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Colin Powell Plays the Race Card

These days Colin Powell assumes his primary purpose is to lecture Republicans on what it means to be a Republican. In order to pull this off–in order to have his words taken with more seriousness than, say, Rachel Maddow or Howard Dean–General Powell continues to insist that he’s a Republican. He does so despite the fact that he’s twice voted for Barack Obama.

Memo to Mr. Powell: If you’ve twice voted for Barack Obama, a man of deeply liberal/progressive philosophy and policies, you’re no Republican. Of course, there’s an obvious reason Powell continues to claim he’s a Republican. He knows it gives him greater standing to criticize the GOP, which is one of the main things he does these days.

Yesterday on “Meet the Press,” for example, Powell said there’s “a dark vein of intolerance in some parts of the party.” As evidence for this claim, Powell took issue with former New Hampshire Governor John Sununu calling Obama “lazy” after his poor showing at the first presidential debate last fall.

“He didn’t say he was slow, he was tired, he didn’t do well; he said he was ‘lazy,’” Powell said. “Now, it may not mean anything to most Americans, but to those of us who are African Americans, the second word is ‘shiftless,’ and then there’s a third word that goes along with it.”

Here’s the problem with what Powell said. First, media reports showed that Obama did not study hard for the first debate; and second, Obama has admitted that the quality he most deplores in himself is … laziness. “It’s interesting. Deep down underneath all the work I do, I think there’s a laziness in me,” Obama went on to tell Walters in 2011. “It’s probably from growing up in Hawaii, and it’s sunny outside. Sitting on the beach.”

See how it works? Obama can claim to be lazy and it’s fine. But if a Republican claims he’s lazy, in the aftermath of a debate which evidenced laziness, it indicates “a dark vein of intolerance.” So even Colin Powell has been reduced to playing the race card–and to do so in a particularly transparent and sloppy way. 

Colin Powell was a vocal Republican when it served his political career–and now that it’s fashionable to be hyper-critical of Republicans and ignore the worst elements and most offensive comments of Democrats, he’s taken up that job with relish.

Compounding all of this, I think, is that Powell has never come to terms with his support for the Iraq war and the fact that he went before the U.N. to make the case against Iraq based on his belief that they had weapons of mass destruction. In order to keep this from having been a career-destroying moment, Powell instinctively understood he needed to become much more vocal in his criticisms of Republicans. He’s executed that move–and the press, eager to find a prominent self-proclaimed Republican whose main purpose is to lambast Republicans, has played along with it. It’s a game we’re all supposed to take seriously, but some of us really can’t. 


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