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. Aaron

    Glad they're saying it, but little good it'll do. Neocons are very well versed in the game of sticking their fingers in their ears and shouting "No! No! La-la-la-la-la-la-la!" when nasty things like the truth are raised.

    September 16, 2008 04:18 pm at 4:18 pm |
  2. Paula

    Thank goodness we are hearing intelligent people join Obama's voice
    of reason. I wish the folks blindly following McCain could acutally visit a battlefield before casting a vote for DISASTER!

    Obama/Biden '08

    September 16, 2008 04:18 pm at 4:18 pm |
  3. Mike, Syracuse NY

    Since you Obamamaniacs fail to be able to remember, after McCain made a strong statement following the invasion, Obama flipped and came out much stronger statement himself. And candy, Palin specifically said that we should not return to the Cold War. You people have no sense of reality. Please get psychiatric help before voting.

    September 16, 2008 04:18 pm at 4:18 pm |
  4. Lynn:60 yr old Obama supporter

    So McCain dissed Obama's very successful one on one meetings with leaders in both the Middle East and Europe. He was greeted with respect and was complimented on his understanding of the issues. He criticized Obama for being a celebrity, but now he can't draw a crowd without Palin by his side.

    Worldwide, citizens see Obama as a leader and McCain as more Bush.

    McCain is taking his running mate to meet world leaders at the UN. Not for meetings but to shake their hands. What a desperate, hypocrite this man is.

    September 16, 2008 04:18 pm at 4:18 pm |
  5. Brian G, Sugar Land, TX

    All of those gentlemen know exactly that we must avoid further confrontation on any and all fronts.

    September 16, 2008 04:19 pm at 4:19 pm |
  6. No more Karl Rove Politics!!

    So it seems that the Secretary of State from BOTH sides agree with Obama's approach to talking with foreign countries instead of threatening to bomb them if they step out of line. Obama has been saying all along that we need to sit down with Syria, Iran and Russia to negotiate. We cannot continue to use the BUSH/McCAIN approach to go in and blow them up as Palin has now stated in her interview with Charlie Gibson. With McCain the warmonger's plan we will just reinstate the draft and send in the troops to bomb and kill more innocent people. We cannot do this any longer. The rest of the world will not allow this. WE CANNOT allow this!!

    VOTE OBAMA/BIDEN '08

    SAVE OUR COUNTRY FROM REPUBLICAN DESTRUCTION!

    September 16, 2008 04:19 pm at 4:19 pm |
  7. S. Boatman

    Mccain Will Push This Country Head First Into Something Without Thinking It Through Just Like His Choice For VP. Mccain Has The Philosophy Of. . . . Ready . . . Shoot. . . Aim! We Need A President Who Will Think With His Head And Not His Gut! Obama Gets My Vote!

    September 16, 2008 04:19 pm at 4:19 pm |
  8. Greg FL.

    Obama continues to show great judgement on foreign policy. How many hammers does the American Public need to be hit over the head with, before they realize McCain is a bad choice.

    September 16, 2008 04:19 pm at 4:19 pm |
  9. Chuck

    The question is often asked.... with all the ills that the Bush administration has laid on us, why isn't Obama further ahead in the polls?

    Imagine, just imagine, that, if Obama was a white man, the election would already be over. It would be a landslide election victory for Obama.

    September 16, 2008 04:19 pm at 4:19 pm |
  10. Al

    Any chance of this being the leading story on tonight's news? It should would be refreshing to get back to issues and the differences between the two tickets.

    September 16, 2008 04:20 pm at 4:20 pm |
  11. Sarah

    This is what Obamas' position has been for a long time...!

    Do you see a pattern here?...Poeple come to this man position long time after he state them. Still many of us accuse him of being less experienced!

    Obama is really gifted and talented and he is the right choice for America to pull us out of this mess and isolation...

    September 16, 2008 04:20 pm at 4:20 pm |
  12. Blu

    listen people irregardless of your party politics, a vote for Obama is trading the current redneck Thug we have for an urban thug. They are right we don't need 4 more years of the same thuggery mentality and that is what we will get with Obama. Political philosophy has nothing to do with the problems we face today. It is the character of the leader and Obama is just like Bush – shady and with nothing to say!

    Now where can I buy some of those Obama Waffles?

    September 16, 2008 04:20 pm at 4:20 pm |
  13. Becky

    McCain is a follower, not a leader.

    September 16, 2008 04:20 pm at 4:20 pm |
  14. jm for sc

    This election is so much about race until people are actually blind to the truth. McCain left his wife and children for a younger woman but yet he is the most honorable man in america. He has been caught in so many lies until Karl Roves had to speak up, yet he is the most trusted of the two candidates.

    Obama's words are filled with good judgement while McCain's words show a lack thereof.

    Obama/Biden 08

    September 16, 2008 04:20 pm at 4:20 pm |
  15. Wisconsin Vet

    Why is this even a issue. Anyone listening to Obama has heard this before to talk first and use military as a last resort.

    Save lives with word when you can, Protect lives with weapon when you must.

    September 16, 2008 04:21 pm at 4:21 pm |
  16. Mike in Cincinnati

    This 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 04:21 pm at 4:21 pm |
  17. Truth Be told

    sen. obama has been right on the power of tact and diplomacy, rather than bomb 'em first, ask questions later. the bush administration with the help of john mccain has cost us, so far, over 4,000 young american lives in iraq alone. how many more lives do we need to "waste" before the american voters realize the idiocy of mccain/palin ideals?

    September 16, 2008 04:21 pm at 4:21 pm |
  18. John E. Boyd

    The once "Grand Old Party" has lost its way. It claims to be "The Party of Lincoln" but, that was a century ago. We can be sure that if "Abe" was alive, he would cast his ballot for Obama, so will Colin Powell.

    This party is truly and always has been the party of "Herbert Hoover"

    Millions can thank old Herbert for one thing. He was the inspiration for the formation the "FDIC" by democrat "FDR" in 1933. With Obama President, history may repeat itself. WITH THE HELP OF GOD

    September 16, 2008 04:21 pm at 4:21 pm |
  19. say NO to WALL STREET thievery!

    FED is throwing good tax dollars after bad money

    to bail out Wall Street loan sharks and neo-con high financiers,

    trying to dump billions, and possibly trillions, of their "toxic debt"

    on to the tax payers!

    CALL AND WRITE TO YOUR REPS IN WASHINGTON,

    and let them know YOU'RE WATCHING!

    September 16, 2008 04:21 pm at 4:21 pm |
  20. Joe

    Republicans had a lack of good choices this cycle. McCain looked like the one with vision, but disgraced himself by trumpeting his military record as if it were a qualification, and then running a dishonest campaign. Now he's defined maverick as "erratic loudmouth". Obama has the vision.

    September 16, 2008 04:21 pm at 4:21 pm |
  21. John Stevens

    Now is the time for all these learned past public servants to put country first and endorse Obama / Biden.

    September 16, 2008 04:22 pm at 4:22 pm |
  22. Pepou

    Cautiop (ridiculed by some on this blog) has another name : diplomacy. Ever heard of that word before Bush and his cowboys decided to shoot first and talk after ? Bomb, bomb Iran as McCain and his trigger-happy nominee would like to do is NOT what we need. Unless you want another Vietnam, Iraq, etc ... And unless you want YOUR own kids to die for it.

    September 16, 2008 04:22 pm at 4:22 pm |
  23. Denise

    Reckon its time for the Heavy Weights to stand up....Com on over to the side of Real Change!!
    Obama/Biden 08-12

    September 16, 2008 04:22 pm at 4:22 pm |
  24. Colin Powell

    I REALLY think McCain is a idiot.

    September 16, 2008 04:22 pm at 4:22 pm |
  25. JB- NYC

    Funny, I didn't hear any one of them say to meet with Syria without preconditions as Obambi has foolishly stated.

    September 16, 2008 04:23 pm at 4:23 pm |
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