The Eclectic

Time moves in one direction, memory in another. – William Gibson

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Posted by David Leslie on May 6, 2004

I’ve come to love Powell since he, Richard Armitage and Larry Wilkerson are the only sane people in the Bush White House.

After escorting the minister to his car, Powell returned to the microphones. “Anybody else wants to dipstick me?” he asked. “Give me a break. Come on, guys.”

washingtonpost.com: Magazine Article Raises New Questions About Powell’s Role

Magazine Article Raises New Questions About Powell’s Role

By Glenn Kessler
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, May 6, 2004; Page A27

For the second time in a month, the State Department yesterday found itself fending off questions about Secretary of State Colin L. Powell’s role in the Bush administration, after some of his top aides gave interviews to GQ magazine suggesting he was frustrated and isolated.

Three weeks ago, the release of Bob Woodward’s “Plan of Attack” prompted similar questions, but that book about the administration’s planning for the Iraq war was based largely on interviews with unnamed sources. What is striking about the GQ account is that everyone was quoted by name, including Powell and two of his closest advisers and friends, Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage and chief of staff Lawrence Wilkerson, as well as his mentor from the National War College, Harlan Ullman.

Powell’s quotes generally were run-of-the-mill and upbeat — though he may have raised diplomatic hackles by referring to an island that nearly led to war between Spain and Morocco as a “little stupid island” — but his allies painted a much different picture.

“This is, in many ways, the most ideological administration Powell’s ever had to work for,” Ullman told the magazine. “Not only is it very ideological, but they have a vision. And I think Powell is inherently uncomfortable with grand visions like that.”

Wilkerson, who offered tart and colorful opinions on Powell adversaries such as Deputy Defense Secretary Paul D. Wolfowitz, said Powell was tired “mentally and physically” and would be unlikely to stay with the administration if President Bush is reelected.

“He has spent as much time doing damage control and, shall we say, apologizing around the world for some less-than-graceful actions as he has anything else,” Wilkerson said, referring to Pentagon and White House missteps.

Powell has publicly defended his 2003 speech to the U.N. Security Council, which alleged weapons of mass destruction in Iraq that have never been found. But Armitage said that the speech was “a source of great distress for the secretary.”

State Department spokesman Richard Boucher was peppered with questions at his daily briefing about the lengthy article, and he repeatedly stressed that the statements contained in it did not reflect Powell’s true feelings.

“The primary source is the secretary of state,” Boucher said. “As far as I’m concerned, this is the man that demonstrates the power of positive thinking, a man who knows his direction.”

Boucher did not dispute the accuracy of the quotes attributed to Powell’s aides, which the author, Wil S. Hylton, said he tape-recorded. But Boucher said that Wilkerson believed he was speaking “on background,” meaning any quotes would not be attributed to him by name.

Hylton insisted it was clear the interview was on the record, as were almost all the conversations he had with Powell’s aides. “It was really weird,” he said. “I didn’t have a particular hunger to interview these guys,” but the State Department press aide working with him kept setting up interviews and insisting he meet with more people, he said.

Powell told reporters he had not read the article yet. “I’ve spent an enormous amount of time answering questions about articles and books,” he said after meeting with the Bulgarian foreign minister. “It’s too bad we have to spend time on these kinds of issues. Let’s get on to the substance, and I don’t want to answer any more questions about these kinds of things.”

After escorting the minister to his car, Powell returned to the microphones. “Anybody else wants to dipstick me?” he asked. “Give me a break. Come on, guys.”

© 2004 The Washington Post Company

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