Monday, October 20, 2008

Ken Adelman, conservative Republican for Obama

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Colin Powell's recent endorsement of Obama may not have come as much of a surprise -- and I'm generally not surprised that Obama has found supporters among Republicans, given the pathetic state of McCain's vicious and dirty campaign and the extremist state of the GOP these days -- but Ken Adelman... well, that's a different story altogether.

If you don't know him, and not many do, Adelman is a long-time stalwart of the neoconservative foreign policy movement, a member of both the Committee on the Present Danger in the '70s and the Kristol/Kagan-founded Project for the New American Century in the '90s, the latter the think tank that pushed for war with Iraq -- and the overthrow of Saddam -- long before 9/11 gave the warmongers in the Bush Administration, some of whom were PNACers (Wolfowitz was both a CPDer and a PNACer), all the excuse they needed. He was a staunch supporter of the Iraq War, until he turned against it. He is currently a member of the Defense Policy Board, the right-wing committee that advises the Pentagon.

Given his current views on the Iraq War, it may actually not be much of a surprise that Adelman has endorsed Obama. However, other than this break with his friends on the right, and his critique of the Bush Administration warmongers as "among the most incompetent teams in the postwar era. Not only did each of them, individually, have enormous flaws, but together they were deadly, dysfunctional," he has been a loyal Republican. During the Ford Administration, for example, he was Rumsfeld's assistant at the Pentagon. Later, under Reagan, he was the deputy U.S. ambassador to the U.N., then the director of the U.S. Arms Control and Disarmament Agency and an advisor to the president.

And now? As George Packer notes in The New Yorker, Adelman is a still a conservative -- a "con-con," not a "neo-con." As he himself puts it, his views "align a lot more with McCain's than with Obama's." Yet he says he'll be voting for Obama on November 4. Why?

Primarily for two reasons, those of temperament and of judgment.

When the economic crisis broke, I found John McCain bouncing all over the place. In those first few crisis days, he was impetuous, inconsistent, and imprudent; ending up just plain weird. Having worked with Ronald Reagan for seven years, and been with him in his critical three summits with Gorbachev, I've concluded that that's no way a president can act under pressure.

Second is judgment. The most important decision John McCain made in his long campaign was deciding on a running mate.

That decision showed appalling lack of judgment. Not only is Sarah Palin not close to being acceptable in high office -- I would not have hired her for even a mid-level post in the arms-control agency. But that selection contradicted McCain's main two, and best two, themes for his campaign -- Country First, and experience counts. Neither can he credibly claim, post-Palin pick.

Adelman may not share Powell's disgust with the GOP, and he may not share Powell's enthusiasm for Obama, but like Powell he is now willing to break with his party, and his friend McCain, to support a Democrat -- one who has shown himself over the course of this long campaign to be a man of exceptional intelligence, judgment, curiosity, and wisdom. It's not like either Powell or Adelman was looking to break with the GOP and McCain. They both probably wanted to support McCain. And yet both are now with Obama.

And, in Adelman's case, notice why: McCain's "weird" and erratic response to the financial crisis, including the phony suspension of his campaign, and, as is the case with quite a few conservatives, Sarah Palin, whose very pick speaks to McCain's irresponsibility and lack of judgment.

To be sure, many conservatives, including Krazy Bill Kristol, remain on McCain's side. And many of them just love Sarah Palin. But there are those -- the courageous few who are putting country before party -- who have simply had enough.

Adelman's endorsement won't mean nearly as much as Powell's, but it's a stunning reflection of Obama's broad appeal and the collapse of McCain's integrity and credibility.

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