The tragedy of Colin Powell.

Taking stock of people and ideas in the news.
Feb. 19 2004 12:56 PM

The Tragedy of Colin Powell

How the Bush presidency destroyed him.

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Powell, who at one point might have been an attractive presidential candidate for either party, has fallen into a double-damned trap. He can't quit for reasons cited above; yet his often-abject loyalty to Bush, especially on the Iraq question, makes him an unseemly candidate for a future Democratic administration.

He seems to have launched a rehabilitation campaign, to escape this dreaded state. Last month, after David Kay resigned as the CIA's chief weapons inspector and proclaimed that Iraq probably didn't have weapons of mass destruction after all, Powell told a reporter that he might not have favored going to war if he'd known there were no WMD a year ago. He almost instantly retracted his words, as all internal critics of Bush policies seem to do.

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Powell's best option, after January, may be to abandon his ambitions for further public office, nab a lucrative job in the private sector, and write the most outrageous kiss-and-tell political memoir that the world has ever seen.

Correction, Feb. 19, 2004: The piece originally identified John Bolton as the No. 2 in the State Department. In fact, Richard Armitage, the Deputy Secretary, is the department's No. 2. Bolton is one of six under secretaries. Return to the corrected sentence.