger.
I’m not sure if Colin Powell’s endorsement this year will carry quite as much weight as the first time around, but it could be influential, specifically in the way highlighted by Greg Sargent.