I might actually go along with the old general if, in fact, he were the general of old. Consider Colin Powell at the 1996 Republican Convention:
"President Reagan will always be the president who restored the fighting strength and spirit of America's Armed Forces. Ronald Reagan, the great communicator, who gave voice and image to the power of democracy as the way to a better future for all the people of the world."
And President George W. Bush? Powell said this of Bush:
[He] took us through the end of the Cold War and the defeat of communism. George Bush the statesman, George Bush the statesman and my boss who led us to a great victory in the Persian Gulf War."
So far, so good. What did the Time-Warp Powell say about family and values?
"Children learn values by watching their parents in their homes. Values which are then reinforced in their churches and in their places of worship, in the schools and in the communities in which they live. That's why we Republicans believe that the family, fueled by values, must be restored to the central place in American life if we are to keep the dream alive. "
And taxes and economic growth? What say you alternative universe Powell?
"We are the pro-growth party. We are the party committed to lessening the burden of taxes, cutting government regulations and reducing government spending, all for the purpose of generating the higher economic growth that will bring better jobs, wages and living standards to all our people. We believe there are better ways to take care of Americans in need than the exhausted programs of the past. All of us -- all of us, my friends -- all of us must be willing to do with less from government if we are to avoid condemning our children and grandchildren with a crushing burden of debt that will deny them the American dream. "
Good job, general. But what about big government?
"I became a Republican because I believe, like you that the federal government has become too large and too intrusive in our lives. We can no longer afford solutions to our problems that result in more entitlements, higher taxes to pay for them, more bureaucracy to run them and fewer results to show for it. I became a Republican because I believe America must remain the leader of the free world. Republican leadership, a Republican president, will bring greater conviction and coherence to our foreign policy -- and will guarantee that our Armed Forces remain the strongest and most capable on earth."
Wow. Doesn't sound anything like Barack Obama, the big government, high-tax, omnipotent authoritarian that Powell endorsed and supported for president in 2008! Now, to be fair, in 1996, Powell also stated he was for affirmative action and was "pro-choice," and he nodded approvingly more than once to "compassion" and ending "corporate welfare." (Oops. Better tell Zero about that one!) But overall, that alternative universe general is 180 degrees off from the guy who said Americans were eager to have bigger government and couldn't wait to pay more taxes.
So why does Powell command any support among Republicans, let alone a great deal of fawning by otherwise sensible people? I call it the Black Perot effect. In 1992, Ross Perot came out of nowhere to get 17% of the national presidential vote, probably electing Bill Clinton (that remains debatable among scholars). But the point is, most Perot supporters didn't have a clue what he stood for. Heck, Ross didn't know what he stood for.
"Larry, we're gonna get under the hood, see, and take a look." That was his solution to everything---that and to draw up a chart he could use on Larry King. Yet Perot was exceptionally popular. Why? My theory is that Perot appealed to the "common sense Americans" who can't understand why it's so hard to do the right thing and end a stupid welfare program, or STOP SPENDING MONEY. They do, in their daily lives. Why can't the government?
More important, however, Perot also included a great number of professional Republican-haters. By this I do not mean Democrats---they are on another planet when it comes to Republican hate. I mean ordinary people who through their schools and the media and Hollywood have been convinced that Republicans are "for the rich," and since they ain't rich, Republicans must be against them. But the key feature is that since Perot had no actual policies that could be studied, no plans that could be questioned, he managed to skate along for months without serious media criticism, and affected a national election.
Powell is a Black Perot. He has no specific policies on anything except he's "for" affirmative action and abortion, which stands him in good stead with a few Dems who on most other issues don't like big government but who crave "fairness." But how would he handle the GM bailout? He won't say. What about Iran? "We need more dialogue." (This is a leftie codephrase which means, "We won't stop you, no matter what you do"). And best of all---from this voter segment's perspective---Powell is (shhhh) black. So Obama was a two-fer---assuage white guilt and vote for the young, hip guy even though he's a socialist. Powell is a three-fer, allowing people to assuage white guilt, support a black man full of compassion on the "right" issues, who may (we hope, we hope, we hope) have the right positions on big spending and taxes and the economy.
In fact, Powell is much worse than Perot, who at least had the courage to run for president and put what few and flimsy ideas he had to the test.