Have you heard the underwhelming news?
In his new memoir, Colin Powell concedes that the Iraq War was never debated – as it should have been – by the National Security Council.
“By then, the President did not think war could be avoided,” Powell writes [in It Worked for Me: In Life and Leadership]. “He had crossed the line in his own mind, even though the NSC [National Security Council] had never met–and never would meet–to discuss the decision.”
It might have worked for Secretary Powell, but it certainly didn’t work for thousands of dead Iraqi citizens.
Timing matters. What if Colin Powell had spoken up at the time? Or even after he was safely retired and out of office?
Yesterday, President Obama indicated his support for gay marriage. He talked about the evolution of his thought. I found it not completely dissimilar from my own. I, too, supported civil unions until I realized that they would force gay couples to fight state by state for their rights. To these African American ears, that sounded dispiritingly familiar. And what if gay couples moved from a state where civil unions were recognized to a state where they were illegal?
But when I was really honest, I had to squirm. I realized that I’d hoped the divisive issue would go away. That I wouldn’t have to speak up at church when people endorse a Prop 8 or fight against adding gay history to the curriculum – something that, if successful, would surely lay the groundwork for eliminating Chicano, African American and women’s history. (cf. , Arizona)
But I’m not a leader or politician.
President Obama may be addicted to a certain, self defeating calculus. Admiring folks like Ezra Pound because he was more “straightforward” than liberals. Squandering political capital in a vain, lopsided pursuit of bipartisanship early in his presidency. Abandoning friends and promoting opponents and foot draggers to make a point about what, exactly? I watched Pres. Obama capitulate again and again to people like Sen. Snowe who always abandoned him in the end, anyway.
This calculus makes people call him a phony. It calls his loyalties and judgment into question. Kanye West is a jackass, but the bankers who stole from us? Well, let’s turn the page and not be negative.
And again, timing matters. It matters a lot.
The president’s support for gay marriage is admirable but the obvious and cynical political calculus that accompanied it casts a long, tense shadow.
What a difference a day makes. 24 little hours, years, days, months.