Timothy Wirth, a State Department undersecretary for Bill Clinton, was famous for placing a bowl of condoms in his office. Will Colin Powell carry on the august tradition?
Perhaps. Powell, appearing on MTV, told kids last week to purchase condoms and "protect yourself." Powell -- managing to carve out time during the war on terrorism to appear before Britney Spears fans -- dismissed moral objections to teen condom use: "It is important that the whole international community come together, speak candidly about it, forget about taboos, forget about conservative ideas with respect to what you should tell young people about."
"Forget about conservative ideas"? That in essence is Powell's position on most issues. He occupies the Joycelyn Elders chair of political correctness in the George Bush administration -- mouthing the PC line on everything from abortion to Fidel Castro ("He's done some good things for his people," says Powell) to homosexuals in the military.
Powell's endless, media-sponsored victory lap since the close of the Gulf War (which he failed to analyze wisely, objecting to its beginning and then urging its Saddam-shirking ending) is wearing thin. Can't somebody in the Bush administration stand up to him?
Does America really need its Secretary of State to weigh in on matters of sexual hygiene?
Powell seems to relish contradicting his colleagues in the Bush administration, and then feigning shock when the media draw a contrast between him and the rest of the administration.
The State Department now finds itself in a highly dignified debate with MTV over a fawning profile of Powell. "State Department rejects portions of MTV profile of Powell," said one headline. The kids at MTV got the crazy idea that Powell is more liberal than his Bush administration colleagues: "Before September 11, Powell was the lone voice for international cooperation in an administration with an America-first attitude," an unidentified MTV announcer was quoted in the accompanying story. "The terrorist attacks hit the reset button on American foreign policy, but Powell's call for caution and global teamwork are still at odds with the more aggressive Defense Department."
The State Department "had a discourse with MTV" to correct this impression, according to Philip Reeker, a State Department official. But what can we do? said Reeker. "MTV and the program are independent journalists, who are free to express their opinions."
Who knows what MTV will misinterpret next? MTV watchers might even wildly conclude from Powell's pro-condom remarks that the secretary of state approves of teen sex.
George Neumayr is frequent contributor to the California Political Review and a recent media fellow at the Hoover Institution.
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