Colin Powell today announced on NBC’s Meet the Press he’s crossing party lines and to become the highest-ranking Republican to endorse Barack Obama.
The former general and secretary of state under President Bush said that after following the race closely for the last two months, he was left troubled by the McCain’s handling of the economic crisis, his pick of Sarah Palin as his running mate and his attacks on Obama’s relationship to 60s domestic terrorist William Ayers.
On the economy:
I must say, [McCain] seemed a little unsure about how to approach the problem,” Powell said. “He didn’t have a complete grasp of the economic problems we have.”
On Sarah Palin:
“I don’t believe she’s ready to be President of the United States, which is the job of vice president,” Powell said. He added that it raised “some questions in my mind” about McCain’s judgment.
On the Ayers robocalls:
“I think this goes too far. I think it’s made the McCain campaign look a little narrow. I look at these kinds of approaches to the campaign, and they trouble me. The party has moved further to the right,” Powell said.
McCain, appearing on Fox News Sunday, replied:
“I’ve always admired and respected General Powell, we’re long time friends,” McCain said, appearing in Ohio. “This doesn’t come as a surprise but I’m also very pleased to have the endorsement of four secretaries of state, Secretaries Kissinger, Baker, Eagleburger and Haig, and I’m proud to have the endorsement of well over 200 retired generals and admirals. I respect and continue to admire Secretary Powell.”
Though Powell said he would not campaign for Obama, the endorsement – much sought after by both campaigns – of the man who many on both sides believe could have been the first black president, gives the Obama campaign a perfect rejoinder to Joe Lieberman’s endorsement of John McCain. As Brit Hume noted, appearing on Fox News Sunday after McCain, Powell helps reassure Independents who still might be worried about Obama’s foreign policy chops:
“I think it probably helps with Independents who regard Colin Powell as the essence of a citizen soldier, and as the model African American success story, as a man of moderate outlook and temperament,” Hume said. “His endorsement will probably help to solidify Independents who were a little concerned about Obama.”
Commentator sgwhiteinfla points out that Powell is much harsher in an impromptu press conference outside NBC’s offices.
And (for you, lp1), Powell called Obama a “transformational figure,” who has “a definite way of doing business that will serve us well.”
Here is a full transcript of the interview.