Colin Powell has long presented himself to the world as a figure of singular probity, too morally unimpeachable for the grimy world of elective politics. His fawning admirers in the chattering class have fostered this fiction for years. Before this week’s story over his hacked -mails, they politely averted their gaze from a similar hack in 2013, which exposed an “e-affair” Powell had with the Romanian diplomat and politician Corina Cretu.
The story, ignored by the mainstream media, was relegated to the pages of the New York Post, which skeptically reported Powell’s denial of adultery with Cretu along with the “steamy” emails he exchanged with her. Powell described the relationship as merely “electronic” but the jilted Cretu’s e-mails undermined his denial. “Sip aglass of wine with me, as youused to tell me -advising me to lie neck [naked] on tha sofa.. Iamsorry,weare completely deplorable as we don’t assume what we had together,” Cretu wrote to Powell in one e-mail. Powell, not wanting to be thrown into that basket of deplorables, would only concede that Cretu had sent him some “bathing suit photos” but nothing “improper.”
Curiously, in this week’s reported batch of hacked e-mails written by Powell, he revealed that he is a careful reader of the New York Post. He cites the Post as his reference for believing Bill Clinton to be “still d–king bimbos at home.” He gave that as one of his reasons for hesitating in his support for Hillary. Evidently for Powell not all bimbo eruptions in the pages of the Post are equal.
Much of the media, still protecting Powell, made sure to leave that line about Bill Clinton out of its coverage. On Wednesday afternoon, CNN selectively highlighted the anti-Trump e-mails, running a near-constant headline to the effect that Powell had called Trump a “disgrace” and an “international pariah.” There was no news scrawl for Powell’s references to Hillary’s “greed,” “unbridled ambition,” or lack of vision. There was no news scrawl announcing that he called her “sleazy” and said that “hubris” marks “everything” she touches.
In one e-mail, which captures the comic rivalries and resentments of fellow members of the ruling class, Powell complains that Hillary’s greed had deprived him of a similarly fat speaking fee at a university she fleeced. “She so overcharged them they came under heat and couldn’t [pay] any fees for a while,” he wrote. “I should send her a bill.”
On Thursday, Hillary was asked to comment on Powell’s e-mails. She declined, saying that she didn’t want to discuss the contents of private exchanges. Never mind that she released her own private e-mail exchanges with Powell last year.
Powell’s disdain for Trump is the least newsworthy element of the story. That disdain was already well known. But his cattiness toward the Clintons is news. Powell even confirms in the e-mails that the Clintons hate Obama and that the Clintons refer to Obama as “that man.” But the news media isn’t interested in news; it is interested in Hillary winning. So commentators purred over Powell as an important barometer of what the “international” community is thinking. In reality, his claim that Trump is an “international pariah” simply reflects the insular views of the narrow circle of liberal jet-setters in which Powell travels.
Judging by the hacked e-mails, it appears that Powell’s on-the-ground reporting comes largely from the Bohemian Grove. In that elite echo chamber, as he related to a friend, Powell made the discovery that “Grove attendees know that Trump is a disaster.” How surprising.
On the White House tapes, by the way, Richard Nixon didn’t hold that secret society of movers and shakers in the same high regard. He called it the “most faggy goddamn thing you can ever imagine.” But then Nixon had a Trumpian streak in him.
One would think these emails — in which Powell calls the Cheneys “idiots” and allows himself other moments of sophomoric invective and vulgarity — might dim his star as an above-the-fray luminary. But it probably won’t. The myth of his puffed-chest probity is too valuable for reporters to give up on. Should Trump win, they will call upon him to offer his pained assessment of the country’s decline “in the eyes of the world” and so on. He will once again be treated as the “adult in the room.” Yet as the hacked e-mails show, he is just as low and pathetic as anyone else in politics. The “adult in the room” turns out to be an entitled fraud at his keyboard, regaling fellow members of the ruling class about his “mini-tantrum” at a Hamptons party and the like while gossiping about bimbos and lost speaking fees.