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Colin Powell goes from class act to class clown

July 15, 2007 | Colin Powell,Ethics

W, Rummy and bin Laden walk into a bar … stop me if you heard this before …

No, that’s not a direct quote, but what if it were? Would it tickle your funny bone? What if you were a world leader? Maybe that’s the sort of thing that’s funny when war, death and all that “doom and gloom” they keep harping on in the media get you down.

Rosemary Goudreau, editorial page editor at the Tampa Tribune, wrote an editorial, “Nothing To Joke About,” that’s worth a read.

She said the first time she saw retired Gen. Colin Powell speak in 1993, she “joined a standing ovation of people who believed he could become the next American president.” (I also covered a speech Powell made at U.S. Strategic Command at about the same time. I, too, was impressed with his presence and charisma.) Then she wrote:

The last time I saw Powell speak — at the recent annual meeting of Leadership Florida — I walked out.


Powell’s remarks were “off the record.” He joked about missing his official jet and everything that came with it, and he talked “much too much” about Revolution Health, a company for which he serves on the board of directors, along with AOL co-founder Steve case and others.

But it was his joke about an airport security guard that motivated me to leave. After buying a one-way ticket and carrying no bags, Powell said he was pulled aside for screening. The security guard recognized him and apologized for the inconvenience. Given that his identity was known, Powell asked the guard why he was wasting time searching him when he should be helping to find bin Laden. Somehow it sounded funny when he said it. But with men and women dying in Iraq, it seemed untimely and undignified for Powell to fawn wistfully over his plane, promote his new business and laugh about finding Osama bin Laden.

If that was untimely and undignified — as Powell is retired now and considers himself a “private citizen” — what would we call what he did while in office?

In a July 2004 visit as U.S. Secretary of State that included a high-level meeting with the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and meeting Pacific Rim foreign ministers at the Association of Southeast Asian Nations in Jakarta, Indonesia — stop me if you’ve heard this before — Powell and five U.S. officials performed a parody of the Village People‘s Y.M.C.A.

I guess if that’s funny, it’s not much of a stretch for a grown man to giggle about bin Laden in an airport, where any ordinary citizen would be arrested (or at least detained) for such a remark.

Posted by Becky @ 1:23 pm  

2 Responses to “Colin Powell goes from class act to class clown”

  1. Gunfighter Says:

    Powell lost any cred he had with me, which was plenty, when he drank the Kool Aid and bought into the “weapons of mass destruction” bullshit from Bush/Cheney/Tenet.

  2. Deep Muck Big Rake » Books: Rumors of our Progress have been Greatly Exaggerated by Carolyn B. Maloney Says:

    […] officials (elected or not), they now have to prove they don’t take themselves too seriously while they’re in office, no matter how “serious” the positions they hold. They have to prove that they get the […]

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