Collin Powell built bridges, steered GOP from extremism

Much as Colin Powell deserves a tribute as America’s first Black secretary of state and chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, he was under-recognized as a bridge-builder and champion of political moderation. Powell, who died Monday, was a Republican who dared to challenge his own party’s orthodoxy and tried to avert its drift toward right-wing extremism. The fact that he was later joined in his call for moderation by one of the architects of that rightward lurch — former Vice President Dick Cheney — attests to Powell’s judgment and thoughtful foresight.

Cheney was adamant about launching the 2003 Iraq war and was willing to engage in the worst forms of political subterfuge to get his way. He enlisted Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld in a campaign to deceive Americans — and the world — into believing Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction.

Powell’s was the loudest and most persistent voice of dissent in President George W. Bush’s administration, arguing that evidence was flimsy and didn’t justify going to war. Cheney and Rumsfeld ridiculed the retired four-star Army general and Vietnam veteran as weak. Their insistence on the Iraqi threat (non-existent though it later proved to be) convinced Bush that an invasion was necessary. The result was a costly, deadly and highly unpopular war that destabilized the region and wound up drawing troops and resources away from America’s well-justified war in Afghanistan. Both wars ultimately would conclude in humiliating U.S. retreats.

Long before that, however, was Powell’s own humiliation. Bush, under heavy pressure from Cheney, ordered Powell to compile the most persuasive case he could for United Nations support for the Iraq invasion. Powell, an obedient soldier to the end who believed first and foremost in honoring the chain of command, gave a 76-minute Security Council speech aided by enlarged intelligence photos and visual aids purporting to prove that Iraq was developing chemical, biological and nuclear weapons.

Across America, those who dared to question Cheney and Rumsfeld found themselves bombarded with right-wing attacks on their patriotism. Powell recognized that this dangerous trend screamed for correction before it got out of control. After resigning as secretary of state in 2005, he admitted the U.N. speech was a “blot” on his legacy. In 2008, Powell wanted to endorse his longtime friend, Republican Sen. John McCain, for the presidency. But he feared McCain’s choice of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin as his running mate would pull the GOP even further to the right.

Powell broke with his party and backed Democrat Barack Obama instead. He later endorsed Hillary Clinton’s presidential bid over Donald Trump.

In the ultimate affirmation of Powell’s good judgment, he was joined recently in the call for GOP political moderation by none other than Cheney himself.

Powell was “simply and completely, a leader,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken stated Monday. “… He gave us his decency.”

— The St. Louis Post-Dispatch

Travel ban with Canada has gone on far too long

Since the beginning of the pandemic, our border with Canada has remained closed to non-essential travelers. The Biden administration has kept delaying the opening, and now says it will be in early November. If there’s a good reason not to do it now, we’d like to hear it.

The administration didn’t initially set a firm date, which was worrisome, but on Friday said it would happen Nov. 8.

Canada eased travel restrictions for vaccinated Americans more than two months ago, yet we haven’t returned the favor. This isn’t the way to treat a close ally and trading partner.

Given Michigan’s large shared border with Canada, this state is especially impacted. The restrictions have hurt not only economically, but they’ve prevented friends and family from visiting one another, too.

The U.S. seems more concerned about a consistent approach than one that takes an individual country’s record into account. It plans to open the land border with Mexico at the same time as Canada, and to allow fully vaccinated international air travelers into the country as well.

A targeted plan would be smarter. Currently, only two-thirds of eligible Americans are fully vaccinated. In Canada, more than 88% of eligible citizens are fully vaccinated.

On the other hand, Mexico reports a vaccination rate of 53%. There’s more cause for concern with the southern border, and Canada shouldn’t have to pay the price.

Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have pleaded with Biden officials to open the Canadian border much sooner.

U.S. Rep. Bill Huizenga, R-Zeeland, says the Biden administration has made Canadians and Americans on the northern border pay a disproportionate price. Huizenga co-chairs the Canada-United States Inter-Parliamentary Group and says more needs to be done to ease travel.

“For over a year and a half, northern border communities and Canadian-American families have had to live with overly burdensome restrictions that divided them because of the Biden administration’s inability to stem the tide of people illegally entering the United States along our Southern border,” he said in a statement.

U.S. Sen. Gary Peters, D-Bloomfield Township, and chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, also thinks the easing of restrictions is necessary.

“I’m pleased that President Biden has put forward a public plan that will safely reopen northern land ports of entry to vaccinated travelers,” Peters said. “There is no question travel restrictions at our Northern Border have caused significant disruptions and challenges for Michigan’s cross-border communities and binational families.”

A July letter signed by a bipartisan group of 75 members of Congress warned the Biden administration that keeping the border with Canada largely closed would lead to the loss of 1.1 million jobs and $175 billion by the end of the year.

We’re getting close to the year’s end, and it’s past time for the U.S. to open the border with Canada.

— The Detroit News

 
 

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