It was inevitable that Colin Powell’s death would be politicized. In fact, you probably saw that several obituaries have already been written about him that tied his legacy to the Iraq war.
But those weren’t the only examples of Powell’s death being politicized. I’m sure there are many, actually, but one, in particular, caught my attention. And frankly, I should have expected it.
When faced with the death of General Colin Powell, the famed former U.S. secretary of state and chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, CNN’s Chris Cillizza couldn’t help himself from politicizing the news in a bizarre attack on the GOP.
This is literally the same guy who infamously claimed: “Reporters don’t root for a side. Period.”
“The Colin Powell Republican no longer exists in the Republican Party,” Cillizza bemoans in the headline of his article, published hours after the news of Powell’s death broke.
“By the time of Powell’s death on Monday from complications of Covid-19, his 25-year-old pledge to transform the Republican Party into a diverse coalition organized around opportunity and social welfare seems deeply quaint,” Cillizza wrote. “A hope unrealized as the GOP moved well beyond the extreme bounds of what even Powell could have envisaged two-plus decades ago.
And, of course, Trump gets a mention as well.
“Powell’s personal journey from potential — and much-coveted — Republican presidential candidate in the mid-1990s to pariah within the Trump-ified GOP tells the story of how the party went from one that recognized the changing face of America and the need to adapt its policies as a result to one organized around the often-intolerant views of a single man who, it’s worth noting, spent less time as a Republican than Powell did.”
Cillizza added, “At the time of his death, in an acknowledgment of how far the party had moved away from his views, Powell no longer considered himself a Republican.”
Quite frankly, Republicans haven’t considered him a Republican for some time now. Powell endorsed Barack Obama over John McCain in 2008—and McCain was as moderate of a Republican as they come. Yet, Powell said at the time that the GOP had “moved more to the right than I would like to see.”
If the party that had nominated John McCain was too much to the right for Colin Powell’s tastes, then it’s a wonder he ever considered himself a Republican at all. But Cillizza framed the endorsement as a reflection of the GOP’s transformation into an extreme party. Powell once again had the opportunity to endorse a moderate Republican for president in 2012—Mitt Romney—but chose Barack Obama again, despite Obama’s radical agenda, which included a government takeover of the healthcare sector and unprecedented levels of spending that failed to improve the economy as promised.
But, again, Cillizza thinks this is a reflection of how extreme the Republican Party had become. The same party chose two moderate Republicans who have since become “respected” by the Democrats for basically not being Trump.
Cillizza even quoted Powell from back in 2012, when he said, “I think I’m a Republican of more moderate mold and that’s something of a dying breed, I’m sorry to say. But, you know, the Republicans I worked for are President Reagan, President Bush 41, the Howard Bakers of the world, people who were conservative, people who were willing to push their conservative views, but people who recognize that at the end of the day you got to find a basis for compromise. Compromise is how this country runs.”
When did Barack Obama ever compromise? He pursued a massive stimulus without Republican support. And Obamacare without Republican support. Obama infamously boasted about his lack of willingness to compromise by saying in 2014, “I’ve got a pen, and I’ve got a phone.”
Cillizza continues with cherrypicked quotes that support his position that the Republican Party has become extreme. Does he think today’s Democratic Party bears any resemblance to the party of John F. Kennedy—the tax-cutting anti-Communist? Heck, today’s Democratic Party bears little resemblance to what it was when Bill Clinton was in office. As president, Clinton was far more moderate on the issue of abortion than today’s Democratic Party is. As president, Clinton signed the Defense of Marriage Act. And, even though he didn’t want to, he even signed a balanced budget. So could Cillizza say with a straight face that the Democratic Party of today is no different from the party of the 1960s or 1990s? I’d like to see him try.
“Colin Powell didn’t leave the Republican Party. It left him, ” Cillizza concludes. “And it’s the worse for that decision.”
It’s laughable that Cillizza thinks that he has any credibility to make such an assessment about the Republican Party, and it’s despicable that he used Powell’s death to launch such an absurd attack.