Too Much on Obama’s Plate?

In an interview with Bob Schieffer on CBS’s Face the Nation this Sunday, Colin Powell expressed no regret for endorsing Barack Obama in the 2008 election. Although the president might have taken on too much too soon during the first year of his administration, the country, said Powell, is not less safe.

According to the former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (1989–1993) and Secretary of State (2001–2005), the president has a lot on his plate. The United States is recovering from one of the worst economic crises in recent history and while people realize that health care, education and energy ought to be high up on the agenda, “they don’t see that as their main priorities.” With so much time apparently spent on reforming health care, people began wondering whether the administration knew what they were really concerned about — jobs.

The Republicans have been able to play into peoples’ fears with Obama “perhaps underestimating the opposition” there would against his agenda. “It’s nice to say, ‘let’s be bipartisan,’ but we’re a partisan nation.” Throughout his first year in office, the president tried to reach consensus while apparently refusing to admit that Republican lawmakers were never interested in compromise.

That is not to say that the whole legislative system is broken. As Powell put it, “it’s in trouble.” With increased media attention for what’s going on in Washington, it’s “harder and harder for our political leaders in [Congress] to quietly make the compromises that are necessary.”

Responding to criticism from fellow Republicans as Dick Cheney and Sarah Palin who state that the country is less safe today than it was under the last president, Powell pointed out that the counterterrorism initiatives launched by the Bush Administration are still at work. He praised Obama for intensifying the war effort in Afghanistan and Pakistan while trying suspected terrorists in courts of law which, he stated, are much more effective at getting people behind bars than military commissions. “So I don’t know where the claim comes from that we are less safe.”

Powell specifically addressed waterboarding and other forms of torture. “Most of those extreme interrogation techniques and waterboarding were done away with in the Bush Administration. They’ve been made officially done away with in this current administration.”

The United States are still at risk though. “Terrorists are out there,” said Powell. “They’re trying to get through. But to suggest that somehow we have become much less safer because of the actions of the administration, I don’t think that’s borne out by the facts.”