Colin Powell's endorsement of Barack Obama was an encouraging development but perhaps more as a morale boost than a practical benefit, a sign to his supporters that respected figures are rallying to Obama's cause, even some from the Republican camp.
My concern is that the symbolism is more important than its possible effect. What person decides to cast his or her vote as the result of such an endorsement? I hope there are many; I wonder whether there are any.
It seems to me that what Colin Powell said in endorsing Obama might be more important than the fact of the endorsement itself. It was better than any newspaper endorsement I have seen so far, an eloquent statement that gracefully and methodically shot down common objections to Obama as president.
That he delivered his endorsement live and on-air made the feat all the more impressive. Unfortunately, as he was appearing on a Sunday morning public affairs show, "Meet the Press," his words were probably not heard or read by nearly enough Americans to make a difference.
If you did not read the transcript of his appearance, I urge you to do so.
Here's a couple of key points that no-one has made better.
Powell: "And I've also been disappointed, frankly, by some of the approaches that Sen. McCain has taken recently, or his campaign ads, on issues that are not really central to the problems that the American people are worried about. This Bill Ayers situation that's been going on for weeks became something of a central point of the campaign.
"But Mr. McCain says that he's a washed-out terrorist. Well, then, why do we keep talking about him? And why do we have these robocalls going on around the country trying to suggest that, because of this very, very limited relationship that Sen. Obama has had with Mr. Ayers, somehow, Mr. Obama is tainted. What they're trying to connect him to is some kind of terrorist feelings. And I think that's inappropriate."
And then there is this, also cited by Maureen Dowd in her column in the PG this morning:
Powell: "I'm also troubled by, not what Sen. McCain says, but what members of the party say. And it is permitted to be said such things as, "Well, you know that Mr. Obama is a Muslim." Well, the correct answer is, he is not a Muslim, he's a Christian. He's always been a Christian.
"But the really right answer is, what if he is? Is there something wrong with being a Muslim in this country? The answer's no, that's not America. Is there something wrong with some seven-year-old Muslim-American kid believing that he or she could be president?"
He goes on to cite as an example of patriotism a 20-year-old Muslim soldier who was killed in Iraq after enlisting to do his bit after 9/11.
Strong stuff. No wonder the usual suspects have been falling over themselves to denigrate the decision of an American general and statesman that until Sunday they thought was great.