When we last left these former colleagues, Dick Cheney stated on Face the Nation he preferred Rush Limbaugh's political philosophy to Powell's, stating less than graciously that he had believed that Powell "had left the party. I didn't know he was still a Republican."
But on Sunday Powell fired back, probably with greater marksmanship than draft dodger Cheney ever possessed, "And Mr. Cheney is misinformed. I am still a Republican."
This tiff had its genesis in Powell's endorsement of Barack Obama for president. It should be noted that Secretary Powell was one among a plethora of intellectual conservatives who decided to either back Obama, or who wavered in their endorsement of the McCain-Palin ticket.
It is further complicated by the ideological warfare - social conservatives v. moderates - with the more conservative wing seeking more "purity" at the expense of moving toward the center to garner more supporters. This "purity" tends to center around the social issues of the right to reproductive choice and equal rights for gays and lesbians. In very recent history, the party plank on both issues has proved to be an albatross, and moderates wish to focus more on fiscal conservatism and small government.
However, even people I consider to be plain dealers, like Gov. Tim Pawlenty, are disingenuous about the Cheney-Powell row. As reported in yesterday's New York Times by Adam Nagourney, Mr. Pawlenty was quoted s saying about Powell, "If your indictment of the Republican Party is that it is not mainstream enough, and then the party puts forth somebody who is clearly a mainstream Republican - John McCain for President - and then you leap-frog over him to endorse Barack Obama, that seems about more than being frustrated with the Republican Party not being mainstream enough."
I don't know exactly where Mr. Pawlenty was going with this, but he may have been alluding to race being a factor, as Rush Limbaugh had. However, the 10,000 lb elephant [pun intended] in the room he is ignoring is the nomination of Sarah Palin as running mate for Sen. McCain. It was her vast and obvious shortcomings, not Mr. McCain, that drove Mr. Powell, as well as many of the more intellectual, less religious member of the party to defect.
The fact is that Sarah Palin was the polarizing agent in the Presidential election. She is of the social conservative wing of the party where religiosity and fanatical adherence to failed social policies [like abstinence] are more highly prized than deep thoughts on geopolitics or Constitutional law. That Mrs. Palin failed famously when she was interviewed by Katie Couric, namely by being unprepared to answer relatively simple questions for a Vice Presidential candidate and revealing herself to be little more than a pretty face versed at the art of petty insults, was what drove the likes of Peggy Noonan, as well as Colin Powell, among many others Republicans, to endorse the Democratic ticket.
So, it appears that the GOP has a lot more soul searching to do, as the very thing that caused a veritable brain drain on the right side of the aisle, Governor Sarah Palin, has not been reduced in stature, but rather is the present GOP front runner for 2012.
Think about it in these terms: the Sarah Palins of the GOP are seeking to supplant the Colin Powells.
If they had any brains left, the Powells should run for it.