Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Two Words: Colin Powell

Could last weekend have gone any better for Sen. Barack Obama?

In the cosmic Obama love-fest that was the past 3 days, the senator emerged as the most prosperous, storied, and prestigious candidate in modern American political history (in the eyes of this blogger, at least).

For some, the past few days must seem like a storybook political dream. For others, the recent events must seem like something out of the winners playbook of the moguls. In arenas of power - corporate, political, hip hop, or organized crime - the goals are clear.

Say it with me, y'all: "First you get the money. Then you get the power. Then you get the respect."

The Money -

Recent days brought the announcement of his record-breaking one-month fund raising achievement - $150 million dollars in September alone. In St. Louis, he broke another record when a crowd of 100,000 - the largest ever to hear the Presidential hopeful in the U.S. Later the same day, 75,000 folks met him in Kansas City.

The Power -

And then there were the endorsements. The Chicago Tribune and the Los Angeles Times both officially backed Barack Obama - releasing word on Friday and publishing their endorsements in Sunday papers. At first glance, that may not seem like such a huge deal. After all, both papers are owned by the Tribune Company.

But glance again.

The Tribune Company has a right-wing reputation that led to an outcry when that company acquired the Los Angeles Times (the ruckus never truly quieted). And the Chicago Tribune's editorial board has been called the nation's most conservative. The paper's run for 16 decades, but this is the first it has ever backed a Democratic Presidential candidate. The Los Angeles Times had been on a kind of endorsement hiatus that began after 1972. And at 127 years old, this is the first time that paper has backed a Democrat.

Those events made a splash in the news world. But what happened next was something like a tidal wave.

The Respect -

It was storybook plot twist Shonda Rhimes might have written.

On Sunday morning, Senator Obama met a crowd in Fayetteville, N.C. He was just miles Fort Bragg - home of the 82nd Airborne Division and an American Military stronghold - when he gratefully acknowledged the endorsement of Retired Gen. Colin Powell.


Powell is the most respected military figure in public American life. He was the first black Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the first black Secretary of State, serving in the administrations of four consecutive Presidents.

Lot's of folks thought he'd be the first African-American president.

And while some Republicans and pundits tried to play down the moment, which hit the international press with monumental force, the meaning was clear. Gen. Powell's endorsement dealt a body blow to their campaign.

And it couldn't have come at a worse time for McCain.

During the same weekend, The New York times ran unflattering stories about Cindy McCain's history and John McCain's health. His allies called for an end to the anti-Obama robo-calls he's launched across the country. Sure, his VP candidate's appearance on SNL brought show's highest ratings ever. But the show largely mocked Palin and didn't necessarily raise her profile.

Certainly, a mere endorsement may have been one thing. But Gen. Powell's surgical deconstruction of the flaws of McCain's sense of ethics and discipline rang with the indignation of a man with infallible integrity.

Say what you will of Powell - he's proved again and again that he won't be owned. This is the man who walked off the Bush Administration and told the truth about it. This is the same man who turned his back on an opportunity to make history in a bid for the presidency.

This is a man who stated, frankly, that a man he's known for 25 years couldn't measure up to a man he's know for two. Despite military service. Despite longstanding political acquaintance.

The moment read like a symbolic crowning from one of America's most venerated and regal figures. Gen. Powell's selection truly marked Obama as the chosen one.

Few would doubt that Sen. Obama's handled himself well and run a highly disciplined campaign. He's raised a great deal of money and garnered a great deal of powerful partnerships and endorsements. And he's worked hard to earn America's respect.

But Powell's endorsement likely gained him an edge he couldn't possibly have picked up otherwise.

My own perspective? With the election just days away, the Colin Powell moment was decisive.

Powell may as well have given Obama the keys to the White House.

Kai Wright
said it best days before Powell's endorsement: Obama can start measuring the drapes.

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