the Nation” was probably a favored TV venue on Sunday May 24 for
most watchers of the Sunday talk shows, because former Secretary
of State, Colin Powell defended his place in the Republican Party
from charges by Rush Limbaugh and former Vice President Dick Chaney.
On the same show a week earlier, Chaney said that he preferred Limbaugh
to Powell who had left the Republican party because he voted for
Barack Obama; Limbaugh said that Powell did it only because Obama
was Black. Powell fired back coolly that neither Chaney nor Limbaugh
were on the membership committee of the Republican Party and as
such could not decide who was or was not a Republican.
important, Powell reaffirmed his status as a moderate Republican
like the recently deceased Jack Kemp. I will always remember coming
back from Japan several years ago, getting a connecting flight in
Los Angeles and because the airline had fouled our reservation,
it gave my wife and I first class seats. Our seats happened to
be next to Secretary of Housing, Jack Kemp and he proceeded to talk
both our right arms off, all the way to Washington, DC. He seemed
not to have a racially sensitive bone in his body, and was genuinely
concerned about policies that would make life better for the disadvantaged
blacks. He was excited by his alliance with Kemi Gray, a strong
public housing activist whom I knew in Washington, DC, who was trying
to empower poor public housing residents. I was not surprised to
see that he would become a member of Howard University’s Board of
Trustees. Colin Powell also was a member of Howard’s Board of Trustees
signaling his own sensitivity to concerns facing the Black community.
attended the 1996 convention as a researcher when Powell gave the
keynote speech, and when he said that he supported Affirmative Action,
he was loudly booed by the Right wing of the Party. However, in
his “Face the Nation” appearance, Powell cited several statistics
upon which he concluded that for the Republican Party to remain
viable it had be an inclusive “big tent” party that would not only
make a place for moderates, but move closer toward the moderate
positions that define why the country is now supporting Democrats.
He rejected the small government view, rather that Americans wanted
effective government, especially now that the private sector had
run aground and carried the country with it.
however, does not deserve complete absolution for his role in the
administration of George Bush. He said he was briefed (like Nancy
Pelosi) on the fact that the CIA was considering the use
of Enhanced Interrogation Techniques like water boarding, but didn’t
object, fearing another 9/11 attack. But Powell was silent when
he should have been publicly livid that they put his considerable
integrity at issue. Perhaps his way of telegraphing his displeasure
was to vote for Barack Obama. Nevertheless, Bush and Chaney should
have been grateful that Colin Powell has not done what so many Bush
insiders have done, either publish a tell-all book or go on the
stump, burnishing their role – and their legacy – in the atrocious
decisions made by the Bush/Chaney team.
have always felt – and still feel – that Colin Powell should be
the leader of the Moderate wing of the Republican Party, but that
would require him to confront the Right wing hegemony of the party
in much stronger
terms than anyone has done so far. He notes quite rightly that
the base of the party is narrow and if it continues to shrink, events
will pass it by. Perhaps this truth should motivate Michael Steele,
the current RNC Chair, and rather than feeding the radical Right
and “laying prostrate,” as Powell said, before Rush Limbaugh, he
should help turn the corner. Yet, his latest statements suggesting
that he would go after Barack Obama were crafted in the Limbaugh/Chaney
country and now govern Congressional Republican approaches.
lack of a vigorous Moderate wing of the Republican Party keeps it
from joining a rational consensus about the needs of the country
and supporting policies that are important to serve the American
people which have no ideological bent. Barack Obama has proposed
pragmatic approaches that need Republican support but the radical
Right has rejected most of them.
is a moment of opportunity for both Powell and Steele that will
test the true courage of their commitment to their country, rather
than just to party.
BlackCommentator.com Editorial Board member Dr. Ron Walters is the Distinguished Leadership Scholar,
Director of the African American Leadership Center and Professor
of Government and Politics at the University of Maryland College
Park. His latest book is: The Price of Racial Reconciliation (The Politics of Race and Ethnicity)
(Rowman and Littlefield). Click here
to contact Dr. Walters.