Colin Powell backs Obama

October 19, 2008 12:00 am

, WASHINGTON, October 19 – Former secretary of state and military supremo Colin Powell Sunday endorsed Democrat Barack Obama’s White House bid, in a stinging rebuff to Republican candidate John McCain.

The former chairman of the joint chiefs of staff expressed deep disquiet over the rightward shift the Republican Party has taken under McCain and his running mate Sarah Palin — who he said was not ready to be president.

The Republican, on NBC program "Meet the Press," said Obama had "met the standard" to lead "because of his ability to inspire, because of the inclusive nature of his campaign, because he is reaching out all across America."

"I think he would be a transformational president. For that reason I will be voting for Senator Barack Obama," said Powell, who was the first African-American to occupy the top US military post.

Should the mixed-race Obama win on November 4, "all Americans should be proud, not just African-Americans," he added.

"It would not just electrify our country, it would electrify the world."

Powell said that both Obama and his old friend McCain were ready to be president.

"But I strongly believe that at this point in American history we need a president… who will not just continue basically the policies we have been following in the recent years," he said.

"I think we need a transformational figure, I think we need a generational change. That is why I’m supporting Senator Obama."

Speaking on Fox News, McCain said he had "always admired and respected General Powell."

"We’re long-time friends. This doesn’t come as a surprise," the Arizona senator said, while touting his endorsement by other former secretaries of state including Henry Kissinger, James Baker and Lawrence Eagleburger.

Powell again defended his role in the buildup to the Iraq invasion, insisting that he acted in good faith on the basis of intelligence evidence that, he felt, showed Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction.

He denied he was keen on returning to government in an Obama administration to help repair his political reputation.

Powell said he would have to be ready to serve if asked, "but I am in no way anxious to rule it in."

He had harsh words about the tone of McCain’s campaign and rising Islamophobia in Republican circles as smears purport to portray Obama as a secret Muslim.

"I have said to Mr McCain that I admire all he has done. I have some concerns about the direction the party has taken in recent years. It has moved more to the right than I would like to see it," he said.

McCain had gone "too far" with a negative advertising barrage over Obama’s ties to former 1960s radical William Ayers, Powell said.

He said the economic crisis engulfing the United States had made up his mind, along with McCain’s choice of Alaska Governor Palin as his vice presidential nominee.

"In the case of Mr McCain I found that he was a little unsure as to how to deal with the economic problems that we are having. Almost every day there was a different approach to the problem, and that concerned me," he said.

"I was also concerned at the selection of Governor Palin," he said. "I don’t believe she is ready to be president of the United States. And so that raised in my mind some question as to the judgment that Senator McCain made."

Powell said that Obama, in contrast, had come out of recent weeks looking presidential.

"He displayed a steadiness, an intellectual curiosity, a depth of knowledge and an approach to looking at (economic) problems like this, and picking a vice president (Joseph Biden) that I think is ready to be president on day one."


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