Commentary Magazine


What’s Their Excuse?

Colin Powell was an enthusiastic backer of Obama’s presidential candidacy. Asked on Face the Nation if he regrets it — the shared assumption being that he might, because Obama’s presidency has been a bust so far — Powell insisted that he didn’t regret a thing. But “I’m afraid he put too much on the plate for the American people to absorb at one time.” And on national security:

He admitted he was “surprised” by the lack of coordination among different agencies in dealing with Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the suspect in the Christmas Day bombing attempt of an airliner.

“Should he have been given his Miranda rights either after 90 minutes or 15 hours? The story kept changing,” Powell said. “I would have thought after all these years we would have had a process in place – either in the previous administration or in this administration – that when you get somebody like that, we all know how to respond and how to interrogate him, or not interrogate him. But he’s in jail. He’s facing trial. I don’t think it will be a difficult trial to handle. And also he’s still talking. They found other ways to interrogate him.”

Well, that’s Powell for you — as Max memorably said when the general endorsed Obama, a bit “incoherent” in his rationale. Powell’s reasons for endorsing Obama were never all that compelling. But now that Obama has proved to be none of the things Powell and his co-validators claimed (not moderate, not competent, not post-racial), what’s the general going to say?

Powell’s not alone, of course. There were those Republicans (Powell included) who claimed that they couldn’t vote for John McCain because his VP choice showed such poor judgment and they couldn’t bear the thought of such a person just a heartbeat from the Oval Office. Despite Biden’s gaffe-a-thon and Obama’s frequent disdain for his own VP, we’ve seen no mea culpas on that front. Then there were those who proclaimed Obama’s fiscal moderation and careful approach to governance. Despite the spending jag and the serial extremism of one left-wing agenda item after another, we haven’t heard many recantations on that front. And what of those who were convinced Obama would be a stalwart defender of Israel and tough on the mullahs? They sure went out on a limb, only to be proved tragically gullible. (Or are we to believe that “This was all predictable from the day Obama won the election. Only innocents thought otherwise.” Oh, really?)

The pundits and pols who vouched for Obama are in a bind. Maybe that’s why you hear such wailing that America is ungovernable and too partisan. It can’t be Obama’s fault, after all — that would mean that Obama’s supporters were badly snookered. It’s never easy to say you were wrong, especially when the stakes are so high.

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