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. MikeH

    CNN, don'tcha just hate it when you can't control the dialog any more. You want sooo badly to keep Sarah Palin sensationalism in the headlines, but these darn real issues keep getting in the way.

    I know, ramp up sensationalism of the O.J. Simpson trial.

    September 16, 2008 03:56 pm at 3:56 pm |
  2. john

    ya GOP is stupid as it is now so only thing they have change is faces of poeple with same plans

    September 16, 2008 03:56 pm at 3:56 pm |
  3. I Love my Country!

    Obama has been saying this now for how long? And mccain slammed him for it! Who has the better judgment??????

    September 16, 2008 03:56 pm at 3:56 pm |
  4. McCain Invented the Blackberry

    Surely the situation in Georgia will be no problem at all to the man who invented the Blackberry!

    September 16, 2008 03:56 pm at 3:56 pm |
  5. Dori in AZ

    One would think it'd be easier for Powell to make his decision about which candidate to back. Sounds like the Secretaries of State would be agreeable to Obama's philosophy regarding these issues.

    Powell can't seriously be considering a deceitful and reckless man and his deceitful running mate who can't answer straight-forward questions and who are ducking the press?

    If he knows McCain "extremely well" as he's quoted, then he should have an inside track to a lot of the other smelly McCain garbage of which most Americans have no clue! And, that alone, would be reason never to vote for him for any office!

    September 16, 2008 03:57 pm at 3:57 pm |
  6. Michael "C" Lorton, Virginia

    This presidental campaign has become a bad "Disney" movie. In the political panaroma of not ready for prime time players, no one seems to have a focus on any and all things that are greatly causing this nations serious termoil. The Bush doctrines, the Ford Doctrines, the Regan doctrines....etc......nothing is working. Maybe asking the "magic eight ball" is not a bad idea after all......and if the dice gets stuck........there is always the final source of reference......God......but then of course........he will only provide us with the "opportunity" and not the answer.

    September 16, 2008 03:57 pm at 3:57 pm |
  7. s

    Republican thinking process: "Why talk with them? It's easier to bomb them." When are these folks ever going to learn that even in realistic geopolitics the handshake is stronger than the fist?

    September 16, 2008 03:57 pm at 3:57 pm |
  8. drone

    ONCE AGAIN.... OBama was RIGHT!! We have to talk to our enemies.. Bush should of read the book, 48 Laws of Power... Maybe then he could have a little insight on different matters, then again, he is an idiot, just like McCain...

    September 16, 2008 03:57 pm at 3:57 pm |
  9. JimB

    I am seriously afraid that if McCain and Palin win the election, their collective views on the Georgia/Russia situation could lead to war with Russia. I really think McCain may be that crazy, and Palin that stupid.

    September 16, 2008 03:57 pm at 3:57 pm |
  10. Bdiddy from Chicago

    What's the difference between Bush and McCain...lipstick!!!

    The consensus is ultra clear...we can't take another 4 years. It's sad to say but Bush will go down in History as the worst Choice America has made.... TWICE!!!! There's no way he should have been president of Sears much less America.

    Powell has endorsed Obama already, what republican has not endorsed McCain yet? Powells Silence is a nod for Obama.

    September 16, 2008 03:57 pm at 3:57 pm |
  11. RH

    This is the true tragedy of the invasion of Iraq. Now, with a real threat looming, all anyone hears is cries of, "Wolf, wolf!"

    September 16, 2008 03:58 pm at 3:58 pm |
  12. Rick

    Five former Secretaries of State are saying YES to peace process and NO to invading yet another country. Where were they in 2002 when some village idiot got the idea of starting another, useless war?

    September 16, 2008 03:58 pm at 3:58 pm |
  13. Turning the page

    Down with cowboy diplomacy – it only breeds disaster.
    People need to do the right thing and hire the most intellectually qualified leader to run the country; Barack Obama

    September 16, 2008 03:58 pm at 3:58 pm |
  14. lmw

    It just shows that when you get the thoughtful individuals with real foreign policy experience together to talk about the ISSUES, it becomes clear that McCain's demagoguery for the sake of winning an election is doing this country no good.

    McCain was a POW and can sing the patriotism song all he wants. Obama has the judgment, the high-quality advisors, and the intellectual capacity to manage this country's foreign policy in the most prudent way. By far.

    September 16, 2008 03:58 pm at 3:58 pm |
  15. Joe in MN

    Please, no more Neocons in office...especially ones with Hockey moms ready to declare war on Russia.

    September 16, 2008 03:59 pm at 3:59 pm |
  16. Dave

    This session was not about Powell's comments alone it was a group opinning on a suject vtal to American National security a group experts of differnt poltical party perspectives that reached the same painful yet rational conclusion: TALK TO IRAN NOW!

    This is the considered opinon of Sen. Obama and Biden and NOT that of the Mc.Cain Palin ticket. This not about Powell's viewpoing as a BLACK American....but sober well thought out advise of several loyal American leaders who have the nations best interets FIRST and foremost in mine.

    Whoe do we trust most in such matters ????????????????

    Your article misses that point.

    September 16, 2008 03:59 pm at 3:59 pm |
  17. out of worl

    Sounds like they are telling us to put a Dem in the white house. They know what they are talking about. To have peace with your enemy, you must talk.

    September 16, 2008 03:59 pm at 3:59 pm |
  18. Candy West Virginia

    Once again, and I am getting tired of saying it, Obama's judgment has been right AGAIN! But let's do it Palin's way and consider a cold war against Russia. Those are her words by the way. I want to see the rethuglicans spin this one that is clearly the truth and shows their candidates poor judgement. Go ahead, I'm waiting...........................Eventually you are going to grow weary of supporting mccain and palin, it takes too many lies, too much time and in the end its not worth it.

    September 16, 2008 04:00 pm at 4:00 pm |
  19. Vincent Spaulding

    Powell is inching closer to an endorsement of Obama. One more neocon pronouncement from McCain and he's going to spring.

    September 16, 2008 04:00 pm at 4:00 pm |
  20. tennisguypitt

    Colin Powell is right on about this. Israel has been talking with Syria for months yet we are not going to, and he is telling McCain to soften up a little on Moscow.

    That sounds like Barack Obama's plan, doesn't it?

    Obama/Biden '08

    September 16, 2008 04:00 pm at 4:00 pm |
  21. Tina

    SOMEBODY PLEASE TELL ME..............How does being a POW qualify John McBUSH as being experienced enough to be President? He was a part of the military...........He was NOT Command in Chief.

    OBAMA – BIDEN 2008 & 2012
    HILLARY CLINTON 2016 & 2020

    September 16, 2008 04:00 pm at 4:00 pm |
  22. Nelson Colorado Springs Co

    You know something is wrong when 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. The only bush is out the door soon.

    September 16, 2008 04:00 pm at 4:00 pm |
  23. John McPain

    Bush/McSame and the GOP don't know what they are doing. What else is new? But this will not change the minds of the mindless mob.

    September 16, 2008 04:00 pm at 4:00 pm |
  24. MK, Apex NC

    McCain talks about bombing Iran and Palin sees no problem in war with Russia

    September 16, 2008 04:01 pm at 4:01 pm |
  25. J L

    Bomb - bomb - bomb – – – Iran

    Heh – – – heh – – – – heh – – – – heh

    – John McCain, 2007

    September 16, 2008 04:01 pm at 4:01 pm |
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