September 16th, 2008
03:18 PM ET
6 years ago

Asked about McCain's Georgia position, Powell urges caution

Five former Secretaries of State weighed in Monday.
Five former Secretaries of State weighed in Monday.

(CNN) - Five former Secretaries of State from both parties told CNN Monday the Bush administration’s hard-line approach on Iran needs to be abandoned by the next president – with one GOP foreign policy heavyweight calling the current White House position “ridiculous.”

"I would advise the president to fully engage with Syria," former George H.W. Bush Secretary of State James Baker said at a George Washington University forum co-sponsored by CNN. “I think it's ridiculous for us to say we're not going to talk to Syria, and yet the Israelis have been negotiating peace with them for the last six or eight months.”

Watch Colin Powell on the presidential race

(Powell's full comments will air on “The Next President: A World of Challenges” this Saturday night at 9pm ET and again Sunday at 2pm ET.)

Baker, who has endorsed John McCain’s presidential bid, appeared with former Clinton Secretaries of State Madeleine Albright and Warren Christopher, Henry Kissinger, who served under Nixon and Ford, and former Bush Secretary of State Colin Powell. Albright has been an active supporter of Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama.

As the former diplomats urged a cautious approach in the conflict between Russia and Georgia, Powell seemed to take a swipe at John McCain’s tough criticism of Moscow.

“Some debate in the presidential elections has basically been, ‘We are all Georgians now,’” said CNN correspondent Christiane Amanpour. “What does that mean? It's the same as was said after 9/11.”

Responded Powell, “One candidate said that, and I'll let the candidate explain it for himself.” Pressed to explain his response, the retired general said the crisis called for caution.

“The fact of the matter is that you have to be very careful in a situation like this not just to leap to one side or the other until you take a good analysis of the whole situation….

“The Russian Federation is not going to become the Soviet Union again. That movie failed at the box office. But they do have interests. And we have to think carefully about their interests.”

Powell, who has not yet decided which candidate to back in this year’s presidential race, said Monday the election of an African-American president “would be electrifying,” Powell told a George Washington University audience, “but at the same time [I have to] make a judgment here on which would be best for America.

“I have been watching both individuals, I know them both extremely well, and I have not decided who I am going to vote for. And I'm interested to see what the debates are going to be like because we have to get off of this ‘lipstick on a pig’ stuff and get into issues,” he said

soundoff (250 Responses)
  1. agnes

    Finally, some gravitas in foreign policy that we have been missing for the last seven years. This is a vocal support for the policies of Obama. It looks like Obama has been right all along.

    September 16, 2008 03:21 pm at 3:21 pm |
  2. George Bush in a skirt!!!!!!!!!!

    Pople open your eyes.
    Forget McCain's faux experience.
    All these intellignet men have pointed and highlighted is Obama's foregin policy standing. Not McCain saber rattling!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    September 16, 2008 03:21 pm at 3:21 pm |
  3. McDangerous

    What more do you people need to realize McCain is a danger?

    Its OK to vote for a black guy, really it is. Think green (your money) not black and white.

    September 16, 2008 03:22 pm at 3:22 pm |
  4. NO WAR

    Obama was right on foreign policy and right on the economy…but some racists will not vote for him anyway. Hope you can look yourself in the mirror as your son gets drafted if you succeed in electing McWar…I pray you won’t.

    Obama Biden for peace and prosperity!!

    September 16, 2008 03:22 pm at 3:22 pm |
  5. Obama Supporter from FL

    I wish Colin Powell would have run for president...

    September 16, 2008 03:23 pm at 3:23 pm |
  6. GET REAL.

    I'll repeat what I just tried to post in another blog post:

    Even if you are a racist Clintonista or a die-hard conservative, you have to admit that voting for someone unpalatable is better than voting for someone that's flat out rotten.

    If you're the typical kid and your parents hand you veggies or a piece of rotten meat, which one will you eat?

    More veggies, more Obama!

    September 16, 2008 03:23 pm at 3:23 pm |
  7. Jon

    I cannot believe anyone is going to vote for the Republicans this year. They're wrong on everything, from economics to foreign policy, and even members of their own party are publicly calling them out for it.

    September 16, 2008 03:24 pm at 3:24 pm |
  8. John in Ohio

    "The fact of the matter is that you have to be very careful in a situation like this not just to leap to one side or the other until you take a good analysis of the whole situation…."

    Unless you're McCain and you have a Georgia lobbyist on your paid staff.

    September 16, 2008 03:24 pm at 3:24 pm |
  9. Debby

    Oh Powell please just endorse your electrifying candidate and stop using excuses and belittling McCain's policies. We all know you are BLACK and want the first AA President already.

    September 16, 2008 03:24 pm at 3:24 pm |
  10. no trickle down...

    Sounds like the Five are endorsing Obama's foreign policy, even if they do not all endorse the candidate.

    Too Funny!

    September 16, 2008 03:24 pm at 3:24 pm |
  11. Sarah Plain and small

    My god, does McSame have anything to run on now!? He'll have to keep stealing from Barrack I guess.. Yowza! every one of John McSames policies (if you can even call them) that have been shot full of holes! His own economic adviser, who ran HP and Lucent both straight into the ground even says that Palin couldnt run a business, but could somehow run the country? John, buddy, dude.. with friends like that, you don't need enemies!

    September 16, 2008 03:24 pm at 3:24 pm |
  12. Independent in DC

    I think Obama is gonna surprise McCain in that first debate on foreign policy and it will mark the end of McCain's run. Mark my words...

    September 16, 2008 03:24 pm at 3:24 pm |
  13. I Invented the McMuffin... and fire

    ...or to put a finer point on it; the next administration would be wise to put more thought into dealing with the Russia/Georgia conflict (and every other world matter) than J.McWhatever put into choosing a running mate or than Sarah "backwoods" Palin put into accepting the position. Shoot now, ask questions later is no way to run a country.

    September 16, 2008 03:24 pm at 3:24 pm |
  14. ZANE

    Powell was a Democrat, then he cozied up with Bush and the boys. Now he can't make up his mind as to which candidate to endorse. In other words, he knows Obama is the only one to change the direction of this country, BUT, he is still very much indebted to the Republicans.
    This is not hard to figure out folks.....Colin Powell goes with whomever will butter his bread the best. Powell couldn't hold a candle to Obama.

    September 16, 2008 03:24 pm at 3:24 pm |
  15. Jon

    Translation: McCain is going overboard either to pander to voters or because he doesn't have a clue.

    Voters get to decide between the two this November.

    September 16, 2008 03:24 pm at 3:24 pm |
  16. David, Silver Spring, MD

    So John McCain won't get us into war through deception or nefarious ulterior motives, he'll get us into war through recklessness and an unwillingness to take the time to understand the situation.

    Yeah, that's much better. Gee, thanks.

    September 16, 2008 03:25 pm at 3:25 pm |
  17. SONGBIRD MCCAIN

    Sounds like they all think that Obama's foreign policies are much more sound and logical; while McCain's rhetoric is reactionary, belligerent, stubborn and risky. But what would they know, they were just five former Secretaries of State from both parties.

    Bush = McCain

    September 16, 2008 03:25 pm at 3:25 pm |
  18. gregory

    its ok MC CAIN will send the first dude to fix the russia problem,,, sarah has to take care of the kids you know,,,,

    September 16, 2008 03:26 pm at 3:26 pm |
  19. Sacto Joe

    ANOTHER red herring!

    WHO CARES, CNN!

    We need to talk about the ECONOMY!

    We need to mention the Keating Five and the Savings and Loan scandals!

    We need to remind people that history is repeating itself, and that John McCain doesn't mean change, he means MORE OF THE SAME!

    September 16, 2008 03:27 pm at 3:27 pm |
  20. Tony

    With the latest Wall Street disaster, the only one who can get us out of this 8 year mess is OBAMA. The vast majority of Americans are so easily fooled and even more are easily led.
    VOTE OBAMA FOR A NEW DIRECTION

    September 16, 2008 03:27 pm at 3:27 pm |
  21. Ryan

    Powell is right. You cannot just jump to one side as soon as a conflict arises without first actually figuring out the facts. McCain jumped the gun on the Georgia-Russia conflict and his reaction just can make things worse. You must approach foreign conflicts with caution.

    September 16, 2008 03:28 pm at 3:28 pm |
  22. bridgette

    They know that this man is just itchng to go to war and they are saying be cautious. They are really speaking to the voters, but, most people won't hear them. We cannot afford to go to one more war. Where would the money come from.

    September 16, 2008 03:28 pm at 3:28 pm |
  23. Frantz from Atlanta

    Take that McSame!

    Obama/Biden 08

    September 16, 2008 03:28 pm at 3:28 pm |
  24. Spencer from VA

    Who is Colin Powell supporting?

    Responded Powell, “One candidate said that, and I'll let the candidate explain it for himself.” Pressed to explain his response, the retired general said the crisis called for caution.

    Pretty self explanatory that Gen. Powell is now on board with Sen. McCain's position.

    September 16, 2008 03:28 pm at 3:28 pm |
  25. JPM

    CNN – please give this more investigative attention. We have 5 ex secretaries of state here saying we need to have caution – why not ask McCain what his thoughts are on this. Will he take us into another war or not?

    September 16, 2008 03:29 pm at 3:29 pm |
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