UPDATE:Video of Obama’s reaction to the endorsement is below the fold.
Retired General Colin L. Powell, one of the country’s most respected Republicans, stunned both parties on Sunday by strongly endorsing Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) for president on NBC’s “Meet the Press” and laying out a blistering, detailed critique of the modern GOP.
“I think he is a transformational figure. He is a new generation coming … onto the world stage and on the American stage. And for that reason, I’ll be voting for Senator Barack Obama.”
…”And I come to the conclusion that because of his ability to inspire, because of the inclusive nature of his campaign, because he is reaching out all across America, because of who he is and his rhetorical abilities — and you have to take that into account — as well as his substance — he has both style and substance, he has met the standard of being a successful president, being an exceptional president.”
Powell, speaking live in the studio, told moderator Tom Brokaw that he is “troubled” by the direction of the Republican Party and statements by the campaign of Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), and said he does not believe Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin is ready to be president.
“They’re trying to connect him to some kind of terrorist feelings, and I think that’s inappropriate,” Powell said. “Now I understand what politics is all about — I know how you can go after one another. And that’s good. But I think this goes too far. And I think it has made the McCain campaign look a little narrow. It’s not what the American people are looking for. And I look at these kinds of approaches to the campaign, and they trouble me.
“And the party has moved even further to the right, and Governor Palin has indicated a further rightward shift. I would have difficult with two more conservative appointments to the Supreme Court, but that’s what we’d be looking at in a McCain administration.”
Powell said he has “heard senior members of my own party drop the suggestion [that Obama’s] a Muslim and might be associated with terrorists.”
“This is not the way we should be doing it in America. I feel strongly about this particular point,” Powell said. “We have got to stop polarizing ourselves in this way. And John McCain is as non-discriminatory as anyone I know. But I’m troubled about the fact that within the party, we have these kinds of expressions.”
Expect Freeper, Red State, LGF, and other wingnuttia explosions in 3…2…1…, with the meme that he endorsed Obama because he is black. Look what happened to Condi Rice for simply being complimentary of an Obama speech earlier this year.
More video of Powell, outside the studio explaining his endorsement, including a comparison of Obama’s steady approach to issues and leadership (thus tacitly admitting there’s a temperament issue with McCain).
Obama delivered these remarks in the military city of Fayetteville, an apt location (these are as prepared for delivery):
Before we begin, I’d like to acknowledge some news we learned this morning. With so many brave men and women from Fayetteville serving in our military, this is a city and a state that knows something about great soldiers. And this morning, a great soldier, a great statesman, and a great American has endorsed our campaign to change America. I have been honored to have the benefit of his wisdom and counsel from time to time over the last few years, but today, I am beyond honored and deeply humbled to have the support of General Colin Powell.
General Powell has defended this nation bravely, and he has embodied our highest ideals through his long and distinguished public service. He and his wife Alma have inspired millions of young people to serve their communities and their country through their tireless commitment and trailblazing American story. And he knows, as we do, that this is a moment where we all need to come together as one nation – young and old, rich and poor, black and white, Republican and Democrat.
Now, my opponent has made his choice. Senator McCain’s campaign actually said a couple of weeks ago that they were going to launch a series of attacks on my character because, they said, “if we keep talking about the economy, we’re going to lose.” And that’s one promise John McCain has kept. He’s been on the attack.
Lately, he and Governor Palin have actually accused me of – get this – socialism. John McCain just repeated the charge again this morning. And you know why? Because I want to give a tax cut to the middle class – a tax cut to 95% of American workers. These are folks who work hard every single day and get payroll taxes taken out of their paycheck every single week. These are the teachers and janitors who work in our schools. They’re the cops and firefighters who keep us safe. They’re the waitresses who work double shifts, the cashiers at Wal-Mart, the plumbers fighting for the American Dream. John McCain thinks that giving these Americans a break is socialism. Well I call it opportunity, and there is nothing more American than that.
If John McCain wants to talk about redistributing wealth to those who don’t need it and don’t deserve it, let’s talk about the $700,000 tax cut he wants to give Fortune 500 CEOs, who’ve been making out like bandits – some of them literally. Let’s talk about the $300 billion he wants to give to the same Wall Street banks that got us into this mess. Let’s talk about the $4 billion he wants to give oil companies like Exxon-Mobil or the $200 billion he wants to give the biggest corporations in America. Let’s talk about the 100 million middle-class Americans who John McCain doesn’t want to give a single dime of tax relief. Don’t tell me that CEOs and oil companies deserve a tax break before the men and women who are working overtime day after day and still can’t pay the bills. That’s not right, and that’s not change.
I promise you this – not only will the middle class get a tax cut under my plan, but if you make less than $250,000 a year – which includes 98 percent of small business owners – you won’t see your taxes increase one single dime. Not your payroll taxes, not your income taxes, not your capital gains taxes – nothing. That is my commitment to you.
Here’s the truth, North Carolina. This debate – and this election – comes down to what we value. In the America I know, we don’t just value wealth, we value the work and workers who create it.
For the last eight years, we have tried it John McCain’s way. We have tried it George Bush’s way. We’ve given more and more to those with the most and hoped that prosperity would trickle down to everyone else. And guess what? It didn’t. So it’s time try something new. It’s time to grow this economy from the bottom-up. It’s time to invest in the middle-class again.
North Carolina, the other side trots out this attack every year, in every election. It’s a scare tactic. It’s the oldest trick in the book. And it’s what you do when you are out of ideas, out of touch, and running out of time.
Well not this year. Not this time. I can take a few more weeks of John McCain’s attacks, but the American people can’t take four more years of the same failed policies and the same failed politics. And that’s why I’m running for President of the United States.
Earlier I mentioned General Powell and how grateful I am for his support. But I am even more grateful for what he said about the nature of this campaign. Because Colin Powell reminded us of what’s at stake in this election – for America and for the world. He reminded us that at a defining moment like this, we don’t have the luxury of relying on the same political games and the same political tactics that are used every election to divide us from one another and make us afraid of one another.
We have seen some of these tactics from the other side and they will get even uglier and more intense in these last sixteen days. You will get more telephone calls, and more flyers in the mail, and you will hear more outrageous attacks calculated to mislead, inflame, and divide. The other side will continue to make a big election about small things.
But no matter what they do, you will have the chance to walk into that voting booth, and close that curtain, and say, “Not this time. Not this year.”
With the challenges and the crises we face right now, this is not a time to divide this country by class or region; by who we are or what policies we support.
There are no real or fake parts of this country. We are not separated by the pro-America and anti-America parts of this nation – we all love this country, no matter where we live or where we come from. There are patriots who supported this war in Iraq and patriots who opposed it; patriots who believe in Democratic policies and those who believe in Republican policies. The men and women from Fayetteville and all across America who serve in our battlefields may be Democrats and Republicans and Independents, but they have fought together and bled together and some died together under the same proud flag. They have not served a Red America or a Blue America – they have served the United States of America.
We have always been at our best when we’ve had leadership that called us to look past our differences and come together as one nation, as one people; leadership that rallied this entire country to a common purpose – to a higher purpose. And I run for the Presidency of the United States of America because that is the country we need to be right now.