Very interesting and unfortunate if true tidbit from Colin Powell in his interview on Meet the Press this morning:
MR. RUSSERT: Before you go, Newsweek magazine reports that Senator Barack Obama has sought you out for your advice on foreign policy. True?
GEN. POWELL: True. I’ve met with Senator Obama twice. I’ve been around this town a long time, and I know everybody who is running for office, and I make myself available to talk about foreign policy matters and military matters with whoever wishes to chat with me.
I read with considerable interest Jerome's two diaries questioning what Obama's real foreign policy might look like. I would not be particularly opposed to an Obama nomination, but I thought and still think the conversation is worth having. That being said, Obama's legitimization of Powell is highly frustrating.
What can Obama possibly be thinking by publicly taking the advice of Colin Powell, the man principally responsible for the Iraq war, the man who could have stopped it but chose not to, a man who is a total failure by even his own standards? And what does it say about Obama's judgment that he would actively seek out Powell for advice on international affairs? What advice can Powell possibly give?
I suspect that each participant in this arrangement believes they get something from the deal. Powell is on a mission to rehabilitate his legacy after his awful and tragic UN performance and the subsequent disaster of the war. Giving advice to Democratic frontrunners allows him to visibly distance himself from Bush, while simultaneously looking above the fray (note that he gives advice to many people and "know[s] everyone who is running"), and reminding the public that he is still relevant and a Very Important Person. Finally, Powell's repeated failures look like less of a big deal when he meets with Obama and gives him advice.
Obama, on the other hand, might think he needs credibility and more of a resume. His opposition to the Iraq war might, to him, look like he has a bit of a national security "problem", so it makes sense that he is seen to confer with someone viewed as a national security heavyweight. It also fits into his theme of "bipartisanship" since it (to him) demonstrates that he's willing to step across the aisle to do the country's business.
While I understand why Obama is doing this, it still does not excuse it. Powell does not need the help of Democrats to rehabilitate his shattered legacy and reputation, and certainly Obama does not need to be tarred with Powell's repeated failures. Powell needs to be persona non grata among the the Dems, particularly among high profile Dem candidates, and particularly for Barack Obama.
Obama attempts to differentiate himself from the other frontrunners by highlighting his lack of complicity in the Iraq war. Meeting with Colin Powell puts this perception at grave risk. Obama continues on this path to his peril.