Mark Steyn quotes a reader:
How come when Colin Powell promoted Bush’s “lies,” he was not someone to be believed or trusted, but now that he’s endorsed Obama, he is someone to be . . . believed and trusted?
I think this completely misconstrues why a lot of people, myself included, find that UN presentation hard to forgive. It’s not that Powell wasn’t someone “to be believed or trusted” it’s that he was. Powell saying it had a different impact from Cheney or Wolfowitz saying it. Powell’s not crazy. He wouldn’t say it, it seemed to many of us, unless his assertions were backed up by convincing data. At the time, Howard Dean said:
Secretary Powell’s recent presentation at the UN showed the extent to which we have Iraq under an audio and visual microscope. Given that, I was impressed not by the vastness of evidence presented by the Secretary, but rather by its sketchiness.
In retrospect, Dean was right and the conventional wisdom was wrong. But the reason the conventional wisdom became so conventional was that most people — wrongly, as it turns out — deemed Powell to be a trustworthy figure. Very few people took the Dean line on this — he was in a minority even among leading Democrats. Meanwhile, I at least most certainly do think Powell’s forward-looking policy pronouncements would be more credible if he would address these concerns more honestly. But by the “don’t trust Powell” standard, a standard I’m happy to embrace, we should all be paying more attention to people like Dean, Nancy Pelosi, Barack Obama, and Carl Levin who were never taken in by the Bush/Powell/Cheney/McCain snowjob. I’m not sure that’s really the line Steyn means to be promoting.