KRISTOL ON POWELL….Why did Bill Kristol — a warmonger, sure, but a shrewd warmonger — go on Fox yesterday to insist that Colin Powell would be endorsing Barack Obama and speaking at the Democratic convention? Steve Clemons take a flier:

Since Steve Schmidt was given the operative reins of the McCain campaign, Schmidt has been pushing hard for flamboyant, dramatic showdowns to contrast McCain from Obama. He helped orchestrate the ongoing political theater on oil drilling. And Schmidt and his team have grabbed the Russia-Georgia conflict and tried to ratchet higher US-Russian tension rather than stand down, again to differentiate the McCain camp from what they hope is perceived as a more dovish Obama position.

My hunch is that Bill Kristol and friends don’t want interest-calculating negotiators and balanced, sensible, pragmatic realists around McCain. They are perhaps using the Russia conflict to purge their foreign policy team of those who are not neocon or neocon-friendly — and by trying to “export Colin Powell to Obama,” Kristol is really going after his close friend and ally Richard Armitage while at the same time attacking General Powell’s utility to Obama.

This strikes me as roughly correct. When I watched the clip of Kristol yesterday, the first thing I noticed was that when Neil Cavuto called Powell a “Republican’s Republican,” Kristol immediately took pains to shoot him down. He pretty clearly doesn’t want anyone thinking that Powell is a real Republican or a real conservative — because, you know, Powell is sort of cautious about going to war, and that doesn’t sit well with Kristol’s vision of national greatness.

Whether this was really aimed at Richard Armitage seems more of a stretch, but who knows? Somehow there always seem to be levels of deviousness to this stuff beyond anything we ordinary mortals can suss out.