Being on the road today meant, among other indignities, exposure to CNN. At breakast, I was treated to a CNN type interviewing David Frum and feigning concern for the future of the Republican party. The issue was Dick Cheney’s comments about Colin Powell. David opined that there should be room in the Republican party for Powell. He added that, after all, Powell is the only general in our recent history to have won a war.
But the extent to which there should be “room” in the Republican party for Colin Powell cannot depend on how many wars he won as a general. Rather, Powell’s comfort level with Republicans, and Republicans’ with him, should turn on the extent to which he agrees with the views of most Republicans.
For example, what is Powell’s position on the stimulus bill, on retaining the Bush tax cuts, on judicial nominations and philosophy, on what to do about the health care system, on dealing with Iran, on dealing with Israel, on missile defense, on dealing with the remaining terrorist detainees, on gay marriage? Without at least some of these answers, no meaningful discussion of how Republicans should view Powell “politically” (as Cheney put) is possible.
I don’t know any of these answers. I do know that Powell supported Barack Obama in 2008, so it seems likely that his position on most of these issues is not consistent with the views of most Republicans. If so, then Powell might reasonably conclude that, though he’s free to remain a Republican, there’s little reason for him to do so. And Republicans should shed no tears if, under these circumstances, he leaves the party.
It may be, however, that Powell voted for Obama for personal or racial reasons, despite substantial disagreement with him on the issues. In that case, there might well be room for Powell in the Republican party. But this depends solely on issue affinity, not on how well Powell performed (in partnership with then Secretary of Defense Cheney) during the first Gulf War.