With all the negativity about what's wrong with America being voiced during the 2008 presidential campaign, former Secretary of State Colin Powell told viewers of NBC's Meet the Press that he believes the U.S. still inspires the rest of the world.
Powell made a highly anticipated guest appearance on the program today. Speculation had been running high that he would endorse Barack Obama for president. He did.
Obama and McCain
In announcing that he is going to vote for Obama, Powell prefaced his decision with lengthy remarks discussing the merits of both candidates.
"Both of them are distinguished Americans who are patriotic, who are dedicated to the welfare of our country," Powell said to Tom Brokaw. "Either one of them, I think, would be a good president.
So what did it come down to?
Many conservatives have said the McCain campaign, in the last two months, has relied on gimmicks, citing the selection of Sarah Palin, the suspension of the campaign to work on the economic bailout package, and the continuing negative ads linking Obama to Weather Underground co-founder Bill Ayers
Powell mentioned them all this morning, calling the campaign "narrow."
"She's a very distinguished woman, and she's to be admired; but at the same time, now that we have had a chance to watch her for some seven weeks, I don't believe she's ready to be president of the United States, which is the job of the vice president."
"I think what he (Ayers) did was despicable," Powell said. He added that Ayers's comments after the 2001 terrorist attacks were "also despicable."
"But to suggest that because Mr. Barack Obama had some contacts of a very casual nature -- they sat on a educational board -- over time is somehow connected to his thinking or his actions, I think, is a, a terrible stretch. It's demagoguery."
On the economy:
"In the case of Mr. McCain, I found that he was a little unsure as to deal with the economic problems that we were having and almost every day there was a different approach to the problem. And that concerned me, sensing that he didn't have a complete grasp of the economic problems that we had."
As for Obama, Powell said he was impressed with how Obama looked at solving problems, mentioning what he saw as the candidate's "steadiness, an intellectual curiosity, [and] a depth of knowledge."
"I think he is a transformational figure, he is a new generation coming onto the world stage, onto the American stage, and for that reason I'll be voting for Senator Barack Obama," he said.
"I think that he has a definitive way of doing business that would serve us well," he added.
Powell's remarks in 2000
As for Powell's comments about the goodness of America? These remarks were prefaced by Brokaw playing back a comment made from Powell while he was addressing the 2000 GOP convention.
"The Bush/Cheney team will be a great team for America," Powell said on the videotape. "They will put our nation on a course of hope and optimism for this new century."
"Was that prophetic or wrong?" asked Brokaw.
"It's what I believed," Powell said. "It reflected the agenda of the new president, compassionate conservatism. And some of it worked out."
The State of the US
Powell mentioned that he thought the U.S. has made a bad impression with much of the world conveying a message "that we are more unilateral than we really are." Despite this, he said the U.S. has done a lot of good in many areas.
"The United States is still seen as the leader at the world that wants to be free," Powell said.
"Even though the numbers are down with respect to favorability ratings, at every embassy and consular office tomorrow morning that we have, people will be lined up, and they'll all say the same thing, We want to go to America.' "
"So we're still the leader of the world that wants to be free. We are still the inspiration of the rest of the world. And we can come back."