Whither Colin Powell?

Conservatives sharpen their knives and take a few swipes at the secretary of state.


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Anthony York
May 7, 2001 9:48PM (UTC)

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Are the conservatives coming after Colin Powell? Certainly, William Safire doesn't pull any punches in his New York Times column Monday.

Who were the 14 nations that supposedly assured us of their support and then double-crossed us to elevate a slave trader into the seat we were forced to vacate? Secretary Powell professed to be too proud or too busy to ask: "I'm not going to spend any of my time trying to break into what was essentially a secret vote to try to find out what happened."

That's even worse than being caught napping. Powell's job is to know which nations will stab us in the back in return for some Chinese trade or Arab oil preference or Security Council vote. If our career diplomats in Geneva and New York are out to lunch, and if our intelligence agency is justifying its budget by turning its headquarters into a movie set, then who will make public the 'essentially' secret vote that fighters for human rights need to know?

But Safire wasn't the only one. NewsMax.com also had some unflattering things to say about Powell for his recent meeting with Bill Clinton. "Secretary of State Colin Powell personally briefed disgraced ex-president Bill Clinton over the weekend in anticipation of his trip to China this week, seriously undermining the Bush administration claims that Clinton will not be representing the United States in high level meetings with the Chinese officials," the article states.

Last Friday, conservative New York Post columnist John Podhoretz had this to say about the secretary of state:

Powell has fumbled again and again. In early March, he said the administration would negotiate with North Korea on the matter of its nuclear-arms program. "We do plan to pick up where President Clinton and his administration left off," he said -- endorsing a multi-billion-dollar effort to bribe Pyongyang into moderation that was one of the signal foreign-policy failures of the Clinton years. The White House immediately made clear that Powell was not speaking for the president, and he was forced to retract his words the next day.

Last week, he did something no American official has ever done, speaking words of praise for Fidel Castro. In response to badgering by Bronx congressman Jose Serrano, Powell allowed as how Castro has "done good things for his people."

Powell's words pose a potential danger for his boss. Bush political operatives cannot see a way for them to retain the presidency in 2004 without another victory in Florida.

Is Powell the next moderate to be marginalized in the Bush administration? Some folks at the Free Republic sure hope so. "The sooner Bush loses Powell, the better. It won't be soon enough for me," writes one Freeper.

"I personally have grave reservations about Clinton going anywhere with any sanctions of our government. He is a crook, and pretty much can go and come as he pleases. But, the appearance that the administration is in conversations with him prior and of course this bum saying they encouraged me to go, is bad, " writes another.

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"Powell is an idiot," writes another poster in another anti-Powell thread. "Bush can still salvage the State dept by assigning a shadow Secretary of State that will run the department and let Powell just dance around."

For more Red vs. Blue, click here.

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Anthony York

Anthony York is Salon's Washington correspondent.

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