December 3rd, 2021


Why Colin Powell is a bad enemy for Hillary Clinton to make

Chris Cillizza

By Chris Cillizza The Washington Post

Published August 23, 2016

The Closing of the American Mouth

Colin Powell wasn't too happy that Hillary Clinton laid her decision to use a private email address at his feet during her interview with the FBI. And he made that annoyance plain over the weekend in the Hamptons.

"The truth is she was using it (her personal email) for a year before I sent her a memo telling her what I did [during my term as secretary of state]," Powell told the gossip site Page Six over the weekend. "Her people have been trying to pin it on me."

"Pin it on me." Oomph.

As I explained last week - even before Powell's latest comments - his email use and Clinton's are simply not analogous. In addition to how the rules governing electronic communication were significantly tightened between when Powell left office and when Clinton arrived, Powell neither exclusively used his personal email account nor did he establish his own private email server. Clinton did both.

Powell is not an enemy Clinton needs or wants - but she may have turned the former secretary of state into one with her seeming attempt to use him as a shield against any wrongdoing in the eyes of the FBI.

Powell is not a partisan in any modern sense of the word. Yes, he made the case for the Iraq War before the United Nations on behalf of the George W. Bush administration. But, in the intervening years, he also very publicly endorsed Barack Obama's 2008 presidential bid - praising the then-Illinois senator's "calm, patient, intellectual, steady approach" to the major issues facing the country.

In this campaign, Powell has largely avoided the public eye, but when he has voiced his opinions, they have been deeply critical of Donald Trump. Talking about immigration last year, Powell offered this:

"If I was around Mr. Trump, Donald, who I know rather well, I would say you know, Don, let's see what happens. Let's tell all the immigrants working in Trump hotels to stay home tomorrow. See what happens."

There have also long been rumors that Powell might endorse Clinton because of his doubts about Trump's ability to grasp the complex national security and foreign policy challenges facing the country. "He may or may not endorse a candidate over the coming months and I can tell you with absolute certainty that he is not going to either convention," a spokeswoman for Powell told the Huffington Post last month. That quote certainly left the door open for a Clinton endorsement.

Now, however, it's hard to see how Powell throws his support to Clinton. It's very clear that he is not at all happy with the idea of playing the fall guy for her decisions about exclusively using a private email server while serving as the nation's top diplomat.

Count Powell as another casualty of Clinton's long-running struggle to directly confront and accept the consequences of the decisions she made regarding her email setup when she took over as secretary of state in 2009. Without this latest back and forth, it seemed likely that Powell would have eventually endorsed her candidacy - painting her as the only one in the field with the know-how to do the job. Now? Not so much.

Clinton almost certainly doesn't need Powell's endorsement. After all, she's ahead comfortably in virtually every swing state - sans Iowa - and Trump's lack of message discipline seems to be more of a feature than a glitch at this point. But, the Powell fight remains symbolic of Clinton's broader issues in grasping the political problems created by her email decision and her subsequent defenses of it.

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