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. MikeH

    Kissinger is a wanted war criminal. While he is knowledgable, his views are corrupt and should be ostracized.

    Powell is right. McCain's comment were wholly and totally irresponsible.

    McCain is a dishonest and ignorant old man (a fool) who has no buisness in international politics.

    September 16, 2008 03:37 pm at 3:37 pm |
  2. Tim

    McCain is to old to understand these things. Powell just owned him.

    September 16, 2008 03:37 pm at 3:37 pm |
  3. Silence Dogood

    "Bush administration’s hard-line approach on Iran"

    Remember that Obama, to Israel, promised to take a hard line with Iran too. And send more trrops to Afghanistan. And support Israel, like Bush. And leave some troops in Iraq to protect oil interests (thanks oil lobby friends).

    Obama is NOT anti-war.

    Green Party is 100% anti-war.

    September 16, 2008 03:37 pm at 3:37 pm |
  4. ok

    Can you all say Amen to Powell? The tone of these 5 former secretary of states leans toward Obama's approach.

    September 16, 2008 03:38 pm at 3:38 pm |
  5. Matt

    Powell is an idiot! Can't make up his mind huh? He knows who the best candidate is, it's just he owes soooo much to George and company. I lost all respect for Colin Powell when he turned Democrat to benefit only himself. He's a "sell-out".

    September 16, 2008 03:38 pm at 3:38 pm |
  6. Janice

    Colin Powell – time to endorse Obama and be done with the dark side.

    September 16, 2008 03:38 pm at 3:38 pm |
  7. neal

    Powell the traitor lied for Bush. Henry Kissinger war criminal. Why not just ask Dick Cheney what he thinks?

    September 16, 2008 03:38 pm at 3:38 pm |
  8. Patty, Big Bear, CA

    Okay, so all these guys agree that we need to talk to one another....McCain says talking is ridiculous and Obama says talking is essential.....this is a no brainer

    Obama/Biden '08 and '12

    September 16, 2008 03:38 pm at 3:38 pm |
  9. Venkat

    Obama has a lot more insight and understanding of foreign affairs than people give him credit for. Yet again, his stance on an international crisis has been proven right.

    McCain wants to go to war on the slightest pretext without any effort to educate himself on the situation and understand all sides.

    I'd trust Obama's judgment over McCain's so called experience, any day.

    September 16, 2008 03:39 pm at 3:39 pm |
  10. Al

    Georgia-Russia conflict is one more proof of how unfit McCain is for foreign affairs. Georgia shares at least same guilt, and most probably more than Russia for this conflict. Luckily for us, this happened not three days but almost three months before election, and the truth is gradually coming out.

    Take the Powell words, think about this and find out more about what happened. Don't jump with McCain to his oil/war contractors view of the World. Don't be another moron like those crazy 2003 zombies arguing for war in Iraq without even knowing where the hell is that country and what was the problem.

    Obama/Biden 2008

    September 16, 2008 03:40 pm at 3:40 pm |
  11. Sue in MI

    I didn't catch any ringing endorsement of McCain's "bomb now, talk later" approach. Any thinking person realizes that you HAVE to be willing to talk, compromise, and not act like the Big Bad Wolf all the time (sorry, is that an insult to Palin? It's getting hard to keep track of what words you're permitted to say any more....Is this Nazi Germany?)

    September 16, 2008 03:40 pm at 3:40 pm |
  12. Convicted felon who can't vote

    This just goes to show you who Secratary Powell is supporting.

    September 16, 2008 03:40 pm at 3:40 pm |
  13. Kel in Auburn, AL

    Wow, even high-ranking GOP officials are slamming McCain's Bushist approach to foreign policy. Does anybody else smell one candidate that's just bad for our country?

    September 16, 2008 03:40 pm at 3:40 pm |
  14. Sunil

    Come on Republicans – let's start trashing Powell now.

    September 16, 2008 03:41 pm at 3:41 pm |
  15. ANGIE

    Powell knows mccain is positivley MCBUSH BUSH THIRD TERM powell knows Mcain is A WAR MONGER AND IS VERY DANGEROUS TO BE PRESIDENT please mr powell come out and say what you really mean!

    September 16, 2008 03:41 pm at 3:41 pm |
  16. Truth

    “We are all Georgians” This statement was nothing short of a declaration of war on Russians. Rushing into conclusions before facts is extremely dangerous in a perilous world. Just say, Never, Never, Never to McCain. Send him back to the senate.

    September 16, 2008 03:42 pm at 3:42 pm |
  17. Rudy NYC

    Did anyone notice Palin told Charlie Gibson that she had been speaking to the President of Georgia? She DID WHAT!?!?

    September 16, 2008 03:42 pm at 3:42 pm |
  18. Shari, NY

    Mr. Powell, I am sure, admires Sen. Obama, and he is right – you have to tread carefully. Look at the mess we are in right now because we fail t look before we leap. As the question on race being a factor in this election – OF COURSE IT IS or Obama would be way ahead.

    September 16, 2008 03:42 pm at 3:42 pm |
  19. Losing my mind in Virginia

    CNN we need obective journalism from you more than ever. I'm sure you won't post this because you haven't bothered to post any of my other comments. How do you expect these so called blue collar (ignorant) people to make an informed decision in this election when you can't effectively do your job in fear that you might come off as having a liberal bias. Sorry folks but as Stephen Colbert says, reality has a liberal bias. CNN you need to put COUNTRY FIRST! We cannot let John McCain continue to get away with these misleading ads. If you do not change your style of reporting you will continue to lose viewers in search of OBJECTIVE journalism. How about you ask some tough questions! Barack Obama needs to be questioned rigorously as well. Please help save America.

    September 16, 2008 03:43 pm at 3:43 pm |
  20. yo

    The ECONOMY is fundamentally sound so quit your whining.

    September 16, 2008 03:43 pm at 3:43 pm |
  21. Nan

    Pretty bad when another republican thinks you are too hawkish.

    September 16, 2008 03:43 pm at 3:43 pm |
  22. Dave

    wow, look at that who's who of criminals. Albright, Christopher, baker and Kissinger. these CFR cronies are still running things behind the scenes (because they are in bed with the elites throught the CFR and Bilderberg).

    September 16, 2008 03:43 pm at 3:43 pm |
  23. RIF

    So basically ALL FIVE former Secretaries of State agree with Obama's stance on Foreign Policy. What more of an endorsement do you need?

    September 16, 2008 03:44 pm at 3:44 pm |
  24. Voter

    You can't reconcile differences or cooperate if you don't talk to each other!!

    (Unless you're a cowboy and use your gun/army for "diplomacy" – what a terrible thing waste lives on)

    September 16, 2008 03:44 pm at 3:44 pm |
  25. TROY

    Powell is one of Bush's war advisors. What an idiot. Sitting on a pedastool preaching "caution". lol lol lol lol

    September 16, 2008 03:44 pm at 3:44 pm |
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