January 08, 2004

Colin Powell

Why Thomas Jefferson is one of Colin Powell's heroes:

Interview by Peter Slevin of The Washington Post: ...the reason I like Jefferson is Jefferson has a great line in the first inaugural which I've used with many individuals, and Richard's heard me use it many times, and as he gets to the end of the first inaugural, which is a great statement of American values, he said something along the lines, "I go now to the task that you have put before me, in the certain knowledge that I will come out of it diminished."... And he said -- and I'm paraphrasing because I don't have it in front of me, but the great line in it he says -- and I may be repeating myself just a little bit but you can look it up -- he said, "I go now to the task that you have put before me, until you realize that it is in your power to make a better choice."

In other words, you picked me. I'm going to get beat up. I'm going to get diminished by this. I'm going to get criticized. Those who don't know everything I know or cannot see as much as I can see will criticize me constantly. And -- but that's what I have to do. I go to serve until you realize it is in your power to make a better choice. And so I take the consequences of service, and I will do it to the best of my ability for as long as I'm asked to do it.

Posted by DeLong at January 8, 2004 08:16 PM | TrackBack


Pretty ironic, but I still think it would have been funnier if he'd chosen George "I cannot tell a lie" Washington.

Posted by: dsquared on January 9, 2004 12:33 AM


"I go to serve until you realize it is in your power to make a better choice."

Lots of people all over the world hope that Americans realize it is in their power to make a better choice, come Movember.

Why o why don't you have better democratic candidates (CCCCCCCLXXXIV)?

Posted by: gerhard on January 9, 2004 01:33 AM


Given that the US President has a bigger influence on the lives of all of us around the world than our own heads of governments, should not the entire world have a vote in the US Pres elections?

Posted by: world citizen on January 9, 2004 03:33 AM


'ow 'bout start contributing here?

And don't get carried away: If you get to vote for US President, then s/he becomes your President, and then, for example, you can be prosecuted on charges of "withholding vital info from President of US"! So be careful about what you ask for! Just follow the logic "if they got a string on us, we got a string on them"!


Posted by: bulent on January 9, 2004 03:45 AM


"should not the entire world have a vote in the US Pres elections?"

If you're willing to pay taxes to the U.S., then we can discuss...

Posted by: Andrew Boucher on January 9, 2004 04:03 AM


Powell's choice seems a fairly recent one, dictated by events. I say that because he twists Jefferson's quite to put words in Jefferson's mouth: "Those who don't know everthing I know or cannot see as much as I can see will criticize me constantly." No, no. That's Powell speaking, not Jefferson, trying to make Jefferson's words cover what Powell sees as his situation.

Powell has made terrible choices, and he is diminished by them. Not, or at least not only, in the way Jefferson seems to mean - I'll be tired when I'm through - but in the sense that Powell now runs around excusing his own lies by saying he sees things we don't see. The record is the other way around. He pretends to see things that aren't there, pretends to know things that aren't true, to justify a policy that is awfully hard to justify merely on the facts.

Powell could have gone out big. He is well on his way to going out small. Hubris and all that, I guess.

Posted by: K Harris on January 9, 2004 04:25 AM


"...If you're willing to pay taxes to the U.S., then we can discuss..."

.. and maybe join the army too! Hah!

Posted by: bulent on January 9, 2004 05:13 AM


"Powell could have gone out big. He is well on his way to going out small. Hubris and all that, I guess."

Powel going out? Hmm. I do recall words attributed to him saying things like he would not be Secretary of State during a second Bush adm. I am not curious about his replacement at this point, however.

Posted by: bulent on January 9, 2004 05:28 AM


Andrew Boucher,

Direct taxes are lower in the USA than in most of the EU. And since on the whole we have a lower rent, our bit would be even lower than now. Oh, and we would vote for universal health insurance...

as of now the US Army is voluntary, to be sure Turks would probably be very welcome there, and I think they would love the pay, at some 15000 dollars an year (IIRC) it is low pay in the USA but in Turkey it would be rather nice.


Posted by: Antoni Jaume on January 9, 2004 05:49 AM


Powell was, is, and forever shall be a faithful servant of the GOP. He will occasionally utter truths, or admit that his personal politics differ, but he will, in the end, do what they bid. He will trade his name for their power and money.

His choice.

Posted by: Barry on January 9, 2004 06:46 AM


What K Harris said. "Diminished"? By continuing to lie about the set of Iraqi lies, by continuing to defend his UN speech, Powell is utterly, completely discredited. His reputation will be that of a puppet for Bush, or as a willful liar who cannot bring himself to admit evidence about no WMDs that is now crystal clear to everyone. maybe he thinks this is what a good soldier does. As others have said, a resignation on principle would have helped--but he has no principles left.


Posted by: charles on January 9, 2004 06:54 AM


world citizen
What a preposterously great idea!! And what a great antidote for those sad participation rates too! And who knows, maybe a little broadening of the hopelessly narrow political spectrum as well.

Posted by: calmo on January 9, 2004 07:30 AM


Andrew Boucher -- why should people have to pay taxes here to vote? The dominant political force in the US is people who don't want to pay taxes.

Posted by: Zizka on January 9, 2004 08:55 AM


Powell is a pathetic lying whore right along with the rest of his ilk. Only media retardates can see he who spun the My Lai Massacre as some wort of countervailing "moderate." A man of principle would have stepped down long ago -- or, rather, would never have made it that far in the first place. Future histories will see him on par with Erlichman & Haldeman, who no doubt also professed Jeffersonian scruples. One might argue that Bush is too stupid to know what he's doing, whereas we all know that Powell is simply acting. It's the old Reagan conundrum : Which is worse?

Posted by: Terrane Lucente on January 9, 2004 09:28 AM


For World Citizen: If the world gets a vote, the the U.S. political parties are going to come raiding your homes for more popular candidates.

Tony Blair would be in serious jeopardy of becoming the U.S. Democratic nominee, I think.

Posted by: Pouncer on January 9, 2004 09:49 AM


"...The dominant political force in the US is people who don't want to pay taxes...."

Ah, but they vote with their wallets! That's why they don't want to pay taxes! Or else they'd be double taxed, poor things! And in their goodness, they are always prepared to lend money to govment -- at a fair price, of course. So whadayamean "they don't want to pay taxes!?". Let's be a little fair here, huh?

Antoni Jaume -- I thought I posted a response to you but I can't see it: Young Turks who know enough English to get by in US armed forces would probably prefer to work as tourist guide in Turkey and Europe, for that would get them that 15 K easy and... well, there...


And, about Mr. Powell, I too have become dissappointed at him, about a year ago or so...

Posted by: bulent on January 9, 2004 09:53 AM


If paying US taxes were all it took to get a vote in US elections, you could count me in for sure. I'm paying them already, and I'd just *love* to be allowed a say in how they're spent -- even if I am just here temporarily.

Posted by: Canadian Reader on January 9, 2004 10:29 AM


In other words, you picked me. blah blah.

A pretty speech. But the voters didn't pick Powell, Bush did. And a five-vote majority on the Supreme Court picked Bush.

And when they get to thinking they have it in their power to make "a better choice," then we're really going to be in big trouble.

Posted by: Billmon on January 9, 2004 11:33 AM


I'd be more impressed by Mr. Powell's humility if he'd expressed all this stuff on his way in instead of on his way out.

Posted by: Scott on January 9, 2004 04:27 PM


Heard about a month ago the World Bank was polling their membership on Powell taking over in 2005. He's lost almost very battle he's had with Rumsfeld. If that's his favorite quote no wonder his wife wanted him to stay retired. I also remember his claiming Clinton White House policy meetings being as amateurish as college dorm bull sessions. Looking at the DoD debacle in postwar Iraq it'd be my guess he's sorry he ever signed on with Bush. He's been relegated to PR flack and as a good soldier carries out orders.

Posted by: Mark Garrity on January 9, 2004 08:10 PM


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