I [have] come to the conclusion that because of his ability to inspire, because of the inclusive nature of his campaign, because he is reaching out all across America, because of who he is and his rhetorical abilities--and we have to take that into account--as well as his substance--he has both style and substance--he has met the standard of being a successful president, being an exceptional president. I think he is a transformational figure. He is a new generation coming into the world--onto the world stage, onto the American stage, and for that reason I'll be voting for Senator Barack Obama. [Emphasis added.]
There is a lot to like about the reasons Powell gave to justify his endorsement of Sen. Obama, but the one that stands out is the one I emphasized above, because Obama's soaring rhetoric has been used by his detractors as a liability. Obama's opponents have portrayed him as an empty shell, a "rock star" politician, a person who thinks of himself as a messiah. The worst elements of the Evangelican and Conservative fringe have even drawn comparison between his rhetoric and Hitler's (thus earning a permanent place in rhetoric's Hall of Shame.)
Powell is saying, correctly, that style enhances Obama's substance. The ability to inspire is a useful complement, one might say an essential one, in a good politician. Good ideas, without the ability to inspire support for them, are doomed to fail. Crafting excellent solutions, without the capacity to convince others to implement them, makes their implementation unlikely. Oratory alone does not prove a candidate's ability to lead. But that is not the argument Powell makes for Obama, whom he credits with having "both style and substance."
Gen. Powell also gave a scathing indictment of the negative tactics of the McCain campaign, of McCain's judgment in his pick of Sarah Palin as his running mate, of the direction the Republican party has taken, tacking further to the right.
Other concerns expressed by Gen. Powell include McCain's incomplete grasp of the economic problems the country faces, McCain's duplicity about the Ayers-Obama connection (if McCain thinks Ayers is a washed up terrorist, why focus so much of his campaign on it, and why employ the disgusting robo-calls that McCain was a victim of in 2000?), the danger of two more conservative appointments to the Supreme Court (this coming from a man who says that he is still a Republican), the distressing use of the "Obama is a Muslim" falsehood, embraced by senior members of the Republican party, to taint his character by association ("But the really right answer is, what if he is?", said Powell. "Is there something wrong with being a Muslim in this country? The answer's no, that's not America.")
McCain's supporters who would be quick to dismiss Powell's endorsement, should consider a few examples of what their candidate said in the past of Colin Powell:
McCain's high opinion of Powell as one of the "most credible, most respected" men in America is not merely an election-year spasm, either. When asked in 2001 if he would have chosen Powell for a Cabinet position had he succeeded in his first presidential run, McCain said "oh, yes." During two December 2000 appearances on NBC Nightly News, McCain described himself as "exuberant" over Powell's selection as secretary of state, which he predicted would secure "a beneficial effect on the conduct of American foreign policy."
You should watch the clip of Gen. Powell's endorsement of Obama below, and share it with convinced and unconvinced friends and family alike.
Also, Zbigniew Brzezinski comments on Powell's endorsement, calling it a comprehensive indictment of the McCain/Palin ticket.