"I know both of these individuals very well now," Gen. Colin Powell (Ret.) said on Meet the Press this morning, saying that both Sens. Barack Obama, D-Ill., and John McCain, R-Ariz., could be good presidents.
But that said, and despite his professed respect and admiration for McCain, and their friendship of 25 years, Powell this morning endorsed Obama.
"It isn't easy for me to disappoint Sen. McCain the way I have this morning," he said.
Powell said that he made his decision in the last few months, specifically because he liked what he saw from Obama and didn't care for what he saw from McCain.
McCain, he charged, was "unsure about how to deal with the economic problems we are having," offered a different response every day. Powell also said he was "concerned" about McCain's selection of Gov. Sarah Palin as his running mate. "I don't believe she's ready to be president of the United States," he said, and the pick "raised some question in my mind about the judgment" McCain has.
Obama, conversely, offers "steadiness, an intellectual curiosity, a depth of knowledge," Powell said.
Powell also said "the approach the Republican Party and Mr. McCain" are taking on the campaign trail is getting "narrower and narrower" while Obama has been "inclusive." In a shot at Palin's remarks about small town values being superior, Powell -- born in Harlem, raised in the Bronx -- said Obama pushes the idea that "all villages have values, all towns have values." Powell said he was "disappointed" in McCain for tacking issues he found "no central" to the nation's challenges, specifically McCain's focus on Obama's association with education professor William Ayers, a former member of the violent radical group the Weather Underground.
The former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff under former President George H.W. Bush said that he thinks what Ayers did was "despicable" and for Ayers to have continued talking about what he did, with no regrets, in 2001 was also "despicable." But to say those views have anything to do with Obama's views, Powell said, is a "terrible stretch...it's demagoguery."
Powell, who served as Secretary of State for President George W. Bush, said he was also "troubled what members of the Republican party" have said along the lines of , "We know that Mr. Obama is a Muslim."
First off, Powell said, Obama is a Christian. But more to the point, he said, "is there something wrong with being a Muslim?" He worried about the message the GOP was sending to a hypothetical 7-year-old Muslim American who thinks he can grow up and be president some day.
He then referenced a photograph he saw in a recent magazine photo essay -- presumably a New Yorker photo essay from the photographer Platon -- showing the mother of a fallen Muslim-American soldier clutching her son's grave. (See the photo HERE.)
"We have got to stop polarizing," Powell said.