One of the things that makes America great is our history of transformative, undeniable leaders in the 20th Century. Former Four Star General, and Secretary of State Colin Powell is one such man. He is an American hero, a humanitarian, and dare I say the seismic shift that the Republican Party sorely needs if its interests now, or has ever been about the best standard of living for the American people. This country needs a future President whose primary focus is altruistic and not narcissistic. Because after all Leaders of people, and nations should be of the people, in the trenches.
ICON MANN is non-partisan. We are observers with singularity on magnificent Blackness. The kind of Blackness shaped by society, for worse and better, that has informed the global image of Black men. In canvasing the overall members of the GOP, Mr. Powell is hands down the answer, just as he has been since 1995’s Presidential season when Time Magazine asked the question, ‘Will He Run?!’ I don’t know about you, but if you do lean to the Right in a significant way, maybe it is time to write in COLIN POWELL FOR PRESIDENT.
THE COLIN POWELL FACTOR
TIME Magazine By John F. Stacks Monday, July 10, 1995
Everywhere he goes, Colin Powell is besieged. Bicycle messengers in spandex tights stop him on the streets of Washington and urge him to run for President. Waiters at restaurants advise the retired general to aim for the White House. CEOs quietly pledge money should Powell decide to run. Political operatives of both parties would like to ignore Powell-but can't. "I don't think about it a lot," claims a senior White House official, before admitting, "If Powell does run, he will be a significant player." Another in the White House is more fatalistic: "If he runs, we're dead." Says William Lacy, Bob Dole's top strategist: "If he jumped in the race today, he would be the principal competitor for us."
Everywhere he goes, Colin Powell is applauded. In the hall in San Diego where the Republican Party will nominate its presidential candidate about a year from now, the crowd is instantly on its feet as his presence is announced and he bounds down to the podium. He speaks for 50 minutes, without notes, taking the crowd through the cold war, through Korea, Vietnam, the fall of the Berlin Wall, Operation Desert Storm and the occupation of Haiti. Powell, 58, tells moving tales of his upbringing in Harlem and the South Bronx, of sitting in the Hall of St. Catherine in the Kremlin, where he heard Gorbachev declare that the cold war was over. And when Powell has delivered his set speech, the inevitable question rises from the floor: "When are you going to announce that you're running for President?"
"Even after working two years in the West Wing, there isn't a single one of my White House friends from those days who could tell you today whether they think I'm a Republican or a Democrat. That was part of the code I lived with. Now I'm no longer protected by my uniform. As I go around the country, I'm trying to develop a political philosophy, just to be a good citizen, not necessarily to run for office.
No man in modern American political history has ever had a better chance to become President of the U.S. on his own terms, and thus to redefine the public debate in a profound and lasting way. At the same time, no man with such an advantage has seemed less driven to seize the opportunity.
What exactly lies at its root? Why does nearly everyone who has worked with him sing his praises? Why is his reputation in the cynical, self-aggrandizing world of Washington nearly without blemish? "I'm sure he has faults," says Charles Duncan, a former Secretary of Energy, who worked with Powell in the Carter Administration, "but I couldn't point to one." Some associates have seen Powell as thin-skinned in the past, but they say he monitors his flaws carefully and is quickly "self-correcting."
Military figures often carry an intrinsic appeal as tough, decisive leaders, and Powell starts with that quality. He advanced rapidly inside the Army, was the youngest Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and got huge credit for his organization of Desert Storm. But his appeal overflows the confines of the armed services.
His performance in public is superb. Gerald Ford, who even as President never had such bearing, calls Powell "the best public speaker in America." In many recent speeches, Powell has taken his audience with him into Buckingham Palace as he received his honorary knighthood from Queen Elizabeth in a way that makes him seem like a regular guy but also reminds people of how much he has accomplished. In San Diego in early June, he had the audience laughing at the little indignities he suffers now that the full power and glory of being Chairman of the Joint Chiefs is no longer his. He tells them he can't get his wife Alma to make him lunch and says, "One of the saddest figures in all Christendom is the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, once removed, driving around with a baseball cap pulled over his eyes, making his strategic choice as to whether it's going to be McDonald's or Taco Bell."
The personal story of Colin Powell is exemplary. Born in Harlem and raised in the South Bronx, he grew up in a solid and supportive family, worked hard to move up (although not so hard in college, getting only average grades) and succeeded mostly despite his race but sometimes because of it. The Powell success story is reassuring to those Americans who want to believe that although racism persists, the system is not so corrupted by it as to prevent talented minorities from succeeding.
Powell plays to that emotion in his speeches, talking unselfconsciously about race. "How did I deal with racism?" he asked rhetorically at a speech in San Antonio, Texas. "I beat it. I said, 'I am not going to carry this burden of racism. I'm going to destroy your stereotype. I'm proud to be black. You carry this burden of racism, because I'm not going to.'" He seems to be aware of the peculiar advantages of his race. In 1972, when he was plucked from a successful but still obscure career to become a White House Fellow, he remarked with knowing irony to a friend, "I was lucky to be born black."
His race also gives Powell license to recognize and even joke about the ethnic differences in America in the face of both tiresome political correctness and simmering racial hatred.
…in the scores of speeches he has given since his retirement as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, the message he has crafted is a brilliantly balanced mix of conservative values and a somewhat liberal view of the proper role of government.
His most powerful theme has been the importance of family, of America as a big national family, and of reconciliation among warring forces abroad and hostile groups at home. He repeatedly tells the story of a young African-American soldier being interviewed just before going into battle in Kuwait. The soldier was asked whether he was afraid. "He said," Powell relates proudly, "'I am not afraid. And the reason I'm not afraid is that I'm with my family.' He looked over his shoulder at the other youngsters in his unit. They were white and black and yellow and every color of the American mosaic. 'That's my family. We take care of one another.'"
Powell leads toward his larger point: "If we can build a spirit of family into the heart of an 18-year-old black private, send him 8,000 miles away from home, join hundreds of similar teams and have them believe that, can there be any question in your mind or in your heart that we have the capacity as a nation to instill that same sense of family, and all it entails, in every workplace, in every community, in every school, in every home back here in America?"
He draws the contrast between his message and that of other politicians. "There's a lot of shouting and screaming going on in our political system. But we have to keep our lives on certain fundamental principles, and one of those is that America is a family ... We've got to start remembering that no member of our family should be satisfied if any member of our American family is suffering or in need and we can do something about it.
"We've got to teach our youngsters what a family means, what giving to your community means, what raising good children means. We've got to restore a sense of shame to our society. Nothing seems to shame us or outrage us anymore. We look at our television sets and see all kinds of trash, and we allow it to come into our homes. We're not ashamed of it anymore." But just how, either as candidate or President, he would bring about such results he doesn't say. Powell carries a basic set of old- fashioned, conservative social values -- he is against sending women into combat, and fought against letting gays serve openly in the military. But he is adding specific and fairly centrist views on other hot-button issues. He is basically pro-choice, against the proposed flag-burning amendment and a supporter of Medicare, which helped him care for both his parents in their final years. On affirmative action he makes a nuanced distinction. While he is against programs that give advantages to people who no longer need them, he supports programs that recognize that "racism has been unfortunately an ingrained part of our society for a couple of hundred years."
Unlike politicians with long and detailed records, Powell has not had to vote yes or no, not had to enunciate positions in sufficient detail to stand up to real scrutiny and tough debate.
Yet the details of his positions may be less decisive than the overall presence he projects. Says Democratic pollster Peter Hart: "Voting for a legislator, we say, 'I've got problems with him on this or that issue.' But voting for a President, we say, 'What kind of a leader will this person be? Do I trust this person? Does he have the toughness to govern?'"
In other words, does he have the force of will to propel himself into the main arena of national politics and the steeliness to be a good President?
How can Powell enter the presidential race?
The current dynamic of two-party politics in America has forced candidates for both the Republican and the Democratic nominations to play heavily to their core constituencies, which are, respectively, more conservative and more liberal than the electorate at large.
The pull of the more activist wings of each party has left both parties incapable of finding and holding the political center.
Perhaps the more plausible route to a Powell presidency would be through an independent candidacy, running right in the middle of the American ideological spectrum, without the taint of party politics, as a military leader with his own ideas and with a government of national reconciliation composed of talented people from both parties.
If Powell ran as a genuine independent, he would not receive federal campaign funds and would thus have to raise tens of millions of dollars to compete evenly with the major-party nominees.
Will he then roll the dice? … His reluctance is deep and his indecision is real. He is flattered by the attention and not unaware of the role a black candidate-and a black President-could play in America. But he does not feel compelled to run either as a role model for African Americans or to demonstrate to whites that blacks can make good leaders.
The core of the problem for Colin Powell is that no matter which course his candidacy would take, either as a Republican-challenging the party's titular leaders and current front runner-or as an independent, the very act of his running would disrupt the settled pattern of American politics.
Intellectually, Powell can argue both the positive and negative aspects of such disruption.… A true centrist could form a governing coalition that could bring stability and end the "channel surfing" that has marked recent elections. A strong leader elected largely on his own terms, without obligations to interest groups, could define a new course for America, at home and abroad, for the next generation.
On the other hand, a Powell candidacy could finish off the staggering Democratic Party. As either a Republican nominee or an independent candidate, he would attract a substantial number of black votes taking away the most reliable core of the party's electoral support and vacuuming up votes Clinton needs if he is to win in 1996.
Powell, by his own admission, has always been a supremely cautious calculator of risks and rewards. He succeeded as a political general by knowing where the boundaries were, knowing what was possible and what was not. There is nothing in the life of Colin Powell to suggest he would be the man to toss a grenade into the entrenched positions of American politics. On the other hand, Powell has bounded up the career ladder two and three steps at a time. He is a very determined man.
Meanwhile, he is thinking, calculating, weighing his choices. And he's talking to Alma.
--Reported by Laurence I. Barrett, Jeffrey H. Birnbaum, J.F.O. McAllister and Mark Thompson/Washington