Jewish World Review April 29, 2004 /8 Iyar 5764

Clarence Page

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A surprise running mate for Kerry: Calling Colin Powell


http://www.NewsAndOpinion.com | Who will be Sen. John Kerry's running mate? Speculation runs rampant these days. I have a suggestion: Colin Powell.

Yes, I know Powell is a Republican. But judging by Kerry's buddy-buddy relationship with Sen. John McCain, the Arizona Republican, Kerry seems like an equal-opportunity employer.

McCain fed speculation that he might get Kerry's vice presidential nod back on March 10 by saying, "Obviously, I would entertain it." McCain said this with a twinkle in his eye, as if he enjoyed giving paroxysms to Team Bush after the hard time they gave him in the 2000 presidential primaries.

But more recently he has backed off the Kerry speculation. "No, no and no," he said on NBC's "Meet the Press" on April 11. "I'm a Republican," he declared, endorsing Bush's re-election.

Nevertheless, as Republicans go, McCain sometimes has been a more effective surrogate for his fellow Vietnam veteran than Kerry's own spin doctors have been. McCain has often criticized Bush policies and actually called Kerry his "friend" in public, which is anathema to many in the GOP's conservative wing.

Last Sunday, McCain was asked on CBS' "Face the Nation" about a fellow Republican who called Kerry "Hanoi John" for Kerry's anti-war activities three decade ago. McCain, who served time in the "Hanoi Hilton" as a prisoner of war, said, "I'd like to see us put the war that was over more than 30 years ago behind us."

Both Bush and Kerry served honorably, McCain said, and "I wish we could move forward and face the challenges that lie ahead of us."

Well said.

And now is the time for Kerry to reach out to swing and undecided voters. Too few know who he is. To seize the public's imagination, Kerry needs bold gestures that distinguish him not only from Bush but also from the loony-liberal, "flip-flopper" image with which Team Bush is trying to smear him.

And Kerry has to do it while running against an incumbent who, thanks to his mighty pulpit, can't scratch his head without igniting a firing squad of news cameras.

Which is why I say that if Kerry likes John McCain he should love Colin Powell.

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Kerry choosing Powell could be the biggest blockbuster running mate decision since Republican Abraham Lincoln picked Andrew Johnson, a pro-states' rights Democrat, in 1864.

Like McCain, Powell is a Vietnam veteran with strong national-security credentials and a famously independent streak, a quality that appeals to independent voters.

Plus he brings a bonus to the table: He is one of America's most respected people in the polls, across political lines. Liberals in Kerry's own party might go into cardiac arrest with McCain on the ticket, but fewer would do so with Powell.

On the hot-button wedge issues, for example, Powell is an outspoken supporter of affirmative action who also leans in favor of abortion rights and gun control. Members of his own party have accused him of being a Democrat in disguise. As the old saying goes, the dubious joy of navigating the middle of the road is that you get hit from both sides.

Of course, Powell as Kerry's running mate would require the cooperation of Colin Powell. And he might go for it, provided Kerry makes a simple offer: In a Kerry administration, Powell would be able to do what he wanted to do under Bush. "Think of it, Colin," Kerry could say. "This time you can actually be consulted and get your agenda done without [Vice President Dick] Cheney or [Defense Secretary Donald] Rumsfeld or any of the rest of their unilateralist cronies getting in your way."

By all accounts, the notion might be one that Powell, like McCain, would be willing to "entertain." In Bob Woodward's new book, "Plan of Attack," Powell comes off as a very reluctant warrior who supported Bush's war in Iraq in spite of misgivings about the wisdom of the conflict and the chaotic violence with Shiites and Sunnis that has followed.

To do it, Powell had to cast aside his famous "Powell Doctrine," which calls for clear goals, overwhelming military force and a clearly stated exit strategy. Thus the leading voice for the lessons that we all should have learned in Vietnam was muzzled.

So maybe Powell might like the idea of actually being listened to. Bush is reported to have asked Powell to be his running mate in 2000, but Powell turned him down. He preferred secretary of state. Maybe he would settle for a Cabinet post if Kerry offered it, but let that be Powell's decision.

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Up

04/22/04: Did loyalty finally trip up Colin Powell?
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