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. mitchell

    they have comfirmed what i have thought all along. obama's our man.

    September 16, 2008 04:12 pm at 4:12 pm |
  2. Joe - Missouri

    McCain and Palin would be DANGEROUS for this country. Don't forget, there's THOUSANDS of NUCLEAR weapons pointed at US by the Russians. I'm not saying to lay down and play dead, but you have to be very very careful in a situation like this. I have to say that Russia has a reason to be skiddish, how would we like it if Russia put a missle defense system in Mexico and added them to an alliance? We need a leader who can take a step back and think this out, not a knee jerk reactionist like McCain/Palin (more so Palin). Do we need to see the move "The Day After" again?

    September 16, 2008 04:12 pm at 4:12 pm |
  3. Michael

    Colin Powell, when has he ever done anything except advise caution. A school crossing guard can do that.

    September 16, 2008 04:12 pm at 4:12 pm |
  4. Bob Watts

    McCain and Palin are both nuts but what is worst is 50% think their OK. No NO NO voting for them is not a vote for Jesus. The GOP have been in power for decades and there is still freedom of choice. You'll all mixed up, your voting for a tax cut or for you bible nuts, your going for the 30 peices of SILVER and dam the world!!!!

    September 16, 2008 04:13 pm at 4:13 pm |
  5. Get Real

    Another JFK Quote"

    In short, we must face problems which do not lend themselves to easy or quick or permanent solutions. And we must face the fact that the United States is neither omnipotent nor omniscient, that we are only six percent of the world's population, that we cannot impose our will upon the other ninety-four percent of mankind, that we cannot right every wrong or reverse each adversity, and that therefore there cannot be an American solution to every world problem.

    Vote Obama/Biden

    McCain/Palin only answers are the Bush Doctrine of srike fast reactions.

    September 16, 2008 04:13 pm at 4:13 pm |
  6. CR in WI

    McCain was able to pull some strings to have Sarah make that
    important call to Georgian president sakashvili. You see, he has the Georgian government's lobbyist on his staff. So it should really not impress anyone nor should it be held up as some important, bold move. Way to pick a fight with Russia with only one side of the story. . . . Mavericky
    Vote for intelligent leadership in 08
    That can only be Obama

    September 16, 2008 04:13 pm at 4:13 pm |
  7. GOP Woman for Obama

    Wow! Once again Obama's judgement is right while McCains is wrong! Time for McCain to put country first and endorse a real leader...Obama!

    September 16, 2008 04:14 pm at 4:14 pm |
  8. Listen Up...

    OK I thing I've got it. Certain Americans are so used to the cowboy diplimacy of the last 8 years that they can only respond positively whent they hear that kind of foolish tough talk. McCain has figured this out which is why he continues in this vein.

    The rest of us knows this is crap and we don't have enough military to instigate a war with Russia. Also, what Powell was trying to say is that Georgia started it so we can just jump to their side.

    September 16, 2008 04:14 pm at 4:14 pm |
  9. Anonymous in CO

    Once again, Obama's foreign policy judgement has proven to be correct. He was right about Iraq and he's right now. What is it going to take for the faithful followers of the Republican party to see this?

    September 16, 2008 04:15 pm at 4:15 pm |
  10. w.l. jones

    I said it once and going to say it again these elder state person had broad latide from there president so I have all the confident in the world in there judement for the country.

    September 16, 2008 04:15 pm at 4:15 pm |
  11. Michelle, St. Louis, MO

    Well, Obama was right again. McCain like to "shoot from the hip" and ask questions later. He was jumping all over this crisis as if he knew what he was talking about.

    This right her sealed it for me. I am DEFINETLY voting for Obama. He's not quick to jump and he has shown that he can think things through before you just start bombing people. Again, Obama had the better judgment on Iraq, the surge and Georgia.

    September 16, 2008 04:15 pm at 4:15 pm |
  12. tedious898

    I am a ardent Obama supporter. But listen "team" fellow supporters for Obama...we are in an uphill battle.

    The sensible argument, intelligent approach, well reasoned judgement is what we've come to expect from Barack's. Its proven time and time again.

    YET...YET....and this is what really concerns and frustrates me; We have a very large "stupidty / low information vote" in America. John McCain and Palin will get every one of those voters because its impossible for even intelligent people to understand "what the McCain double talk express" will do for America. These low IQ voting for McCain think that 4 more years of what we've been getting is a good thing. In other words its impossible to influence the village idiot to vote for true change. They always fear that which is new.

    September 16, 2008 04:15 pm at 4:15 pm |
  13. karen-phoenix

    Obama said this a while back!!!! People, Obama is the ONLY one with the judgement and educational background to get us OUT of this mess!!

    September 16, 2008 04:15 pm at 4:15 pm |
  14. GOP for obama

    Memorandum to the guy above me
    Re: your a moron for believing the same lies the republicans have told for 8 years. ITS THE ECONOMY STUPID

    September 16, 2008 04:15 pm at 4:15 pm |
  15. Listen Up...

    It seemed like just yesterday when McCain tried to ridicule Obama as naive. Oh how wrong McCain was and how RIGHT Obama has been on these pesky foreign matters.

    September 16, 2008 04:15 pm at 4:15 pm |
  16. Gimmick FIRST

    Finally, the TRUTH comes out. Obama was right all along on Iran, Georgia, Iraq, Afghanistan. ……

    Well, what to do you know. Even though he can’t see Russia from Chicago, Obama made the right decisions!!!

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

    This is what Obama's position has been for a long time...
    Do you say a pattern here?...Poeple come to this man position long after he made them and still many people accuse him of being less experienced.
    I think this Obama is really gifted and he is the only choice for America to regain its position in the world...
    We should all face it and admit that this young inexperienced guy has the right vision to lead us out of this mess

    September 16, 2008 04:16 pm at 4:16 pm |
  18. 3D

    We all know because of Obama's pigmentation, he has to work a hundred time as hard and repeat himself over and over and over again before they start to pay attention. What else can he do? McCain has truly showed that he has not a clue and is willing to say and do anything to win. (Even if he has to throw all of America under the bus). That was evident when he selected Palin as his running mate. (A large part of "main stream america" and the like, will do anything and vote for anyone (a dog with lip stick), just to keep a man who happens to be black, out of the Presidential office. They are willing to flush this country down the toilet in order to keep Obama in his place. We all know that the Emperor is not wearing any clothes. McCain and Palin is the worst ever to run for the oval office. Obama is clearly and beyond any doubt, the best man for the job. Mainstream America know's this and resent him for having the ordasity to reach for the imposible star.

    September 16, 2008 04:16 pm at 4:16 pm |
  19. Ovitshio Branco From Arizona

    McCain gave up important Military info after 4 days while a POW, that's not putting his country before his own person, is in fact treasonous. John McCain committed adultery, that's not a leader you can trust. John Mccain has lived off of the American people all of his life, owns 7 homes worth 13 million, personal wealth of over 110 million, thinks being rich is making 5 million collects SS and disability. Why disability? Yet he want us to believe he knows our pains…he failed to pay the taxes on his southern CA home. John McCain has the highest absent rate in the Senate, the worst voting record for Vets and women, became a “war-hero” in an immoral and unjust war (the Vietnam War), supports another iillegal war in Iraq, wants war with Iran and Russia, has no clue about economy, saying that "all in all we are doing better than 8 years ago". He says he knows how to "win" a war but has no record to back that claim up. Being a POW just means that you are one of the worst of the fighter pilots…how many US fighter jocks have lost 3 or more aircraft???? The mission he flew on where he became a POW was a bombing mission over civilian territory. This makes him a "war hero"????? John McCain is running on his war "hero" status, but he pushed legislation making it impossible for families to get info about their MIA/POWs…and still refuses to release his Military records…AND HE WANTS THE DRAFT back !!! Why hasn't CNN had a headline about this???

    September 16, 2008 04:16 pm at 4:16 pm |
  20. I love Obama

    Why endorse someone who doesn't agree you. McCain doesn't support peace talks with enemies. He wants to kill them. WAR solves all problems Right?

    September 16, 2008 04:16 pm at 4:16 pm |
  21. Independent-Latina-for-OBAMA

    Its interesting that even Baker thinks its okay to talk with the "evil' countries of the world! Which is what Sen. Obama advocates! We should talk to our enemies, how else can we discern what they are up to? How else can we ever hope to disarm them? We can't afford the Bush/Cheney/McCain idea of "foreign policy"....... which is "Bomb.....bomb.....bomb.......Iran!" Crazy.

    September 16, 2008 04:17 pm at 4:17 pm |
  22. Daniela

    And yet, Sarah Palin next week will be attending an Anti-Iran rally in front of the UN.

    September 16, 2008 04:17 pm at 4:17 pm |
  23. Emily

    Old John, wrong again.

    September 16, 2008 04:17 pm at 4:17 pm |
  24. Tony

    Even Powell, who was another puppet in the Bush administration thinks McCain is wrong on many of the issues.

    Karl Rove, one of the most corrupt men in any administration says McCain has crossed line. Still, those republicans, and white women who can't over the HIllary issue, are drinking the KOOL-AID that the republicans are serving by teh gallons.

    Don't say your family"s or your children's lives and futures are important to you and tehn vote McCain-Palin. What hypocrites!

    September 16, 2008 04:17 pm at 4:17 pm |
  25. karen-phoenix

    PS: Pelin will make sure we go to war with Russia!!! Its her belief that Jesus will come back and she is "ordained" to bring Jesus back for the evangelicals! The women is NUTS!!!!

    September 16, 2008 04:17 pm at 4:17 pm |
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