Son blocked: The Chris Buckley and Colin Powell Show
What can you do with a general?
When he stops being a general?
Oh what can you do with a general who retires?
Who’s got a job for a general?
When he stops being a general?
— As sung by Bing Crosby in the movie White Christmas
Here you have a certifiable American hero, a retired general and Secretary of State, suddenly surfacing out of the blue funk of his political twilight. His reason? To pronounce a man who has barely sat still in the United States Senate for 100-some odd days since leaving the Illinois State Senate as qualified to be president of the United States. Because he has, well, style. And oh yes, PS, he’s got substance too. Oh and, by the way, the General has decided the Supreme Court doesn’t need any more conservatives. Oh…oh..oh…one other thing. This Governor Sarah Palin from Alaska? The General doesn’t “believe she’s ready to be President of the United States.”
What does Colin Powell’s abrupt appearance on Meet the Press with Tom Brokaw — who, like Powell, is nominally retired — really mean?
The Internet Movie Data Base describes the plot of 1954’s White Christmas (which starred Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye, Rosemary Clooney, Vera Ellen and Dean Jagger) thusly: “A successful song-and-dance team become romantically involved with a sister act and team up to save the failing Vermont inn of their former commanding general.”
The film sprang to mind watching the retired General Powell as he lived out the role played to perfection by actor Dean Jagger. Jagger was the embodiment of the still crisp yet slightly befuddled retired Major General Thomas F. Waverly, known throughout the film simply as “General Waverly” or “the General.” Playing the role of Bing Crosby on Sunday was Tom Brokaw. Crosby’s self-assigned task was not only to save the General’s investment in the failing Vermont inn Waverly now owns and runs in his retirement but restore Waverly’s self-respect and sense of relevance after his bid to return to active duty is politely turned down by the Pentagon. Crosby accomplishes this by going on the national television show of buddy “Ed Harrison” (a fictionalized Ed Sullivan) and making an appeal to all of General Waverly’s one-time troops to rally at the inn for Christmas. Of course, they do, surprising the General and providing a two-hanky happy ending with Bing crooning his famous Christmas song as the snow falls.
In Powell’s case, he retreated to his retirement after being politely declined a second term as Secretary of State by President Bush. One of the reasons for Bush’s lack of enthusiasm at a continued Powell tenure was surely Powell’s well-known reputation in Washington as the consummate Inside-the-Beltway game player and leaker extraordinaire to Powell’s equivalent of General Waverly’s troops — the mainstream media. His conduct, which essentially telegraphed to the President that Powell’s main loyalty was not to the President but to his own image, was vividly imprinted on the national consciousness in the fall out of the so-called CIA leak case involving CIA operative Valerie Plame and her egomaniacal Bush-hating husband, Ambassador Joe Wilson. While the media scrambled to pin the origin of the leak on everyone from Vice President Cheney to Karl Rove to Cheney aide Lewis “Scooter” Libby (who was in fact, incongruously, prosecuted), Powell sat on the news that the source of this “leak” was in fact his own deputy, Richard Armitage. Instead of immediately stepping up to the plate and walking into the State Department press room to confess that it was Armitage, not Libby or anyone else, who had leaked this story to columnist Robert Novak, Powell simply stayed quiet, apparently to protect his reputation. Said nothing. Did nothing. While all around him the administration and the lives and reputations of others were being upended with wildly untrue accusations — accusations that Powell knew were untrue — he never said a word.
FAILING VERMONT INNS in Washington come in the form of irrelevance to the media. If one lives one’s life by this kind of standard, retirement from public office means a forced and unwelcome retreat from Washington relevance. A powerhouse today, literally running the world or starring in the media’s lead stories, irrelevant tomorrow. You become some version of Al Gore’s standard speech opening since his involuntary political retirement in 2000: “I’m Al Gore. I used to be the future president of the United States.”
In Powell ‘s case, the question as to whether this played any role in his sudden seat before Brokaw’s Meet the Press cameras can be answered quite simply with a single question. Who, besides the media and Obama, really cares whether Colin Powell endorses Obama — or for that matter — John McCain? Answer? No one. Not a single state will go this way or that because of Colin Powell. The hard truth for Powell is just as tough as the fictional General Waverly’s answer from one of his own Pentagon pals when he tried to un-retire and proclaimed himself “holding out for a command.” Um…sorry. We love you, General. But, well, no deal. Have a good time at the Inn.
So Bing Crosby Brokaw swings into action and presto — for the purpose of endorsing Barack Obama Colin Powell swings open the door of his personal Washington version of the Vermont inn to bathe in the lights one more time as ole Bing.,.uh, Tom…and the boys at NBC and the rest of the media come to attention. “The troops are ready for inspection,” says Bing in the line Tom translates roughly as “Our guest this Sunday morning is retired general and Bush Secretary of State Colin Powell….” And suddenly, on every television and front page in America you can almost hear the refrain just as Bing and the cast of Waverly’s former troops softly sang of their devotion:
We’ll follow the old man wherever he wants to go
Long as he wants to go opposite to the foe
We’ll stay with the old man wherever he wants to stay
Long as he stays away from the battle’s fray
Because we love him, we love him
Especially when he keeps us on the ball
And we’ll tell the kiddies we answered duty’s call
With the grandest son of a soldier of them all
BUT GENERAL Waverly…uh…General Powell’s Obama endorsement is not the only story of the last few days.
A man of faith in a godless age is hitting Americans where it hurts.
Mr. and Mrs. American Spectator Reader, let P.J. O’Rourke talk sense to your kids.
In Britain, defending your property can get you life.
It won’t take long for conservatives to scratch this presidential wannabe off their 2008 scorecard.
Was the President done in by the economy, or by the politics of the economy?