Was Powell Hoping For a Job When He Endorsed Obama?

The CNN National Security blog just posted an entry, “Who Might Serve in Obama’s Second Term?”  One of the candidates mentioned for Secretary of Defense was Colin Powell,

“Still an icon within the military ranks, he served as the first African-American chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff during the 1991 Gulf War. That’s where he gained much of his notoriety as the highest ranking member of the military and a strong presidential adviser. After retiring from the military, Powell focused on more social issues, starting America’s Promise which pushed for advancing children’s issues. Under President George W. Bush, he was the first African American secretary of state from 2001 to 2005. After the September 2001 attacks, Powell built an international coalition of countries to support the U.S. role in the war on terrorism. There is little doubt Powell would be a home-run pick because of his credentials and his ability to navigate the political and civilian-military demands of the top job. A question mark, however, is whether Powell’s role in making the case for invading Iraq – publicly backing evidence that was later discredited – would hobble his chances.”

Yes, but endorsing Obama for 2012 in what is now perceived as a close rate might overcome any “hobbling” from before. After all, Biden was powerfully instrumental in orchestrating the “consensus” to invade Iraq. That didn’t keep Obama from picking him as his Vice-President.

I’m sure Powell has convinced himself that what he does is for the good of the country. Most people who succeed in government have an amazing ability to believe that their personal fortunes and the fortunes of the country lie in the same direction. Anyone who entered politics without such a mentality would be at a psychological disadvantage.

But it is worth pointing out that, if you think Powell’s endorsement of Obama for re-election made no sense, here is an answer: He wants a high position.

Back in 2008, Powell endorsed Obama over McCain partially because, “he said that McCain’s ‘unsure’ response to the ongoing economic crisis and his selection of a running mate whom ‘I don’t believe is ready to be president of the United States’ disappointed him.” So now we have Ryan as the Veep and we’ve seen four years of transparently “unsure” responses to a still ongoing economic crisis. So Obama gets endorsed again?

Back in 2008, it was obvious that Powell hoped for a different foreign policy from Obama. But since the Obama Administration ignored the Powell doctrine to force regime change in Libya, it is hard to understand how he can still endorse the President.

But if Obama manages to get (I won’t say “win”) a second term, if Powell has a chance of being selected as Secretary of Defense, then his behavior is much easier to understand. And there would be no way to know whether or not someone relayed an offer to Powell in exchange for the promised of high office.

The lesson here is that just because a politician’s words or arguments make no sense, that doesn’t mean that their behavior makes no sense. If you investigate how they may benefit, their positions are often easy to understand.