President’s Budget: Social Media Action Today

March 4, 2014
MOVE Square

Rethink Media has prepared fabulous sample tweets and posts for Facebook for social media response to today’s announcement of the President’s budget. Our aim is to shine a spotlight on the wasteful spending in the Pentagon budget.

 

Sample Tweets on Budget Release:

When we’re winding down two wars, why does the #DoDBudget remain sky-high? http://ow.ly/udU7P

The #Pentagon wastes billions of #DoDBudget on programs driven by special interests that do not advance American security

#DoDBudget should prioritize needs for 21st Century threats, not special interests pet projects http://ow.ly/udV2K

Sample Tweets on F35

Instead of raising the #DoDBudget cut the #F35, the most expensive weapons program everhttp://youtu.be/KTF_a1DuIyE via f35baddeal.com

Want to know why the #DoDBudget is so big? The #F35 is one reason http://youtu.be/KTF_a1DuIyE via f35baddeal.com

$1.5 TRILLION – the #F35 is the most expensive weapons program ever, and it doesn’t even work: http://youtu.be/KTF_a1DuIyE

“Can’t turn, can’t climb, can’t run” – the #F35 is a bad deal for American #DoDBudget http://ow.ly/u1XLq #F35baddeal

#F35: 10 years late and devouring the #DoDBudget – great new film by @BraveNewFilms http://ow.ly/tjE9B  #NoF35 via f35baddeal.com

Can’t fly at night? See why the #F35 is a BAD DEAL for #DoDBudget in new film by @BraveNewFilms http://ow.ly/tjE9B

Amplifying Good Media Coverage Tweets

 @StephenatHome calls the #F35 “jobsolete” – watch here http://ow.ly/u23Mh and see why the #F35 is a BAD DEAL at f35baddeal.com

The “jobsolete” #F35 – @colbertreport calls out #Pentagon waste – watch here http://ow.ly/u23Mh and see f35baddeal.com

Graphics:

New Win Without War F-35 Graphic https://twitter.com/WinWithoutWar/status/439118060952117248/photo/1

Defense Budgets Across the world (AFP) http://pbs.twimg.com/media/Bf6B0lZIUAEc7xu.jpg



Voters Disappointed with Obama Afghanistan Drawdown

June 22, 2011

Washington, DC — June 22, 2011 — President Obama’s announcement this evening of a limited troop withdrawal from Afghanistan — America’s longest war — is bound to disappoint Members of Congress and an electorate tired of the conflict.

 

As has been reported, senior White House officials confirmed that the President plans to remove 10,000 troops by the end of this year and another 23,000 troops by September 2012.

 

“Removing a few brigades this year, then several more next year, still leaves more than double the U.S. troops in Afghanistan than when President Obama took office.  There’s no military solution in Afghanistan.  It’s time to bring all troops and contractors home and focus on the political solution, which is the only way this costly war will end,” observed Paul Kawika Martin, the political and policy director of Peace Action — a group founded in 1957 and the largest grassroots peace organization in the U.S.

 

The pace of troop drawdown is significantly smaller than asked for by some in Congress.  Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI), chair of the Arms Services Committee, Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA) wanted 15,000, 30,000, and 50,000 out this year, respectfully.  Today, Sen. Richard Lugar (R-IN) the minority chair of the Sen. Foreign Relations committee said the withdrawal was inadequate.

 

The President’s numbers for this year represent a small percentage of the 100,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan and over 100,000 additional contractors.

 

Both chambers of Congress on a bipartisan basis have pushed for a sizable number of troops to leave.

 

Last week, a bipartisan group of 27 U.S. Senators — led by Sens. Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Mike Lee (R-UT) and Tom Udall (D-NM) — sent a letter to President Obama asking for a “sizable and sustained reduction of U.S. military forces in Afghanistan, beginning in July 2011.”  A half dozen more Senators made similar statements individually.

 

Last month, the House sent a clear signal to President for an accelerated withdrawal by narrowly failing to pass an amendment offered by Reps. Jim McGovern (D-MA), Walter Jones (D-NC) and others to the 2011 National Defense Authorization Act.  204 Representatives voted aye, including a record 26 Republicans.

 

Congress has been feeling voter pressure on the war.  A pew poll released yesterday showed a strong majority of Americans support bringing troops home “as soon as possible.”  Peace Action organized twenty-five national organizations, representing over 30 million voters, to sign onto a letter echoing this sentiment by asking for a “sizable and sustained” withdrawal.

 

With the high costs of $10 Billion a month for the war, lawmakers on Capitol Hill and locally are questioning whether the costs are making the U.S. safer.  The U.S. Conference of Mayors just approved a resolution calling for a speedy end to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and redirection of scarce dollars for “urgent domestic needs.”

 

The war has become more deadly to U.S. troops, which has weighed heavy on lawmakers.  Over 1,600 U.S. troops have been killed in the nearly ten-year long war.  This year has surpassed 2009 as the deadliest year of the conflict, killing 57 percent more American service members.  Tens of thousands more have been wounded physically and mentally.  An unknown number, but estimated to be in the tens of thousands, of Afghan civilians have perished, and the United Nations reported that so far, 2011 is the worst year for civilians deaths.

 

Republican Presidential candidates like Mitt Romney, Jon Huntsman and Ron Paul are also calling for a quicker end to the war.

 

Peace Action calls for all troops and contractors out of Afghanistan within one year with resources focused on political reconciliation and Afghan-led aid and development.

 

“In November 2012, voters will want to see less than 67,000 troops and even more contractors still in Afghanistan.  The President will need to speed up his plans and announce more troops coming home to please the electorate,” concluded Martin.

 

The President announced his first surge of 20,000 troops in spring 2009. Then started sending another 33,000 in December of that year nearly tripling the number of troops on the ground when he took office.

 

###

 

Founded in 1957, Peace Action (formerly SANE/Freeze), the United States’ largest peace and disarmament organization, with over 100,000 paid members and nearly 100 chapters in 36 states, works to abolish nuclear weapons, promote government spending priorities that support human needs, encourage real security through international cooperation and human rights and support nonmilitary solutions to the conflicts with Afghanistan, Iran and Iraq. The public may learn more and take action at http://www.Peace-Action.org. For more up-to-date peace insider information, follow Peace Action’s political director on Twitter. http://twitter.com/PaulKawika

 

If you wish to unsubscribe from further emails from Peace Action, please write pmartin@peace-action.org with UNSUBSCRIBE in the subject line.

 

Editors Notes:

 

1.  The Pew poll can be found here:

 

http://people-press.org/2011/06/21/record-number-favors-removing-u-s-troops-from-afghanistan/

 

2.  The Letter to President signed by 27 Senators:

 

June 15, 2011

 

The President

The White House

1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW

Washington, DC 20500

 

Dear Mr. President:

 

We write to express our strong support for a shift in strategy and the beginning of a sizable and sustained reduction of U.S. military forces in Afghanistan, beginning in July 2011.

 

In 2001 the United States rightfully and successfully intervened in Afghanistan with the goals of destroying al Qaeda’s safe haven, removing the Taliban government that sheltered al Qaeda, and pursuing those who planned the September 11 attacks on the United States. Those original goals have been largely met and today, as CIA Director Leon Panetta noted last June, “I think at most, we’re looking at maybe 50 to 100, maybe less” al Qaeda members remaining in Afghanistan.

 

In addition, over the past few years, U.S. forces have killed or captured dozens of significant al Qaeda leaders. Then, on May 2, 2011, American Special Forces acting under your direction located and killed Osama bin Laden. The death of the founder of al Qaeda is a major blow that further weakens the terrorist organization.

 

From the initial authorization of military force through your most recent State of the Union speech, combating al Qaeda has always been the rationale for our military presence in Afghanistan. Given our successes, it is the right moment to initiate a sizable and sustained reduction in forces, with the goal of steadily redeploying all regular combat troops.

 

There are those who argue that rather than reduce our forces, we should maintain a significant number of troops in order to support a lengthy counter-insurgency and nation building effort. This is misguided. We will never be able to secure and police every town and village in Afghanistan. Nor will we be able to build Afghanistan from the ground up into a Western-style democracy.

 

Endemic corruption in Afghanistan diverts resources intended to build roads, schools, and clinics, and some of these funds end up in the hands of the insurgents. Appointments of provincial and local officials on the basis of personal alliances and graft leads to deep mistrust by the Afghan population. While it is a laudable objective to attempt to build new civic institutions in Afghanistan, this goal does not justify the loss of American lives or the investment of hundreds of billions of taxpayer dollars.

 

Instead of continuing to be embroiled in ancient local and regional conflicts in Afghanistan, we must accelerate the transfer of responsibility for Afghanistan’s development to the Afghan people and their government. We should maintain our capacity to eliminate any new terrorist threats, continue to train the Afghan National Security Forces, and maintain our diplomatic and humanitarian efforts. However, these objectives do not require the presence of over 100,000 American troops engaged in intensive combat operations.

 

Mr. President, according to our own intelligence officials, al Qaeda no longer has a large presence in Afghanistan, and, as the strike against bin Laden demonstrated, we have the capacity to confront our terrorist enemies with a dramatically smaller footprint. The costs of prolonging the war far outweigh the benefits. It is time for the United States to shift course in Afghanistan.

 

We urge you to follow through on the pledge you made to the American people to begin the redeployment of U.S. forces from Afghanistan this summer, and to do so in a manner that is sizable and sustained, and includes combat troops as well as logistical and support forces.

 

We look forward to working with you to pursue a strategy in Afghanistan that makes our nation stronger and more secure.

 

Sincerely,

 

Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR)

Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT)

Sen. Tom Udall (D-NM)

Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT)

Sen. Michael Bennet (D-CO)

Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-NM)

Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA)

Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH)

Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-WA)

Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD)

Sen. Kent Conrad (D-ND)

Sen. Richard Durbin (D-IL)

Sen. Al Franken (D-MN)

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY)

Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA)

Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN)

Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA)

Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ)

Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT)

Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ)

Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA)

Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY)

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT)

Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-NY)

Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI)

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI)

Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR)

 

3.  A letter from 25 organizations representing over 30 million voters urging Senators to sign Merkely-Lee-Udall letter:

 

We, the undersigned 25 organizations representing over 30 million voters, strongly urge Senator Feinstein to join 27 other Senators and sign this bipartisan letter to President Obama urging a “sizeable and sustained” reduction in forces from Afghanistan beginning in July.

 

While many of us are calling for a more accelerated transition and may not agree with every word of the letter, it represents a step in the right direction. It is clearly time to begin the process terminating the United States military engagement from the war in Afghanistan.

 

Please let Paul Kawika of Peace Action know how you plan to act on this important issue at pmartin@peace-action.org or 951-217-7285.

 

Sincerely,

 

Matthew Hoh

Director

Afghanistan Study Group

 

Karen Showalter

Executive Director

Americans for Informed Democracy

 

Robert Borosage and Roger Hickey

Co-Directors

Campaign for America’s Future

 

William C. Goodfellow

Executive Director

Center for International Policy

 

Don Kraus

Chief Executive Officer

Citizens for Global Solutions

 

John Isaacs

Executive Director

Council for a Livable World

 

Michael Kieschnick

President

CREDO Action

 

Robert Naiman

Policy Director

Just Foreign Policy

 

Justin Ruben

Executive Director

MoveOn.org Political Action

 

Jenefer Ellingston

Delegate

National Green Party

 

Simone Campbell

Executive Director

NETWORK, A National Catholic Social Justice Lobby

 

Terry O’Neill

President

National Organization for Women

 

Jo Comerford

Executive Director

National Priorities Project

 

Dave Robinson

Executive Director

Pax Christi USA

 

Paul Kawika Martin

Policy and Political Director

Peace Action

 

Peter Wilk, MD

Executive Director

Physicians for Social Responsibility

 

Jean Stokan

Director

Sisters of Mercy of the Americas — Institute Justice Team

 

Mark C. Johnson, Ph.D.

Executive Director

The Fellowship of Reconciliation

 

James E. Winkler, General Secretary

General Board of Church and Society

The United Methodist Church

 

Lisa Schirch, PhD

Director

3D Security Initiative

 

Marylia Kelley

Executive Director

Tri-Valley CAREs

 

Jeff Blum

Executive Director

USAction

 

Michael Eisenscher

National Coordinator

U.S. Labor Against the War (USLAW)

 

Stephen Miles

Coalition Coordinator

Win Without War

 

Susan Shaer

Executive Director

Women’s Action for New Directions

 


Call for National Action for Peace in Afghanistan

March 27, 2009

Today, President Barack Obama announced his plans to send another 21,000 troops to Afghanistan. This poorly conceived strategy continues failed Middle East policies where military engagement serves as the primary tool. The war weary American public does not support an escalation of the U.S. presence and neither should the President.

While he also made some good statements on increasing diplomacy and economic aid to Afghanistan and Pakistan, the emphasis is clearly on military operations. Predictably, the Pakistan and Afghan factions of the Taliban are already uniting to oppose our escalation of troops. As the spring fighting season approaches, only one thing is certain — more death, destruction, and misery in a desperately poor country that has had little respite from war for decades.

Here in the U.S., Obama’s escalation in Afghanistan and the continuing occupation of Iraq threaten our nation’s urgent economic and domestic agenda. Now is the time for more diplomacy, not more war!

Peace Action calls for immediate action for peace in Afghanistan. Here are four things you can do:

1) Call the White House today – 202-456-1414 – to show your immediate opposition to President Obama’s plan.

Make sure President Obama knows that you disagree with his plan to send more troops to Afghanistan. Call the White House comment line at 202-456-1414 between 9:00 AM and 5:00 PM ET.

2) Call again on TUESDAY, March 31st.

Nationally, dozens of other organizations will make coordinated calls to the White House. This planned day of action will show the strength of our movement and reflect the national discontent with unending wars.

3) March with Peace Action and UFPJ in New York on April 4! Join us at the corner of White and Lafayette streets in Manhattan at 11AM.

Building on the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., we are marching on the anniversary of his historic speech against the war in Vietnam and the anniversary of his assassination. On Saturday, April 4, we are taking our message to Wall Street in NYC: addressing this country’s economic crisis must include drastic cuts in military spending and that means ending the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The last thing our country needs is a new quagmire in Afghanistan – it is time to bring the troops home, not send more.

4) Help organize local actions April 6 – 9

Congress will be in recess so this is a perfect time to meet with your representatives while they are home. Actions can also be community or media-focused — vigils, rallies, public education forums with local speakers, film showings or other events to educate and mobilize support in your community. Here are some resources to get you started. This is an important time to educate people about Afghanistan and the urgent need to change U.S. policy. Find a Peace Action affiliate near you, here.

Peace Action Supports:

  • A halt to the planned escalation of 21,000 U.S. troops to Afghanistan.
  • A strong commitment to diplomacy as the only solution to the conflict in Afghanistan. The U.S. must support negotiations already underway among various actors in Afghanistan, and must also engage all countries in the region with a stake in a peaceful Afghanistan. The announcement that Iran will join negotiations over Afghanistan is a positive development. The U.S. should foster this development by openly engaging Iran, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and the Taliban.
  • A dramatic shift from military spending by the U.S. to funding for Afghan-led humanitarian community development and reconstruction projects to enable Afghan communities to improve daily life for their own people. Our goal is to put an end to U.S. war funding.

The New Obama Administration: Key Positions

December 2, 2008

Key positions announced as of 12/1/08:

Frequently updated at:  http://livableworld.org/news/obama_key_positions/

White House
Chief of Staff: Rahm Emanuel
Deputy Chief of Staff:Jim Messina
Deputy Chief of Staff: Mona Sutphen

Senior adviser & intergovernmental relations and public liaison: Valerie Jarrett
Senior adviser to the President: Peter Rouse
Senior advisor to the President: David Axelrod

Legislative affairs: Phil Schiliro
White House counsel: Gregory Craig
Vice President Chief of Staff: Ron Klain
Staff Secretary: Lisa Brown
Cabinet Secretary: Chris Lu

Director of the Office of Political Affairs: Patrick Gaspard
Special Assistant to the President and White House Social Secretary: Desirée Rogers
Director of Scheduling and Advance: Alyssa Mastromonaco

Director of Communications: Ellen Moran
Press secretary: Robert Gibbs
Deputy Director of Communications: Dan Pfeiffer
Director of Speechwriting: Jonathan Favreau
Director of Intergovernmental Affairs: Cecilia Muñoz

Vice President’s office
Vice President Chief of Staff: Ron Klain
Counsel to the Vice President: Cynthia Hogan
Director of Administration for the Office of the Vice President: Moises (Moe) V. Vela, Jr
Counselor to the Vice President: Mike Donilon
Domestic Policy Advisor to the Vice President: Terrell McSweeny
Assistant to the Vice President for Intergovernmental Affairs and Public Liaison: Evan Ryan
Chief of Staff for Dr. Jill Biden: Catherine (Cathy) M. Russell
Deputy Chief of Staff to the First Lady: Melissa Winter

Economic team:
Secretary of the Treasury: Timothy F. Geithner
Director of the National Economic Council: Lawrence H. Summers
Director of the Council of Economic Advisors: Christina D. Romer
Director of the Domestic Policy Council: Melody C. Barnes
Deputy Director of the Domestic Policy Council: Heather A. Higginbottom
Office of Management and Budget Director: Peter Orszag
Office of Management and Budget Deputy Director: Rob Nabors
Chair of the President’s Economic Recovery Advisory Board : Paul Volcker
Staff Director and Chief Economist of the President’s Economic Recovery Advisory Board & Member of the Council of Economic Advisers: Austan Goolsbee

National security team
Secretary of State: Sen. Hillary Clinton
Secretary of Defense: Robert Gates
National Security Advisor: General Jim Jones, USMC (Ret)
Ambassador to the United Nations: Susan Rice
Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security: Governor Janet Napolitano
Attorney General: Eric Holder

Key national security positions involved in weapons of mass destruction issues (announced and not yet announced :

White House – Office of Management and Budget
Office of Management and Budget Director: Peter Orszag
Associate Director for National Security Programs

White House – National Security Council
Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs (National Security Advisor): General Jim Jones, USMC (Ret) .
Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for Defense Policy and Strategy
Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for Counterproliferation Strategy

Defense Department
Secretary of Defense: Robert Gates
Deputy Undersecretary for Policy
Assistant Secretary for Global Security Affairs
Assistant Secretary for Special Operations/Low Intensity Conflict & Interdependent Capabilities
Assistant to the Secretary for Nuclear and Chemical and Biological Defense Programs
Director, Defense Threat Reduction Agency

Energy Department
Secretary of Energy
Under Secretary for Nuclear Security and Administrator, National Nuclear Security Administration
Deputy Administrator for Defense Programs, National Nuclear Security Administration
Deputy Administrator for Defense Nuclear Nonproliferation, National Nuclear Security Administration

State Department
Secretary of State: Sen. Hillary Clinton
Under Secretary for Arms Control and International Security
Assistant Secretary for Political-Military Affairs
Assistant Secretary for International Security and Nonproliferation
Assistant Secretary for Verification, Compliance, and Implementation

Department of Homeland Security
Undersecretary fo Science and Technology
Assistant Secretary for Health Affairs and Chief Medical Officer

Vice President’s office
Assistant to the Vice President for National Security Affairs

Transition team:

Obama-Biden Transition Project – 3 co-chairs: John Podesta, Valerie Jarrett, and Pete Rouse.

Transition team advisory board: Carol Browner, William Daley, Christopher Edley, Michael Froman, Julius Genachowski, Donald Gips, Governor Janet Napolitano, Federico Peña, Susan Rice, Sonal Shah, Mark Gitenstein, and Ted Kaufman.

Transition Senior Staff: Chris Lu – Executive Director
Dan Pfeiffer – Communications Director
Stephanie Cutter – Chief Spokesperson
Cassandra Butts – General Counsel
Jim Messina – Personnel Director
Patrick Gaspard – Associate Personnel Director
Christine Varney – Personnel Counsel
Melody Barnes – Co-Director of Agency Review
Lisa Brown – Co-Director of Agency Review
Phil Schiliro – Director of Congressional Relations
Michael Strautmanis – Director of Public Liaison and Intergovernmental Affairs
Katy Kale – Director of Operations
Brad Kiley – Director of Operations

Vice President-elect’s transition team: Mark Gitenstein, and Ted Kaufman.

Agency Review Co-Chairs: Melody Barnes, Lisa Brown, Don Gips
Working Group Members: Seth Harris, David J. Hayes, Reed Hundt, Sally Katzen, Tom Perez, Sarah Sewall, Louisa Terrell, Ray Rivera, Michael Warren, Tom Wheeler, Jon Wilkins

Sarah Sewall is a member of the Obama-Biden Transition Project’s Agency Review Working Group responsible for the national security agencies.

Chief spokeswoman for national security: Brooke Anderson

Department of State Agency Review Team Leads: Tom Donilon, Wendy R. Sherman
Senior advisor for State transition: Warren Christopher
Others on team: Natasha Bilimoria, Esther Brimmer, Lee Feinstein, Robert Gelbard, Matthew Goodman, Michael Guest, Vicki Huddleston, Joseph Huggins, Brian McKeon, Samantha Power, Puneet Talwar, Robert Einhorn

Foreign Assistance
Foreign Assistance (USAID, MCC and PEPFAR) Review Team Leads: Gayle Smith, Aaron Williams
Others on US AID team: Frederick Barton, Wendy Chamberlin, Valerie Dickson-Horton, Sheila Herrling, Larry Nowels

Department of Defense Agency Review Team Leads: John P. White, Michèle A. Flournoy
Informal senior adviser role throughout the defense transition process: Sam Nunn
Others on team: Kurt Campbell, Ashton Carter, Janine Davidson, Matthew Flavin, Jeh Johnson, Donald Kerrick, Ellen Maldonado, James McCleskey, Craig Mullaney, Andrew Shapiro, Elizabeth Sherwood-Randall, Robert Work

National Security Council:
National Security Council Review Team Leads: Antony Blinken, Ivo Daalder, Mara Eve Rudman
Also on team: Derek Chollet

Department of Energy:

Department of Homeland Security:
Department of Homeland Security Review Team Leads: Rand Beers, Clark Kent Ervin
Others on team: Beverly Aimaro Pheto, Rachana Bhowmik, Philip Crowley, Juliette Kayyem, Robert Knake, David Martin, Juan Otero, Nelson Peacock Subhasri Ramanathan, Michael Sheehan

Intelligence Community Review Team Leads: (Includes Office of the Director of National Intelligence, Central Intelligence Agency, National Security Agency, National Counterterrorism Center): John O. Brennan, Judith A. (“Jami”) Miscik
Also on team: Jennifer Sims
Others on Director of National Intelligence team: Maureen Baginski, Adam Cohn, Robert Harding, Andrew Johnson, Edward Levine, Eric Pelofsky, James Schear, Caryn Wagner

Office of Management and Budget Review Team Lead: Barbara Chow
Others on OMB team:: Gordon Adams, Michael Deich, TJ Glauthier, Jeffrey Liebman, Marcia Occomy, Victoria Wachino


Colin Powell endorses Obama

October 20, 2008

Colin Powell endorses Obama
Oct. 19: Appearing on “Meet the Press,” former Secretary of State Gen. Colin Powell – who has been courted by both major party candidates – announces that he will back Barack Obama for president.


Powell: New president facing a ‘daunting period’

MR. TOM BROKAW:  Our issues this Sunday: He served as President George W. Bush’s secretary of state and was once called the man most likely to become the nation’s first African-American president.  He has been courted by both the Obama and McCain presidential campaigns and said this last month:

(Videotape)

GEN. COLIN POWELL (RET.):  I have been watching both of these individuals.  I know them both extremely well, and I have not decided who I’m going to vote for yet.

(End videotape)

MR. BROKAW: Is he now ready to make an endorsement in this presidential race?  What are his thoughts on the major issues facing the country and the world?  Our exclusive guest this Sunday, former Secretary of State General Colin Powell.

Then, with 16 days to go, Decision 2008 heads into the home stretch.  What states still are in play?  We will hear the latest on some new state polls with NBC’s political director, Chuck Todd.  Also, insights and analysis on the race to the White House with David Brooks of The New York Times, Jon Meacham of Newsweek magazine, Andrea Mitchell of NBC News, and Joe Scarborough of MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.”

But first, General Colin Powell, welcome back to MEET THE PRESS.

GEN. POWELL:  Thank, thank you, Tom.

MR. BROKAW:  We indicated in that opening, there is a lot of anticipation and speculation about your take on this presidential campaign.  We’ll get to that in a moment.  But in your old business we might call this a tour of the horizon.  Whoever’s elected president of the United States, that first day in the Oval Office on January 21st will face this:  an American economy that’s in a near paralytic state at this time; we’re at war in two different countries, Afghanistan and Iraq; we have an energy crisis; we have big decisions to make about health care and about global climate change.  The president of the United States and the Congress of the United States now have the highest disapproval ratings that we have seen in many years.  In all your years of public service, have you ever seen an incoming president face such daunting challenges?

GEN. POWELL:  No.  I have seen more difficult times in our history.  I think about the early ’70s when we were going through Watergate, Spiro Agnew, Nixon period, that was not a good time.  But right now we’re also facing a very daunting period.  And I think the number one issue the president’s going to have to deal with is the economy.  That’s what the American people are worried about.  And, frankly, it’s not just an American problem, it’s an international problem.  We can see how all of these economies are now linked in this globalized system.  And I think that’ll be number one.  The president will also have to make decisions quickly as to how to deal with Iraq and Afghanistan.  And also I think the president has to reach out to the world and show that there is a new president, a new administration that is looking forward to working with our friends and allies.  And in my judgment, also willing to talk to people who we have not been willing to talk to before. Because this is a time for outreach.

MR. BROKAW:  Given the state of the American economy, can we continue our military commitments around the world at the level that they now exist?

GEN. POWELL:  We can.  I think we have to look as to whether they have to be at that level.  But we have the wealth, we have the wherewithal to do that. (Clears throat) Excuse me, Tom.  We have the ability to do that.  And so, first and foremost, we have to review those commitments, see what they are, see what else is needed, and make sure we give our troops what they need to get the job done as we have defined the job.  We have that ability.

MR. BROKAW: If you were called into the Oval Office on January 21st by the new president, whoever it happens to be, and he said to you, “General Powell, I need from you your recommendation on where I begin.  What should be my priorities?” Where would you start?

GEN. POWELL: I would start with talking to the American people and talking to the world, and conveying a new image of American leadership, a new image of America‘s role in the world.

The problems will always be there, and there’s going to be a crisis come along in the 21st or 22nd of January that we don’t even know about right now.  And so I think what the president has to do is to start using the power of the Oval Office and the power of his personality to convince the American people and to convince the world that America is solid, America is going to move forward, and we’re going to fix our economic problems, we’re going to meet our overseas obligations.  But restoring a sense of purpose, a sense of confidence in the American people and, in the international community, in America.

MR. BROKAW: What’s not on the screen right now that concerns you that should be more prominent in the minds of the American people and the people running for president?

GEN. POWELL: I think the American people and the gentlemen running for president will have to, early on, focus on education more than we have seen in the campaign so far. America has a terrible educational problem in the sense that we have too many youngsters not finishing school.  A third of our kids don’t finish high school, 50 percent of minorities don’t finish high school. We’ve got to work on this, and my, my wife and I are leading a campaign with this purpose.

Also, I think, the new president has to realize that the world looks to America for leadership, and so we have to show leadership on some issues that the world is expecting us to, whether it’s energy, global warming and the environment. And I think we have to do a lot more with respect to poverty alleviation and helping the needy people of the world. We need to increase the amount of resources we put into our development programs to help the rest of the world. Because when you help the poorest in the world, you start to move them up an economic and social ladder, and they’re not going to be moving toward violence or terrorism of the kind that we worry about.

MR. BROKAW:  Well, let’s move to the American presidential campaign now, if we can.  We saw at the beginning of this broadcast a short tease of what you had to say just a month ago.  Let’s share with our viewers now a little more of Colin Powell on these two candidates and your position.

(Videotape, September 20, 2008)

GEN. POWELL: I’m an American, first and foremost, and I’m very proud–I said, I’ve said, I’ve said to my beloved friend and colleague John McCain, a friend of 25 years, “John, I love you, but I’m not just going to vote for you on the basis of our affection or friendship.” And I’ve said to Barack Obama, “I admire you.  I’ll give you all the advice I can.  But I’m not going to vote for you just because you’re black.” We, we have to move beyond this.

(End videotape)

MR. BROKAW: General Powell, actually you gave a campaign contribution to Senator McCain.  You have met twice at least with Barack Obama.  Are you prepared to make a public declaration of which of these two candidates that you’re prepared to support?

GEN. POWELL: Yes, but let me lead into it this way.  I know both of these individuals very well now. I’ve known John for 25 years as your setup said. And I’ve gotten to know Mr. Obama quite well over the past two years.  Both of them are distinguished Americans who are patriotic, who are dedicated to the welfare of our country.  Either one of them, I think, would be a good president.

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

And I’ve said to Mr. Obama, “You have to pass a test of do you have enough experience, and do you bring the judgment to the table that would give us confidence that you would be a good president.”

And I’ve watched him over the past two years, frankly, and I’ve had this conversation with him. I have especially watched over the last six of seven weeks as both of them have really taken a final exam with respect to this economic crisis that we are in and coming out of the conventions. And I must say that I’ve gotten a good measure of both.

In the case of Mr. McCain, I found that he was a little unsure as to deal with the economic problems that we were having and almost every day there was a different approach to the problem.

And that concerned me, sensing that he didn’t have a complete grasp of the economic problems that we had.

And I was also concerned at the selection of Governor Palin.  She’s a very distinguished woman, and she’s to be admired; but at the same time, now that we have had a chance to watch her for some seven weeks, I don’t believe she’s ready to be president of the United States, which is the job of the vice president.

And so that raised some question in my mind as to the judgment that Senator McCain made.

On the Obama side, I watched Mr. Obama and I watched him during this seven-week period.  And he displayed a steadiness, an intellectual curiosity, a depth of knowledge and an approach to looking at problems like this and picking a vice president that, I think, is ready to be president on day one.

And also, in not just jumping in and changing every day, but showing intellectual vigor. I think that he has a, a definitive way of doing business that would serve us well.

I also believe that on the Republican side over the last seven weeks, the approach of the Republican Party and Mr. McCain has become narrower and narrower.

Mr. Obama, at the same time, has given us a more inclusive, broader reach into the needs and aspirations of our people. He’s crossing lines–ethnic lines, racial lines, generational lines.  He’s thinking about all villages have values, all towns have values, not just small towns have values.

And I’ve also been disappointed, frankly, by some of the approaches that Senator McCain has taken recently, or his campaign ads, on issues that are not really central to the problems that the American people are worried about.

This Bill Ayers situation that’s been going on for weeks became something of a central point of the campaign.  But Mr. McCain says that he’s a washed-out terrorist.  Well, then, why do we keep talking about him?

And why do we have these robocalls going on around the country trying to suggest that, because of this very, very limited relationship that Senator Obama has had with Mr. Ayers, somehow, Mr. Obama is tainted.  What they’re trying to connect him to is some kind of terrorist feelings.

And I think that’s inappropriate.

Now, I understand what politics is all about.  I know how you can go after one another, and that’s good. But I think this goes too far.  And I think it has made the McCain campaign look a little narrow.  It’s not what the American people are looking for.

And I look at these kinds of approaches to the campaign and they trouble me. And the party has moved even further to the right, and Governor Palin has indicated a further rightward shift.

I would have difficulty with two more conservative appointments to the Supreme Court, but that’s what we’d be looking at in a McCain administration.

I’m also troubled by, not what Senator McCain says, but what members of the party say.

And it is permitted to be said such things as, “Well, you know that Mr. Obama is a Muslim.” Well, the correct answer is, he is not a Muslim, he’s a Christian.  He’s always been a Christian.

But the really right answer is, what if he is?  Is there something wrong with being a Muslim in this country? The answer’s no, that’s not America.

Is there something wrong with some seven-year-old Muslim-American kid believing that he or she could be president?  Yet, I have heard senior members of my own party drop the suggestion, “He’s a Muslim and he might be associated terrorists.” This is not the way we should be doing it in America.

I feel strongly about this particular point because of a picture I saw in a magazine.

It was a photo essay about troops who are serving in Iraq and Afghanistan.  And one picture at the tail end of this photo essay was of a mother in Arlington Cemetery, and she had her head on the headstone of her son’s grave.  And as the picture focused in, you could see the writing on the headstone.

And it gave his awards–Purple Heart, Bronze Star–showed that he died in Iraq, gave his date of birth, date of death.  He was 20 years old. And then, at the very top of the headstone, it didn’t have a Christian cross, it didn’t have the Star of David, it had crescent and a star of the Islamic faith.

And his name was Kareem Rashad Sultan Khan, and he was an American. He was born in New Jersey.  He was 14 years old at the time of 9/11, and he waited until he can go serve his country, and he gave his life.

Now, we have got to stop polarizing ourself in this way.  And John McCain is as nondiscriminatory as anyone I know.  But I’m troubled about the fact that, within the party, we have these kinds of expressions.

So, when I look at all of this and I think back to my Army career, we’ve got two individuals, either one of them could be a good president.

But which is the president that we need now?

Which is the individual that serves the needs of the nation for the next period of time?

And I come to the conclusion that because of his ability to inspire, because of the inclusive nature of his campaign, because he is reaching out all across America, because of who he is and his rhetorical abilities–and we have to take that into account–as well as his substance–he has both style and substance–he has met the standard of being a successful president, being an exceptional president.

I think he is a transformational figure.  He is a new generation coming into the world–onto the world stage, onto the American stage, and for that reason I’ll be voting for Senator Barack Obama.

MR. BROKAW:  Will you be campaigning for him as well?

GEN. POWELL:  I don’t plan to.  Two weeks left, let them go at each other in the finest tradition.  But I will be voting for him.

MR. BROKAW: I can already anticipate some of the reaction to this.  Let’s begin with the charge that John McCain has continued to make against Barack Obama.  You sit there, as a man who served in Vietnam, you commanded a battalion of 101st, you were chairman of the Joint Chiefs, you were a national security adviser and secretary of state. There is nothing in Barack Obama’s history that nearly paralyze any–parallels any of the experiences that you’ve had.  And while he has performed impressively in the context of the campaign, there’s a vast difference between sitting in the Oval Office and making tough decisions and doing well in a campaign.

GEN. POWELL: And he knows that. And I have watched him over the last two years as he has educated himself, as he has become very familiar with these issues.  He speaks authoritatively.  He speaks with great insight into the challenges we’re facing of a military and political and economic nature. And he is surrounding himself, I’m confident, with people who’ll be able to give him the expertise that he, at the moment, does not have.  And so I have watched an individual who has intellectual vigor and who dives deeply into issues and approaches issues with a very, very steady hand.  And so I’m confident that he will be ready to take on these challenges on January 21st.

MR. BROKAW: And you are fully aware that there will be some–how many, no one can say for sure–but there will be some who will say this is an African-American, distinguished American, supporting another African-American because of race.

GEN. POWELL:  If I had only had that in mind, I could have done this six, eight, 10 months ago.  I really have been going back and forth between somebody I have the highest respect and regard for, John McCain, and somebody I was getting to know, Barack Obama.  And it was only in the last couple of months that I settled on this.  And I can’t deny that it will be a historic event for an African-American to become president.  And should that happen, all Americans should be proud–not just African-Americans, but all Americans–that we have reached this point in our national history where such a thing could happen.  It will also not only electrify our country, I think it’ll electrify the world.

MR. BROKAW: You have some differences with Barack Obama.  He has said that once he takes office, he wants to begin removing American troops from Iraq. Here’s what you had to say about that:  “I have found in my many years of service, to set arbitrary dates that don’t coincide with the situation on the ground or what actually is happening tends not to be a useful strategy.  … Arbitrary deadlines that are snatched out of the air and are based on some lunar calculation is not the way to run a military or a strategic operation of this type.” That was on February 10th of this year on CNN. Now that you have Barack Obama’s ear in a new fashion, will you say to him, “Drop your idea of setting a deadline of some kind to pull the troops out of Iraq“?

GEN. POWELL: First of all, I think that’s a great line, and thanks for pulling it up.  And I believe that.  But as I watch what’s happening right now, the United States is negotiating the–an agreement with the Iraqi government that will call for most major combat operations to cease by next June and for American forces to start withdrawing to their bases.  And that agreement will also provide for all American troops to be gone by 2011, but conditioned on the situation as it exists at that time. So there already is a timeline that’s being developed between the Iraqis and the United States government.  So I think whoever becomes the president, whether it’s John McCain or whether it’s Barack Obama, we’re going to see a continued drawdown. And when, you know, which day so many troops come out or what units come out, that’ll be determined by the commanders and the new president.  But I think we are on a glide path to reducing our presence in Iraq over the next couple of years.  Increasingly, this problem’s going to be solved by the Iraqis. They’re going to make the political decisions, their security forces are going to take over, and they’re going to have to create an environment of reconciliation where all the people can come together and make Iraq a much, much better place.

MR. BROKAW: Let me go back to something that you raised just a moment ago, and that’s William Ayers, a former member of the Weathermen who’s now active in school issues in Illinois.  He had some past association with Barack Obama. Wouldn’t it have been more helpful for William Ayers to, on his own, to have renounced his own past? Here was a man who was a part of the most radical group that existed in America at a time when you were serving in Vietnam, targeting the Pentagon, the Capitol. He wrote a book about it that came out on 2001, on September 11th that said, “We didn’t bomb enough.”

GEN. POWELL:  It’s despicable, and I have no truck for William Ayers.  I think what he did was despicable, and to continue to talk about it in 2001 is also despicable.

But to suggest that because Mr. Barack Obama had some contacts of a very casual nature–they sat on a educational board–over time is somehow connected to his thinking or his actions, I think, is a, a terrible stretch.

It’s demagoguery.

MR. BROKAW: I want to ask you about your own role in the decision to go to war in Iraq.  Barack Obama has been critical of your appearance before the United Nations at that time.  Bob Woodward has a new book out called “The War Within,” and here’s what he had to say about Colin Powell and his place in the administration:  “Powell …  didn’t think [Iraq] was a necessary war, and yet he had gone along in a hundred ways, large and small.  He had resisted at times but had succumbed to the momentum and his own sense of deference–even obedience–to the president.  …  Perhaps more than anyone else in the administration, Powell had been the `closer’ for the president’s case on war.”

And then you were invited to appear before the Iraq Study Group.  “`Why did we go into Iraq with so few people?’ [former Secretary of State James] Baker asked.  …  `Colin just exploded at that point,’ [former Secretary of Defense William] Perry recalled later.  `He unloaded,’ Former White House Chief of Staff] Leon Panetta added.  `He was angry.  He was mad as hell.’ …  Powell left [the Study Group meeting].  Baker turned to Panetta and said solemnly, `He’s the one guy who could have perhaps prevented this from happening.'”

What’s the lesson in all of that for a former–for a new secretary of state or for a new national security adviser, based on your own experience?

GEN. POWELL: Well, let’s start at the beginning.  I said to the president in 2002, we should try to solve this diplomatically and avoid war.  The president accepted that recommendation, we took it to the U.N.  But the president, by the end of 2002, believed that the U.N. was not going to solve the problem, and he made a decision that we had to prepare for military action.  I fully supported that.  And I have never said anything to suggest I did not support going to war.  I thought the evidence was there.  And it is not just my closing of the whole deal with my U.N. speech.  I know the importance of that speech, and I regret a lot of the information that the intelligence community provided us was wrong.  But three months before my speech, with a heavy majority, the United States Congress expressed its support to use military force if it was necessary.  And so we went in and used military force. My unhappiness was that we didn’t do it right.  It was easy to get to Baghdad, but then we forgot that there was a lot more that had to be done.  And we didn’t have enough force to impose our will in the country or to deal with the insurgency when it broke out, and that I regret.

MR. BROKAW:  Removing the weapons of mass destruction from the equation…

GEN. POWELL:  I also assure you that it was not a correct assessment by anybody that my statements or my leaving the administration would have stopped it.

MR. BROKAW:  Removing the weapons of mass destruction from the equation, because we now know that they did not exist, was it then a war of necessity or just a war of choice?

GEN. POWELL: Without the weapons of mass destruction present, as conveyed to us by the intelligence community in the most powerful way, I don’t think there would have been a war.  It was the reason we took it to the public, it was the reason we took it to the American people to the Congress, who supported it on that basis, and it’s the presentation I made to the United Nations. Without those weapons of mass destruction then Iraq did not present to the world the kind of threat that it did if it had weapons of mass destruction.

MR. BROKAW:  You do know that there are supporters of Barack Obama who feel very strongly about his candidacy because he was opposed to the war from the beginning, and they’re going to say, “Who needs Colin Powell?  He was the guy who helped get us into this mess.”

GEN. POWELL:  I’m not here to get their approval or lack of approval.  I am here to express my view as to who I’m going to vote for.

MR. BROKAW:  There’s a summing up going on now as, as the Bush/Cheney administration winds down.  We’d like to share with our audience some of what you had to say about the two men who are at the top of the administration.  At the convention in 2000, this is Colin Powell on President Bush and Dick Cheney at that time.

(Videotape, July 31, 2000)

GEN. POWELL:  Dick Cheney is one of the most distinguished and dedicated public servants this nation has ever had.  He will be a superb vice president.

The Bush/Cheney team will be a great team for America.  They will put our nation on a course of hope and optimism for this new century.

(End videotape)

MR. BROKAW:  Was that prophetic or wrong?

GEN. POWELL: It’s what I believed.  It reflected the agenda of the new president, compassionate conservatism.  And some of it worked out.  I think we have advanced our freedom agenda, I think we’ve done a lot to help people around the world with our programs of development.  I think we’ve done a lot to solve some conflicts such as in Liberia and elsewhere.  But, at the same time, we have managed to convey to the world that we are more unilateral than we really are.  We have not explained our self well enough.  And we, unfortunately, have left an impression with the world that is not a good one. And the new president is going to have to fix the reputation that we’ve left with the rest of the world.

Now, let me make a point here. The United States is still seen as the leader at the world that wants to be free.  Even though the numbers are down with respect to favorability ratings, at every embassy and consular office tomorrow morning that we have, people will be lined up, and they’ll all say the same thing, “We want to go to America.” So we’re still the leader of the world that wants to be free.  We are still the inspiration of the rest of the world.  And we can come back. In 2000, it was moment where I believed that the new administration coming in would be able to achieve the agenda that President-elect Bush had set out of compassionate conservatism.

MR. BROKAW:  But it failed?

GEN. POWELL:  I don’t think it was as successful–excuse me (clears throat)–I don’t think it was as successful as it might have been.  And, as you see from the presidential approval ratings, the American people have found the administration wanting.

MR. BROKAW:  Let me as, you a couple of questions–quick questions as we wrap all of this up.  I know you’re very close to President Bush 41.  Are you still in touch with him on a regular basis?  And what do you think he’ll think about you this morning endorsing Barack Obama?

GEN. POWELL: I will let President Bush 41, speak for himself and let others speak for themselves, just as I have spoken for myself. Let me make one point, Tom, both Senator McCain and Senator Obama will be good presidents.

It isn’t easy for me to disappoint Senator McCain in the way that I have this morning, and I regret that.

But I strongly believe that at this point in America’s history, we need a president that will not just continue, even with a new face and with some changes and with some maverick aspects, who will not just continue, basically, the policies that we have been following in recent years.

I think we need a transformational figure.  I need–think we need a president who is a generational change.  And that’s why I’m supporting Barack Obama.  Not out of any lack of respect or admiration for Senator John McCain.

MR. BROKAW:  And finally, how much of a factor do you think race will be when voters go into that booth on November 4th?

GEN. POWELL:  I don’t know the answer to that question.  One may say that it’s going to be a big factor, and a lot of people say they will vote for Senator Obama but they won’t pull a lever.  Others might say that has already happened.  People are already finding other reasons to say they’re not voting for him.  “Well, he’s a Muslim,” “He’s this.” So we have already seen the so-called “Bradley factor” in the current–in the current spread between the candidates.  And so that remains to be seen.  I hope it is not the case.  I think we have advanced considerably in this country since the days of Tom Bradley.  And I hope that is not the case.  It would be very unfortunate if it were the case.

MR. BROKAW:  Finally, if Senator Obama is elected president, will there be a place for Colin Powell in that administration?  Maybe as the ambassador at large in Africa or to take on the daunting task of resolving the Israeli/Palestinian issue?

GEN. POWELL:  I served 40 years in government, and I–I’m not looking forward to a position or an assignment.  Of course, I have always said if a president asks you to do something, you have to consider it.  But I am in no way interested in returning to government.  But I, of course, would sit and talk to any president who wishes to talk to me.

MR. BROKAW:  You’re not ruling it out?

GEN. POWELL:  I would sit and talk to any president who wishes to talk to me, but I’m not anxious to rule it in.

MR. BROKAW:  General Colin Powell, thank you very much for being with us this morning.  Appreciate it.

GEN. POWELL:  Thank you, Tom.

MR. BROKAW:  Coming up next, Decision 2008, the home stretch.  We’ll look at the states and strategies in play with David Brooks, Jon Meacham, Andrea Mitchell, Joe Scarborough.  And Chuck Todd, our political director, will take us through the electoral map.

(end of interview with Gen. Powell)


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 13,394 other followers

%d bloggers like this: