Obama returns a compliment to Colin Powell

April 11, 2008

INDIANAPOLIS – Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama on Friday returned a compliment to Colin Powell after the former Bush administration secretary of state told an interviewer that he was impressed with Obama.

Obama, a first-term Illinois senator, has been criticized by Democratic rival Hillary Clinton and Republican Sen. John McCain, as lacking experience on foreign policy.

Powell told ABC’s “Good Morning America” that Obama seemed to be a quick study. 

“Sen. Obama, he didn’t have a lot of experience in running a presidential campaign, did he, but he seems to know how to organize a task and he seems to knobama1.jpgow how to apply resources to a problem at hand,” Powell said.

“So that gives you some indication that (despite) his inexperience in foreign affairs and domestic affairs, he may be somebody who can learn quickly.”

Asked about Powell’s comments, Obama described Powell as “an outstanding public servant.” 

“He’s somebody who I’ve known for some time and I have extraordinary respect for him,” the Illinois senator told reporters … So I appreciate the kind words.” 

Powell, who served as secretary of state in Bush’s first term, helped Bush to build a case with the United Nations for the Iraq war. 

But in “Plan of Attack,” a book by journalist Bob Woodward that gives an account of the behind-the-scenes debate within the administration about the war, Powell is described as having privately counseled Bush not to go to war because of concerns about the chaos that might ensue after an invasion. 

Even though he has served in Republican administrations, Powell is not automatically throwing his support to presumptive Republican nominee John McCain. 

“I’m looking at all three candidates, I know them all very, very well, I consider myself a friend of each and every one of them, and I have not decided who I will vote for yet,” he told ABC.

Asked how frequently he speaks to Powell, Obama said: “We’re not speaking on a regular basis but we speak occasionally and every time that we do I find it very useful because he’s somebody who I think has good judgment, loves his country and is somebody whose counsel I actively seek.”

Click here for more Reuters 2008 campaign coverage

Photo credit: REUTERS//Frank Polich  (Obama speaks during a campaign stop in Gary, Indiana)


We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see http://blogs.reuters.com/fulldisclosure/2010/09/27/toward-a-more-thoughtful-conversation-on-stories/

Did everybody notice the way Colin Powell was treated by the Bush administration especially Bush/Rice/Cheney for the general’s thoughtful and timely warning against pre-emptive strike in Iraq, “you break it, you own it” — well, they broke it but we all own it. And Rice was happy to take over Powell’s job as he quietly disappeared.

It’s great to see Colin Powell with a public voice again. What a different world today had the administration, the president, heeded his counsel.

Posted by Gaias Child | Report as abusive

I saw this Diane Sawyer interview. Talk about making a huge mountain from a crumb. Diane Sawyer asked Powell directly about Obama, and he responded. Powell did not state he was supporting Obama, saying he doesn’t know who he is supporting as yet. I said one little sentence about how Obama’s campaign is well organized. Good grief! Obama’s camapaign must be desperately seeking any and every compliment no matter how tiny to have made a point of bringing this to the forefront. Hopefully, Colin Powell, being the intelligent and experienced soldier and politician I believed him to be, will not start buying this “Change, Yes We Can.” I have always thought that Colin Powell was above selecting someone due to race. Obama is a (covert) socialist mouthpiece only — for Ted Kennedy and Jesse Jackson. He has tried to make himself appear more of a centrist now, but that’s a complete lie. And experience to be the President of the USA? He has none. If Powell honestly believes that Obama could be an effective President with the leadership needed for the world we now live in based solely on how well Obama’s campaign is run, then Powell’s integrity has dropped down some notches in my book.

Posted by Mod1 | Report as abusive

That would be incredible if Colin Powell endorsed Obama, that would mean he would have previous Clinton and Bush backers, again proving how he can inspire, motivate and collaborate with anyone to get things done

Posted by oregon4obama | Report as abusive

And ‘Mod1′, you lose respect for a man like Colin who knows each candidate more intimately than you do; Knows intricately more about this country, and the world than you do…uh…because he might support Obama? Your emotional bias for anti-, is showing. When you hear a man like General Colin Powell make an assessment, and still withhold his endorsement. See it as the Wisdom it is, and challenge yourself to look beyond your purely contrarian/mocking view.

Posted by Insight | Report as abusive

Mod1, you’re ignoring a great deal of the significance of this. For an ex-Bush official, especially one as important and admired as Colin Powell to speak one word of praise for any Democrat is unusual at the very least. Party politics in the Bush Administration were and are more partisan than perhaps any administration in the last 100 years. Especially considering the personal loyalty that Bush expected from his cabinet.

It could, however, be argued that this is less a statement of Obama’s appeal to centrists as it is a statement of how disillusioned Powell is with the Bush Administration and the republican party as a whole.

Only time will tell. Either way, it is clear that your bias against Obama is enough for you to entirely ignore the political realities. Your tinfoil-esq opinion that Obama is a figurehead is laughable enough by itself, but apparently you are incapable of any real analysis at all. Anyone at all who is reasonably familiar with Obama knows that his positions have ALWAYS been far from the radical black preachers, although he has courted them enough to understand their argument. But except for the obvious political contact that every politician goes through with interests groups, your comments contain similar authenticity to reports of Black Helicopters the 911 Setup.

Posted by Tamarron | Report as abusive

Barack just on the one in a million chance that you might scan the news items and come across this it might not be a bad idea to consider Colin Powell for VP. I’m not a huge CP supporter due to his getting suckered by the Bush admin but given the number of people like Mod1 it might not be a bad idea to have a black as VP. That way if there’s a racially motivated assassination (which is sadly all too real a possibility) they get another black. Kind of like Bush Sr choosing Mr Potatoehead for his VP. It sickens me that this should even be a consideration but unfortunately there is no shortage of racist idiots in this country. And CP would bring a good selection of voters with him that you might not otherwise get.

Posted by Marq Goldberg | Report as abusive

How foolish (we) are and how slow to believe(Lk.24:25)
It is so painful to realize how gullible we have been to have been sucked in to believing with such “patriotic” fervor the deceptions of a second Washington administration in a span of less than 40 years since the Nixon lie.
How sad that no Sam Ervin, Judge Sirica or even John Dean is around when the country needs them so much. Would this U.S.Supreme Court vote 9-0 to order the President to “come clean”? How long can Bill Moyers carry the ball before the voters begin to realize that it is time to rise up and “throw the bums out!” The oil cartel, Senators and Congressmen on both sides of the aisle, the
lack of backbone in Pelosi and Reid and other Democrats who have literally sold their congessional integrity in pursuit of their greatest goal, all that greed can achieve.
I hate the idea of Ralph Nader being the only truth teller I can believe in, but it has come to that. The Democratic leaders are Reagan Democrats and have profitted mightily from their bias.
Colin Powell, I will believe in you, if you have the courage to risk doing what you should.

Posted by charlie mcnamee | Report as abusive

That is it. The party’s over for HRC with the emminent General Colin Powell’s high compliment about Barack Obama. I applauded with glee!


Posted by Gary Reginald Dodge | Report as abusive

That’s it! It is over for HRC with the high compliment of Barack Obama by the emminent General Colin Powell. God Bless him. (I also read the superdelegates are wavering on HRC.)


Posted by Gary Reginald Dodge | Report as abusive

“I see Barack Obama as a leader for this transcendent moment, the agent of transformation in an age of revolution, as a figure uniquely qualified to open the door to the 21st century and to convert threat to great new opportunity.”
“I’d suggest that the X factor which sets Barack Obama aside as a unique candidate is his hard-won self-awareness. If we are lucky, we will wake up and begin the journey back to self-awareness as a people. . . . If Barack Obama makes it all the way to the White House, it will represent a quantum leap in American consciousness and a promise to restore America’s position in the world.”

Posted by TEwol | Report as abusive

Penn Resident:

Bitter and Angry in Rural Pennsylvania: Obama’s Reality vs. Hillary’s Fantasy

Sat Apr 12, 2008 at 03:47:47 PM PDT
Maybe there aren’t many Bubbas driving around in pickup trucks with the classic bumper sticker “God, Guns and Guts Made America Free” where Obama’s detractors live, but here in rural Pennsylvania that line may as well replace “e pluribus unum” as the motto on the national currency.

I live in western Pennsylvania, and I can tell you, people here are bitter and angry. Poverty is prevalent. People hunt squirrels and eat them, along with racoon stew. People also hunt deer here, not for sport, but so they can put meat in their freezer so they can feed their families. They cut wood in the forests and heat their homes with wood stoves because they can’t afford to pay the gas bill. I know a guy who goes to old landfills to dig up old milk and beer bottles to sell on eBay. He uses the proceeds to buy clothes for his family at the Salvation Army (and to pay for his dial-up connection).

Racism and prejudice are ever-present here. A friend of mine is part-owner of bar in a small rural town south of where I live. I meet up with him there occasionally and watch as down-and-out people come in with their disability and welfare check money and drink it away. It’s a pretty depressing place, but it does serve as the social center for a town that has seen its few industries shut down and the local people’s jobs eliminated or shipped off elsewhere.

I hear the usual rants there, that it’s all the fault of gays and minorities and immigrants (although those aren’t the terms used, but rather the usual, virulent slurs). A black man walked in the last time I was there, and a guy near me at the bar muttered in a not-so-quiet way, “What’s he think he’s doing in here?” When I brought up the presidential race and Obama with another man at the bar, his response was, “there ain’t no way America is ever going to vote for a black guy.” Later on my bar-owner friend told me about his experience talking about Obama with another woman at the bar, and her angry response was that “it’s because of half-breed n*****s like him that America is in such bad shape today.”

Prejudice, racism and fear do run rampant in areas like this. People are poor. They are in bad health, overweight from a deep-fried diet, and toothless from the lack of dental care. They are unemployed. They are uneducated. They do cling to their hunting rifles and to their religious beliefs. For many, it is about all that they have. The towns around here are full of decaying, boarded up buildings. People live in rundown old trailers with abandoned cars in the front yard. I have seen people using an old car as a stable, with their goat tied to and living in it. I could drive you by a least three old houses that have Conderate flags in the windows.

So go ahead and discount Obama’s talk of how bitter and angry that some of the people of rural Pennsylvania are. Call him elitist for taking the time to pass through areas such as this to listen to what the people have to say, and to then relate what he has heard to people in more prosperous parts of the country when he is asked about it. I have lived in San Francisco, and let me tell you, there is a marked difference between the general attitude there and the attitude here in the “rust belt”. Go ahead and dismiss everything that Obama said as political posturing. Let Hillary and McCain “pick him apart” and parse his words. But please keep in mind that when Obama said:

“it’s not surprising then that they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren’t like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.”

that he is 100% accurate in his assessment.

I know, because I live here, my family and my friends’ families have lived here for generations, and we see it every day, all around this region. There is a very fine line between poverty and prosperity here, where making above $20,000 a year puts you in the realm of the “haves”, but also knowing that you’re one contract termination away from joining the ranks of the “have-nots”.

I come from a family of dairy farmers. I know what it’s like to spend up to 12-16 hours a day sitting on a tractor for three dollars an hour, which I did through high school and every summer until I was fortunate enough to head off to college. Many of my friends were also fortunate and went to school, and then relocated to other parts of the country. Some of us were able to come back under better circumstances, but the large majority of people here are not as fortunate.

Thirty years worth of the right wing dismantling our public education system has taken its toll. Thirty years worth of mismanagement of the economy, of shutting down factories and shipping jobs out of the country, of subsidizing corporate farms and taxing family farms out of business, has taken its toll.

Yes, people are angry, and bitter, but Obama never said that they aren’t resilient, opitmistic or hard-working. Those are Hillary and McCain’s twisted words, and for them to stand up and suggest that rural Pennsylvanians aren’t fed up with the way things are, only reveals how out of touch they really are with at least this part of the country.

Of course, all McCain has to do is suggest to poor rural folk that the party of gun-control, gay marriage, and NAFTA is going to take away what little they have left, and rural conservatives will vote for him, just as they did for Reagan, Bush I and Bush II. As for Hillary, the more she “takes apart” Obama’s message, the more she does the GOP’s work for free. If Hillary can’t see that the people of rural Pennsylvania are bitter, and angry, and mad as hell about the way things are, then she needs to step down from that one hundred million dollar platform of hers and take a real look around.

In western Pennsylvania I hear two things: the “God, Guns and Guts” crowd see John McCain as the heir-apparent to the mantle of rural conservative values; and the people who hope for some kind of change see Barack Obama as the person who understands the situation that we are in, and maybe is the one who can lead us in a new direction. What I don’t hear is anyone talking about whatever and whomever it is that Hillary claims to stand for.

In the end, I think this is all a “lost in translation” much ado about nothing episode.

Going back to Obama’s statement, and keeping in mind that he was speaking to a specific group of supporters in San Francsico, and keeping in mind that he was discussing a variety of “talking points” in the previous paragraph, I think that it is the absence of the word “issue” in this particular portion of his response to one of the attendee’s questions that is lost in translation from the actual event to the transcript spun in the media.

So let’s break it down:

“‘Well, what is this guy going to do for me? What’s the concrete thing?’ What they wanna hear is — so, we’ll give you talking points about what we’re proposing — close tax loopholes, roll back, you know, the tax cuts for the top 1 percent. Obama’s gonna give tax breaks to middle-class folks and we’re gonna provide health care for every American. So we’ll go down a series of talking points.

Obama is offering: – closing tax loopholes – roll back taxes for the top 1 percent – tax breaks to the middle class – health care for every American


“But the truth is, is that, our challenge is to get people persuaded that we can make progress when there’s not evidence of that in their daily lives. You go into some of these small towns in Pennsylvania, and like a lot of small towns in the Midwest, the jobs have been gone now for 25 years and nothing’s replaced them.”

“So it’s not surprising then that they get bitter” and “As a way to explain their frustrations…they cling to” issues that focus on: – guns – religion – antipathy to people who aren’t like them – anti-immigrant sentiment – anti-trade sentiment

It’s the usual laundry list of GOP hot-button talking points.

What Obama was doing was contrasting his talking points, with the tradtional GOP talking points that he has to contend with if he is going to break through and reach these tradtional blue-collar voters.

I can’t imagine that anyone who was in the room with Obama misunderstood this. It’s only when the transcript is removed from the context in which the information was delivered that the MSM begins to spin it into something that it’s not.

Posted by Docb | Report as abusive

Thank you for your well thought out comments Dcob. I couldn’t have said it better myself :)

Posted by hesingswithfrogs | Report as abusive

I´m pleased to read the kind words & evaluation made by C.Powel v. Obama. Yes, Obama is improving every hour. This is the kind of a New Generation who is able to change
things en gros! Hillary is an out-dated-politician. Her
& Billy´s era is out.

Posted by Jean Michel Nehme | Report as abusive

Thanks for actually reading the transcript and putting into words, the true sentiment of the statements by Mr. Obama. I hate that so many are swayed by the sound-bite news cycle and make such uninformed decisions wrought from Fox News and Savage Nation. Americans have a chance to change to status quo in the next election, but are so likely to repeat the same mistakes of the last two elections out of failing to make themselves truely informed. I pray that we can look beyond the sound bites and the pundents and hear a clear voice of reason such as BHO

Posted by Mark | Report as abusive

Yes, thanks for your comments Dcob. Very insightful.

Posted by Tom Morgan | Report as abusive

Yes, thanks for your comments Dcob. I do pray for God to open the eyes & minds of American Voters on April 22 & beyond. Me too, I would like to hear a clear voice od reason such as BHO!

Posted by Jean Michel Nehme | Report as abusive

Our country indeed needs some changes, out-dated or not out-dated if he/she can manages the tasks.

It seems Colin Powell is having a high mark on Obama over the other two candidates.

This comment for Obama from Powell works better than an actual endorsement.

Posted by NoWhereNear | Report as abusive

Gen POWELL is on standbye to accept VP . He can lead if the leader position is offered and accepted , he can follow if this is ffered and accepte. It’s great.
Furthermore general election is won by 1 issue (because all other issues and all sideline issues are a logical consequence only)
The one (1) issue is the resolve of middle East engagement,respectively the Disengagement .To be more exact: what orders will GEN Dempsey have in Mid – JAN 2009.
1) Arrange for total withdrawal, they have authority to bomb themselve their way out into Super Bases.
2) Arrange for withdrawal ,if they get physically blocked in their maneuverings , give in and stay the course.PLan on decades of years (Family rotations ,housings etc. analog Germany S.Korea Japan.
3) Arrange for rewriting the geographical map .Oil Government and Airspace management. To the EAst with
barbewire protected transit route from IRAn into Sadr City
To the North Kurdistan.
To the West e,g, west if Euphrat,Sunni-iraq.Any of the 3
Partitions can terminate the friendly US bases respectively occupational Garrisons and still receive
the OIL Revenue Payments.Retreat will follow within weeks
in good order.

Posted by hlg | Report as abusive

Once again, Gen. Colin Powell delivers a slam dunk!

Posted by Gary Reginald Dodge | Report as abusive