Powell endorses Obama with "overwhelming force"

The retired general did not mince his words: Obama is "the president we need," and the GOP has gone "too far" to the right.

Published October 19, 2008 3:05PM (EDT)

The "Powell doctrine," as articulated by former chief of staff Colin Powell in a Foreign Affairs article in 1992, holds that military action should be used only as a last resort, but if you're going to do it, use "overwhelming force."

You could argue that the retired general and former secretary of state employed a version of his doctrine in his appearance on "Meet the Press" Sunday morning. Powell came off as thoughtful and serious and he made his views absolutely clear. He was disappointed with John McCain's response to the financial crisis, unhappy with the choice of Sarah Palin as a vice-presidential nominee and uncomfortable with the direction that the Republican Party is headed.

Powell praised Obama's "steadiness," his "depth of intellectual curiosity" and his "intellectual vigor." He called Obama "the president we need now" and a "transformational figure."

As the Republican Party has become "narrower," the Obama campaign has become more "inclusive," said Powell. He expressed dismay that Bill Ayers had become a central point of the McCain campaign, and criticized the McCain robo-calls. The McCain campaign "has gone too far" he said.

He even raised the issue of the Supreme Court, saying he would have difficulty with two more "conservative appointments" to the court.

"I will be voting for Barack Obama," he declared.

On Fox News, John McCain said the endorsement "doesn't come as a surprise," and cited his own endorsements from "four former secretaries of state" and "over 200 retired generals and admirals."

Not one of those figures, however, is going to be dominating political news headlines as we head into the final two weeks of the campaign. Colin Powell went all in on Barack Obama on "Meet the Press," and for the next 24 hours, that fact -- along with the $150 million the Obama campaign raised in September -- will be the story.

By Andrew Leonard

Andrew Leonard is a staff writer at Salon. On Twitter, @koxinga21.

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