Monday, November 15, 2004

Rearranging the Deck Chairs

So, Colin Powell, Spencer Abraham, Ann Venneman and Rod Paige are resigning from the Bush cabinet. Yawn.

It's been pretty much common knowledge that Powell was heading out the door during Bush II - Fundamentalism Consolidated. There will be a lot said in future days about Powell's tenure at the State Department, some good, some bad. He flat out lied to the U.N. on the eve of the Iraq invasion. On the other hand, his backroom diplomacy has kept North Korea in some kind of check. But perhaps the most egregious failure of Colin Powell was that it seems he allowed himself to be bullied repeatedly during his term. And when he wasn't in some type of dustup with Rumsfeld or Wolfowitz or Perle, he was facilitating the administration lies to the world.

I mostly blame him for not using the pulpit of his position to stand up for what was right. I don't think Colin Powell will ever understand how many people (even on the progressive side) trusted him to do the right thing when the right thing needed to be done. In the aftermath of 9/11/01, as Secretary of State, Powell had the opportunity to set the tone in the world community for a collective response to the attacks. Instead, he allowed the Rumsfeld caffe clatch to run roughshod over U.S. foreign policy.

Am I being harsh in my assessment? Yes and no. I once had a great deal of respect for Colin Powell. But as time went on, it was quite clear that he was way out of his league on the diplomatic front. And it was also clear that he stood alone against a rising tide of neoconservatism and hawkish behavior on the part of key players in BushCo. He could not gather the support he needed internal to the Bush administration to market his own agenda (whatever that might have been).

A lot of folks are going to be saying today that he should have quit two years ago. Personally, I'm glad he didn't. For all of his failings and being relegated to second tier status in the administration, his mere presence has been a governor on the neocon accelerator. I wouldn't go so far as to say that Powell has been a voice of moderation, but certainly there's always been the general feeling running just below the surface that if Powell blew up publicly, such an event would have had a staggering impact on the Bush administration.

So, Powell leaves quietly. And now we have the prospect of the good reverend John Danforth or John Negroponte taking over at the State Department. Yeah. Just what we need. You think the CIA back biting is getting nasty? Wait until someone of Danforth or Negroponte's ilk walks through the door. It's going to be a mighty ugly situation.

Worst of all, the restriction-by-presence that Powell brought to table will now be gone. A neocon aparatchik without nearly the public gravitas of a Colin Powell will pull up a chair. And with Powell's departure, my feeling is that the doomsday clock ticks one second closer to midnight.