The Tribal Menace of Colin Powell's Obama Endorsement

Did you hear? Colin Powell is racist. Maybe you heard that back in 2008, when it was a trope on right-wing blogs. But this week, Powell endorsed Barack Obama for president, even though logically there could be no reason to. So, if unreason it was, then it must've been race madness.

Well, Powell endorsed Obama again yesterday. This time, though, the charge of racism excuses itself with the vigor of tautology. In 2008, the endorsement might have been reasonable—hopey/changey stuff. But now we know that Obama has been a complete failure because the right wing says he has, and they say he has because he has been one. The logic is inescapable, so Powell can only be illogical. Race illogical. Connect the dots.

(There will be no links to the racial stuff, because there's no way those people deserve to be rewarded for simmering poison with ad revenue. If you're at all curious, Google "'Colin Powell' racist" and go nuts on your own time.)

If you actually watch Powell's interview on CBS This Morning, he outlines his support for Obama and distrust of Romney neatly and in terms with which it's difficult to quibble:

  • He believes Obamacare is flawed, but doesn't support repeal, because it will uninsure 30 million people. (He mentions, disparagingly, that we are one of the only developed nations without a UHC system, as he should.) Romney has said repeatedly that he will "repeal and replace Obamacare," but he has yet to offer a replacement plan, despite repeating this incantation for nearly a year. The closest he's come to a plan is letting individual states implement Obamacare, which, given unequal application of the law, makes a hash of one of the best things about Obamacare: making insurance portable across state lines.
  • He describes Romney's foreign policy as "a moving target," something very different in the last debate from the many things it has been on the campaign. As a former Secretary of State, it's reasonable for Powell to be wary of someone whose foreign policy routinely emerges as both everything and nothing.
  • Without going into details about the over $10 trillion that Romney will add to the nation's debt, nor the $5 trillion worth of revenue unaccounted for, he correctly mentions that Romney's budget plan calls for overwhelming tax cuts whose spending offsets haven't been accounted for.
  • He notes that Romney does not address climate change.
  • He incorrectly praises Obama for getting us out of a second war (only after drastically and unnecessarily escalating it) and for not getting us in any other wars—despite intervening in Libya, potentially intervening in Syria and maintaining ongoing drone activity in Yemen, Pakistan, Somalia and the Philippines.
  • There's a little more to his interview, but more detail isn't really necessary. The point is, these are all policy conclusions. (Even if the last ones are wrong ones, they have an undeniable appeal to a former general.) At no point can someone reasonably claim that these are the desperate ratiocinations of one soul brother speaking for another. His points of contention are broadly acknowledged by Democrats, independents and the rogue fact-toters of the American right. Romney's foreign policy is a weightless mess; his "I can't tell you any more about it!" budget makes no mathematical sense; he will boot people off a cost-reducing insurance plan and into the catastrophic economic risk of basic illness and even death. This stuff is about as racial as double-entry bookkeeping.

    Hell, more to the point, if there's anyone who has a right to get fed up and start calling things along racial lines, it's black Republicans. The overwhelmingly white footsoldiers in the Republican online community are never called out for their overwhelmingly white endorsements, despite four years of demonization of the first black president that's involved enough dog whistling to send all basset hounds in the continental United States staggering out into the street with their ears gushing blood. The most astonishing thing about Powell's interview is how unracial it is, when he has every justification to appear on television with a Free Huey shirt, a hand arthritically permanently flipping the bird and a goddamn AK-47.

    Imagine spending four years watching your alleged compatriots reduce the first president of color to a conspiracy-buoyed Kenyan, the product of anti-American "Dreams from His Father—a father who evidently couldn't stop lustily screwing white women, like that was just in his nature. Imagine watching fellow multicultural GOP luminary Dinesh D'Souza show up to the Kenyan Obamas homes with a bunch of goats as a present (wink!), as if he thought maybe bringing them "fire" would be too frightening. Imagine watching Republican officials across the country get in trouble for emailing each other racist jokes, pictures of a watermelon patch on the White House lawn, cracks about how escaped gorillas from the local zoo are just Michelle Obama's ancestors. Imagine looking at pictures of white Tea Party "patriots," Christian warriors and ass clowns from the "9/12 Project" depicting the president as a tribal shaman with a bone through his nose—when they're not making him a monkey or hanging him in effigy in the most profoundly terrifying iconography of white racial violence short of burning a cross in front of 1600 Pennyslvania Avenue.

    Imagine being called a RINO (Republican in Name Only) by these people, as the new true Republicanism calls for gutting the Fourteenth Amendment—which guaranteed African-Americans citizenship and equal protection—all just to do away with "birthright citizenship" and "affirmative action." Imagine watching the Alabama Secretary of State claim that citizens are "trapped" under the Voting Rights Act, when it ended the oppressive atrocity of Jim Crow. Imagine watching the new African-American hero to these people, the endlessly Hitler-namedropping Allen West, a disgrace to your uniform, who fired a pistol next to an Iraqi's head in a mock execution to elicit information he did not have. Imagine doing all this without throwing the fuck up.

    If Colin Powell is exercising any powerful tribal impulses, they're probably to shun the erstwhile peers who've unsubtly synonymized his skin color with odium and did the same to his name. Romney's foreign policy advisory team is a Who's Who of Bush era neoconservative trash (including the Freeper-stached John Bolton, who probably can't achieve climax unless the hooker is crying and he's listening to an iPod loop of a Palestinian child getting shot through the leg). These are the people who helped arm the dutiful soldier with Powerpoints gathered by top ten juiced up informants and filled with their top ten juiced up pictures. Powell made the Bush administration's case to the United Nations based on fraudulent documents they hoped his gravitas could sell to their critics. The same people who now massage and nurture every cheap innuendo about the president helped to make him an embarrassment before the entire world.

    Or it could just be that Obama's a black guy, and they all take care of their own.