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. PalinLiesTooMuch

    Mccain is a warmonger just like the Bush's I agree with the former secratries we need to be caustious by what mccain have said we are all georgians now what does it mean?. He has not studied who started the confilict before he made a conclusion very dangerous old man,

    September 16, 2008 03:44 pm at 3:44 pm |
  2. Moderate Republican for Obama

    If people like Baker know that McCain's foreign policy is even worser than Bush's then why in the heck are they supporting him. IT DOES NOT MAKE ANY SENSE!!!

    September 16, 2008 03:44 pm at 3:44 pm |
  3. White evangelical now for obama--Repugs are liars

    Everybody in their right mind believes diplomacy should be the connerstone of a good foriegn policy and not the fact that you can see russia from your house..

    Now isreal is talking to syria and the bush administration is in some talks with iran.
    Is it not common sense? McCain/Palin is so 18th century.....war mongers

    September 16, 2008 03:45 pm at 3:45 pm |
  4. OBAMA SUPPORTER IN IOWA

    Why is Colin Powell having such a dilema choosing a candidate to support? His obvious choice would be McCain so if he can't commit to McCain, he is in favor of Obama. Now was that so hard to say Colin?

    Obama/Biden '08

    September 16, 2008 03:45 pm at 3:45 pm |
  5. Peter (CA)

    Baker is right about Bush but I don't think he is going to find a big difference in McCain. Obama has already shown he is willing to deal with these nations and he has gotten nothing but foaming-from-the-mouth rhetoric from the right wingers.

    September 16, 2008 03:45 pm at 3:45 pm |
  6. Gene from Georgia

    It's documented: Obama's game of choice is poker, while McCain's is high-stakes craps. Which do you want handling foreign policy?

    September 16, 2008 03:45 pm at 3:45 pm |
  7. The Voice of Common Sense (Independent Voter - Charlotte, NC)

    The United States should always have a foreign policy that supports and maintains direct and open talks with all foreign governments and nations, even those hostile to the United States. Never is there any healing without confession that is also coupled with mutual respect and understanding of all positions concerning an issue. Let's act like grown, educated adults instead of spoiled, egotistical brats!

    September 16, 2008 03:45 pm at 3:45 pm |
  8. Proud American

    Sounds like what Obama has been saying for 4 years now. Obama a man ahead of his time.
    Obama/ Biden '08

    September 16, 2008 03:46 pm at 3:46 pm |
  9. Georgia Gal

    So Baker believes that the Bush administrations hard-line approach on Iran needs to be abandoned by the next President, but yet he is planning on voting for McCain who we know won't drop it. Yeah ... that makes sense. *Rolls eyes*

    September 16, 2008 03:46 pm at 3:46 pm |
  10. Susan

    McCain and Palins idea of talking is down the barrel of an AK-47. OBAMA/BIDEN 08!

    September 16, 2008 03:46 pm at 3:46 pm |
  11. Melissa Petoskey, MI

    I don't blame him for waiting until the debates. Too many distractions have been happening te past couple of weeks. I think his decision will have a significant impact on most of the voters.

    September 16, 2008 03:46 pm at 3:46 pm |
  12. Proud to be American

    Colin backs Obama the truth will shine in the end!

    September 16, 2008 03:47 pm at 3:47 pm |
  13. PatrickMN

    I find it amazing that with each new day, another heavy-hitting policy wonk, or foreign policy expert seems to back up what Barack Obama has been saying all along... Simply amazing.

    September 16, 2008 03:47 pm at 3:47 pm |
  14. Krissy

    It is so good to see serious issues being discussed (and reported on!).

    While no one came out and specifically said it, it seems that they all agree that John McCain's foreign policy positions are foolish.

    September 16, 2008 03:48 pm at 3:48 pm |
  15. Go Sarah!

    hmmm.....Do you think the recent stock market collapse or troubles in the banking system are good news?

    Well, according to CNN's Candy Crowley, the Obama campaign does.

    On Monday's "Anderson Cooper 360," after CNN senior political analyst David Gergen said "what happened over the weekend with the economy and the bottom falling out of the financial markets...is the opportunity for Obama to seize the momentum back on his side," Crowley actually said, "[J]ust as foreclosures were showing up on B-17, or in the real estate section, along comes this horrific headline out of Wall Street...I mean, this is what they wanted."

    I kid you not. The transcript of this disgraceful exchange follows (video embedded right, h/t Steve Malzberg):

    September 16, 2008 03:48 pm at 3:48 pm |
  16. Joshua College Station Texas

    Thank you secretaries of state and CNN. It is about time we talked about issues that matter.

    September 16, 2008 03:48 pm at 3:48 pm |
  17. Steve A. , New Braunfels , Texas

    The republican ticket is pathetic..!!!!!

    September 16, 2008 03:48 pm at 3:48 pm |
  18. inga

    HUGE RED FLAG! If almost all of our country's top political and economic advisors are warning America that we cannot continue the same path George Bush has been on, We need to change!

    If you believe McCain will take a different path – after voting with Bush over 90% of the time, AND admitting that he knows nothing about the economy, you are not only throwing your life savings away, you can count on the US being in war or at risk for war for many years to come.

    There is just too much at stake to throw your vote, your life savings, and our national security away.

    This time – We Won't Get Fooled Again!

    September 16, 2008 03:48 pm at 3:48 pm |
  19. Leo

    Out of touch on the economy ..out of touch on foreign policy ..what is he in touch on ? Oh yah Smear politics even independants can see this clearly

    September 16, 2008 03:48 pm at 3:48 pm |
  20. Open Your 3rd Eye

    Cummon' Mr. Powell-

    Imagine the respect you'd gain for growing a pair, and making the right endorsement for our country!

    Obama is the clear choice, a guy of your stature & intelligence knows this!

    September 16, 2008 03:49 pm at 3:49 pm |
  21. Republican for Obama

    Obama has been saying this for months and he was called naive. Time and time again Obama has shown good judgment.

    September 16, 2008 03:49 pm at 3:49 pm |
  22. Gia in Los Angeles, CA

    After listening to the entire program this weekend, I bet the Obama campaign will have a lot of ammunition saying how these experienced individuals agree with his policies and NOT with McCain's. Go Obama/Biden!!

    September 16, 2008 03:50 pm at 3:50 pm |
  23. Jim

    These five senior statesmen are saying: 1) Obama's and Biden's judgment and diplomatic approach are prudent and correct, and 2) McCain's and Palin's experience and belligerent statements are risky and wrong.

    So the three reasons to elect Obama/Biden are: 1) better foreign policy, 2) better solutions for the economy, and 3) NO THIRD TERM for the failed Bush/Cheney/McCain/Palin policies.

    September 16, 2008 03:50 pm at 3:50 pm |
  24. JDOD

    McCain will only continue the Bush Policies and take us to more economic troubles. Palin is Bush with Lipstick.

    September 16, 2008 03:50 pm at 3:50 pm |
  25. Ade, Bartlett, TN

    Again and again, Obama is right!

    September 16, 2008 03:50 pm at 3:50 pm |
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