POWELL AND THE WHITE HOUSE….Larry Wilkerson, Colin Powell’s former chief of staff, expands on his earlier criticism of the White House foreign policy “cabal” in the LA Times this morning:
The administration’s performance during its first four years would have been even worse without Powell’s damage control. At least once a week, it seemed, Powell trooped over to the Oval Office and cleaned all the dog poop off the carpet. He held a youthful, inexperienced president’s hand. He told him everything would be all right because he, the secretary of State, would fix it. And he did ? everything from a serious crisis with China when a U.S. reconnaissance aircraft was struck by a Chinese F-8 fighter jet in April 2001, to the secretary’s constant reassurances to European leaders following the bitter breach in relations over the Iraq war. It wasn’t enough, of course, but it helped.
This was an unfortunate paragraph for Wilkerson to add to his general critique of how the Cheney/Rumsfeld axis ramrodded reckless and poorly planned foreign policy proposals through a White House unprepared to understand the consequences. Regardless of what you think of his overall assessment, this paragraph makes it look like nothing more than the usual pissing contest between State and Defense, with Powell playing the part of far sighted but long suffering wise man who will eventually be vindicated by history.
The problem is that no one’s going to buy that after Powell’s four year history within the administration of doggedly loyal public support combined with a steady drip of self-serving private leaks designed to distance himself from anything that turned out badly. If Powell himself believes what Wilkerson is saying, then it’s long past time for him to step forward and say it himself in no uncertain terms. If he doesn’t, he should say that too. He can’t have it both ways.