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

Asked about McCain's Georgia position, Powell urges caution

[cnn-photo-caption image= caption="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. AL

    McWar is a hot head who will drop bombs first and talk later
    there is already suspicion clinging to this Russian Georgian issue
    that America was involved and it was manipulated to make McCain rise in the polls
    its getting to the point where you have to question every move this administration makes
    McCain=Bush=more war =DRAFT
    be very wary who you vote for America

    September 16, 2008 03:29 pm at 3:29 pm |
  2. Brennan, Seattle WA

    Wow, even McCain supporters are telling him that his stance is ludicrous. Do you think he will listen now......probably not.

    September 16, 2008 03:29 pm at 3:29 pm |
  3. Trysh, Los Angeles

    I'm thinking that he is not a fan of "You can't blink.

    September 16, 2008 03:29 pm at 3:29 pm |
  4. ct

    Well said! Man I really like this guy!

    Obama/Biden 08/12!!

    September 16, 2008 03:29 pm at 3:29 pm |
  5. Nick - Arlington, VA

    Come aboard Powell!!!

    OBAMA-BIDEN 2008

    September 16, 2008 03:29 pm at 3:29 pm |
  6. Republicans Hate America

    They want peace yet baker supports McCain....we are in bizarro world im telling you.

    September 16, 2008 03:29 pm at 3:29 pm |
  7. sb

    can any of you kool-aid drinkers in the democratic party clearly answer why obama's experience which is mainly limited to running for offices qualifies him?

    September 16, 2008 03:30 pm at 3:30 pm |
  8. Ad

    All these guys do is follow Obamas lead.....Amazing.....

    September 16, 2008 03:30 pm at 3:30 pm |
  9. Bulldog

    McCain and Palin are both warmongers- John McCain has a record of being a war monger and Palin suggested going to war with Russia just last week.

    McCain/Palin = reinstituing a military draft to go to more wars

    September 16, 2008 03:30 pm at 3:30 pm |
  10. anon

    Now there's an original idea...

    NOPE WAIT FOR IT.............................

    Obama said that months ago!!!

    As we "Obamabots" been saying all along, this man has the judgment to lead us out of the mess we're in.

    September 16, 2008 03:30 pm at 3:30 pm |
  11. Rodger

    Gee...sounds like what Obama said, and what McCain called naive. Is there any question about judgement?
    "Enough"...time for a change....the only real change is Obama!

    September 16, 2008 03:31 pm at 3:31 pm |
  12. Anita from Arizona

    An honest dicussion about foreign policy. Wonderful.

    September 16, 2008 03:31 pm at 3:31 pm |
  13. Alan

    Colin Powell still hasn't got the nerve to speak his mind.
    After letting the right wing war mongers use him to lie in front of the UN in order to start the Iraq war, Powell still too much of a coward to even back a candidate for president..

    September 16, 2008 03:31 pm at 3:31 pm |
  14. hurriCAIN PALIN

    hey powell, do you seriously want to put the fate of america in the

    hands of someone with a lot of inexperience, and to you pro-bama

    commentators – its not like somethings gonna happen to mccain

    right when he become potus. palin has just as much experience then

    NOBAMA does, stop your whining and complaining

    September 16, 2008 03:32 pm at 3:32 pm |
  15. Red, North Carolina

    Oh C'mon Powell! She can **SEE** Russia from her house!!!

    September 16, 2008 03:33 pm at 3:33 pm |

    This war mongering group of neo-cons will not listen, they still have to engineer the "October Suprise" and start a conflict so McCrypt and Gidget will get elected.

    Now, I know why they are against abortions, they need all the babies to born so they will grow up and become ground meat fed into the republican war machine to fight the "Holy War".

    September 16, 2008 03:33 pm at 3:33 pm |
  17. Matt

    Face it: The McCain/Palin campaign is running on a 1950's platform. Quick to generate fear and animosity against the Russians and throwing the words communism and socialism around in reference to Obama's economic policies.

    Those who do not understand the mistakes of the past are doomed to repeat them (be it the past century or the past 8 years).

    September 16, 2008 03:33 pm at 3:33 pm |
  18. bob

    Colin Powell hopefully will back Obama based on his being best able to handle America's issues. I don't think McCain will be a good leader because he waffles too much. But of course the republicans will say that Obama does and over look McCain and Palins lies. If the media can pick out the lies then everyone with common sense should be able to.

    September 16, 2008 03:33 pm at 3:33 pm |
  19. The Voice

    Can somebody in CNN check their records, an analyst said McCain never said he stay in Iraq for 100 years if we have to!

    Yes he did! Check the republican primary debates, he says it flat out! So get the record straight, too many peole listen to your flawed research,

    September 16, 2008 03:33 pm at 3:33 pm |
  20. Kara

    What a disaster the Republican ticket has become.

    September 16, 2008 03:34 pm at 3:34 pm |
  21. Marty Fron Va

    General Powell is very familiar with promotion boards. If Gov Palin reflects McCain's first "presidential" decision, its like promoting an arguably good major to command a division. Even the best of the best don't make it that high or that fast. What should that tell him about the McCain of 2008? He's not teh McCain of 2000, who probably would not have voted for this version of himself.

    September 16, 2008 03:36 pm at 3:36 pm |
  22. Get Real

    Finally – Men and Women who have LEAD our nation in international affairs speak the truth. Here we have McCain/Palin just repeatign Bush's nonsense Doctrine.

    McCain is just the Same.
    Same Politics
    Same Positions
    Same Campaign
    Put Simply... He is Just the Same

    Enough is Enough –
    Obama/Biden '08

    September 16, 2008 03:36 pm at 3:36 pm |
  23. Mb

    On foreign affairs and the economy Barack Obama has been consisitently more in tune with those we respect as knowledgeable on these issues.

    September 16, 2008 03:36 pm at 3:36 pm |
  24. California Gold

    Oh no. Not give up lipstick on pig accusations. McCain is not going to campaign on issues or tell us what he will do if elected. We are supposed to ignore the nation's problems and just vote for McCain because he says he was a Vietnam Era hero, although he did nothing heroic.

    September 16, 2008 03:37 pm at 3:37 pm |
  25. JEric

    This only proves how McCain is dead wrong on his foreign policy views. He's been calling it his strong suit but this group has superior experience compared with McCain. Hopefully people wake up and see how dillusional McCain really is on foreign policy. And if by some fluke he is elected we can only pray he listens to this group of realists and not his wacko neo-con supporters.

    September 16, 2008 03:37 pm at 3:37 pm |
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