The Popularity of Colin Powell Essay

The Popularity of Colin Powell Essay

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The Popularity of Colin Powell

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?"
The rapt audience carefully weighs the well-rehearsed answer, word by word.
"Thank you very, very much. And I'm very, very flattered. I'm honored and humbled. It's a question I receive regularly, and I don't know what I'm going to do with my life after my book is finished. The book is out this fall, and then I'll have to make some choices.
"I tell people that I'm not a professional politician. I was truly a soldier."
Another wave of applause washes over him.
"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 n...

... middle of paper ... 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.
And how could a nonparty President actually govern? It is likely both parties in Congress would be plenty angry with President Powell for having broken up their games. Would there be a proliferation of parties, turning American democracy into a version of Italy's fractured, shifting coalition style? Friends counter that Powell could form a bipartisan government of national reconciliation. But he has known many Third World coup leaders who say they have taken power to achieve national reconciliation.
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.

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