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. Joe Regis

    It is either you are with the repubs or you are against them. No diplomatic solution since; the repubs think that it will corrupt their original thought as to how things are to be.

    September 16, 2008 03:50 pm at 3:50 pm |
  2. M.Serafin

    Looks like McCain never got out of the 1970ts...

    We are not in a cold war any more !!!!

    September 16, 2008 03:51 pm at 3:51 pm |
  3. Frank

    If caution is what we need, how can anyone think if voting for someone as impulsive and erratic as John McCain?

    September 16, 2008 03:51 pm at 3:51 pm |
  4. Daniel

    The secretaries have spoken the wisdom which both George Bush and McCain lack but which Obama has in abundance. How can there ever be peace if we refuse to talk to our perceived enemies? Regarding Georgia, we have to exercise caution. Russia is not a lame duck! It has nuclear weapons and the means of delivering them to knock our heads off! We cannot sacrifice 350 million Americans for 4 million Georgians because it is folly to do so. We must be rational at least! If for years we cannot rebuild the destruction of Katrina how can we claim to be ready for nuclear war? Katrina is very small compared to thousands of nuclear bombs on our heads. Let us be cautiously wise!

    September 16, 2008 03:52 pm at 3:52 pm |
  5. Shari, NY

    Sunil, why trash a man for being honest? He is (was) a true Republican who sees his party taking the low and dangerous road. If Powell could just go ahead and endorse Obama .........!!!!!!

    September 16, 2008 03:52 pm at 3:52 pm |
  6. Sarah.....and my last name isn't Palin!

    No more warmongers! Diplomacy first.

    September 16, 2008 03:52 pm at 3:52 pm |
  7. leroy hunter

    Do we really need a president who voted for the current imposter 90% of the time? Lets hear about the "Keating Five" scandal again and the response the senate had for John McCain.

    September 16, 2008 03:52 pm at 3:52 pm |
  8. Winkzilla, Tucson

    When Barack Obama went to Europe, the GOP presented the warm responses and the high percentage points of support of him as if Europe was trying to interfere with our election. They tried to paint Barack Obama as a European celebrity that some how translated into disloyalty to America.

    Nevertheless, no one, including our media referees, bothered to point out is that this support comes from our overseas allies and friends. When we ridicule our allies and friend for their interest in our elections, we lose site that perhaps they are trying to tell us that we have been on the wrong path for eight years. Perhaps an outside and objective opinion can serve us to ask why our allies and friends are so interested and interested in one candidate.

    We should not disrespect our allies and friends, but at least listen to them. They have to live the reality that our nation influences in their regions. Perhaps their actions indicate we need a realist in office. Perhaps we need someone that can communicate, articulate as well as provide intelligence and firm stances with not only our allies and friends, but also those nations that we need to deal with for our, as well as our allies and friends, national security.

    These five former Secretaries of States position confirms the failed evangelical economic ideology of faith in non-regulations coexisting with authoritarian fist pounding can only dismantle America as a power and revert it back into a simple colony to a Global empire. We do not need four more years that McCain/Palin would give us. We have had enough of their baloney. We need someone like Barack Obama who understands world dynamics that can work to bring back America as a strong and competitive nation.

    September 16, 2008 03:52 pm at 3:52 pm |
  9. dan

    "Cry, the beloved country". The republican party has been hijacked. America has been betrayed.

    September 16, 2008 03:52 pm at 3:52 pm |
  10. I said Thanks, but No Thanks to another 4 years of g.o.p. corruption, arrogance and incompetence

    Bomb, bomb, bomb, bomb, bomb Iran
    (the g.o.p. foreign policy)

    September 16, 2008 03:53 pm at 3:53 pm |
  11. Fred

    I truly don't get it. Why is the Republican response to everything – kill – kill – kill? Don't these guys and gals talk to anyone first? The whole world thinks we are nuts and these people are the reason! Come on America, get a grip and vote in the guy not will to push the button everytime something goes wrong in the world. My goodness, McCain's awake now, what would he do half sleep at 3:00 AM if he gets that call.

    Help us survive – vote Obama

    September 16, 2008 03:53 pm at 3:53 pm |
  12. Patriot

    Even Baker sounds like Obama even though he endorsed McCain,
    Maybe in the voting both he'll actually pull the Obama lever and save the country! Also let's not forget our Pitbull with Lipstick who doesn't know what the job of the VP is and has no Foriegn Policy Experience, and can't find Iraq on a Map>
    It means No real vetting process for Sarah Palin!
    It means they really believe the American People are that Stupid!
    Unfortunately, there are too many that will listen and believe that it's the Media or some liberal plott to bring her down, when she herself said "I will cooperate fully in the investigation" sad day on Nov 4 when the American people truly show how ignorant we are and elect these two in office

    September 16, 2008 03:53 pm at 3:53 pm |
  13. Doug

    When Obama said he would talk to Syria, McCain said he was naive. Now five Secretaries of State (3 Republican, 2 Democratic) say that would be the right thing to do.

    Obama is hardly naive. But both McCain and Palin seem to have a very limited view of the world.

    September 16, 2008 03:53 pm at 3:53 pm |
  14. Jackson

    Notice how the liberal media continues to prop up Colin Powell??

    They beat him down when he was working with Bush, but now they prop him up waiting for the inevitable Obama endorsement.

    Amazing how many liberal idiots do not realize this when it is in-your-face propaganda from CNN>

    September 16, 2008 03:53 pm at 3:53 pm |
  15. Lesley

    Excellent. It's about time some heavyweights are voicing their opinions. Obama's policy of negotiation is far superior to McCain's shoot first and ask questions later approach. They seem to be saying the same thing. McCain was wrong in his approach to the conflict with Georgia and this backs up Obama's reaction for both Russia and Georgia to take a step back.

    September 16, 2008 03:54 pm at 3:54 pm |
  16. Slick Rick

    Okay General Colin Powell time to make a freakin offical stance! Come out of the closet and endorse one sided or the other NOW!

    September 16, 2008 03:54 pm at 3:54 pm |
  17. out of worl

    Sounds like they are telling this nation to put a Dem in the white house. And they know what they are talking. to have peace you must talk to your enemy.

    September 16, 2008 03:54 pm at 3:54 pm |
  18. carol

    Yes, Senator McCain you do have to talk to other countries.....I wonder who suggested that little idea, could it oh yes, it was Senator Obama!!!!
    Senator McCain thinks he is the only living, breathing person who knows about "war" and "knows how to fix it".......please, with Senator McCain it would be bomb first and ask questions later.
    We need a President with intelligence, cool under pressure and who can make SOUND judgement........a world under Seantor McCain's leadership would be a total disaster!!!!
    Enough of this disgraceful pair, liars both, a VP who has a constant smug expression with a caustic manner......wouldn't know the truth if it hit her in the face.
    Roll on Nov and if America is smart and really cares for this country, they will send them both packing.

    September 16, 2008 03:54 pm at 3:54 pm |
  19. Janet

    Why is this an issue with Palin, when all this about her was done before she was selected to be VP. I guess whomever is selected for this investigation should not be a Republican . If everyone was concern about this county the question they should be asking is, if McCain get the 3:00 call will he panic? This man spent time as a POW, who is to say he does not have PTSD, plus I'm trying to understand who is running for president, him or Palin. Twice she has made a comment about him being her running mate. Oh! Palin need to know there is a difference in deploying the National Guard and dealing with all branches of the military as CIC.

    September 16, 2008 03:55 pm at 3:55 pm |
  20. Bill Tampa

    These Secrataries of state represent the braintrust and wisom our country needs to tap. I think Barack has actually confided in several of them for advise. We should listen to them more often.


    September 16, 2008 03:55 pm at 3:55 pm |
  21. Marian Jackson

    Palin seems to have a problem, if she had older children it would be ok for her to be running, but it seems she is trying to get away for her children, altho, I am sure she has nannies, but that seem selfish to me to put her career before her children, which she could have done later. Just because she is a woman doesn't make her the right one for VP. The waffles thing we expect that and more.

    September 16, 2008 03:55 pm at 3:55 pm |
  22. Jasmine in Germany

    McCain's initial public statement re: Georgis crisis was too aggressive and arrogant. Both the White House' and Obama's were diplomatic and politically correct.

    September 16, 2008 03:55 pm at 3:55 pm |
  23. Bruce

    So three fomer secretarties of state from Republican administrations are basically disavowing McCains foreign policy lynchpin, which is talking tough in public and not at all in private. Foreign policy is supposedly his strength, based on his experience as a prisoner and on senate committees. Let me check my scorecard: Does not get the economy, lost all credibility due to incessant lies, has no healthcare solution, claims to be a "deregulator", What exactly is the case for voting for McCain?

    September 16, 2008 03:55 pm at 3:55 pm |
  24. bill

    colin powell james baker these are not demacrats but both say bush mccain on wrong path to peace in middle east THERE IS JUST SOOO MUCH TO report on bushes lies mishandling of iraq afganastand WAKE UP AMERICA WE CAINT STAND FOUR MORE YEARS OF BUSH MCCAIN

    September 16, 2008 03:55 pm at 3:55 pm |
  25. jelow

    I wish McCain would have chosen Powell as his running mate.

    September 16, 2008 03:55 pm at 3:55 pm |
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