One of President Obama's most prominent backers in 2008, former Joint Chiefs of Staff chair Colin Powell, said on Meet The Press yesterday that the president's accomplishments on economic recovery and health care reform have made him a "transformational figure" in American politics. Though Powell didn't say if Obama has his endorsement in the 2012 presidential race, the moderate Republican told host David Gregory that Obama "should get credit" for what Powell called his real legislative accomplishments.
Powell had a few criticisms for the man he backed over John McCain near the end of the '08 campaign cycle. Powell said he worries that Obama has failed at communicating his accomplishments to the American people, leaving the White House with a "failure to connect" to the voters who put the administration in place. But overall, Powell suggested, Obama has done the things that supporters like him expected the president to do -- namely, set the economy on a path to recovery and secure and set forth making fundamental changes to the way the country works.
In the short-term, Powell said, Obama has accomplished at least some of the goals Powell had for him.
"We had a country that was in recession, heading into depression, we had banks failing, we had a stock market collapsing, we were in difficulty, and I thought that he was best able to deal with that, with the advisers he was surrounding himself with, and we have stabilized our economy," Powell said. "So I think that worked out."
From the show's transcript:
MR. GREGORY: You described him as a transformational figure, to have the potential. Has he lived up to that or do you find yourself disappointed?
GEN. POWELL: I think he has--is a transformational figure. Some people don't like what he's done in transformation, and it's caused him some difficulty. But the fact of the matter is, he did put together a health care reform. It's not perfect, and I think it'll have to be fixed over time, and a lot of people are not happy with that health care reform, but he did it. We still have millions of our fellow citizens who have no insurance, especially children. And so I think he has done transformational work with respect to education, and I think he should get credit for that. But in other aspects, I think he has to focus on now governing, not worrying about the daily, the daily campaign problem or reacting to everything that comes across the cable news channel. I think he needs to sort of get above all of that. Yes, Mr. President, they will kick you like a dog, treat you like a dog, but hey, that's the nature of our system. America's a great country, and this is the way we do our politics.
As USA Today reported, Powell also took on Obama for some messaging failures, telling Gregory that the president has "lost some of his ability to connect."
Watch (Praising Obama stuff starts at about 22:10, dinging Obama stuff starts at about 14:00):