Foreign Policy and Muscle Cars: Joe Biden and Colin Powell’s Decades-long Friendship

In 2002, President Joe Biden was awaiting on a deserted, darkened Afghan tarmac when awful news came out from Washington: He and his entourage were being obstructed by the Pentagon from acquiring an available seat on a parting military cargo plane. Biden sensed who to call while standing in the cold and the massive planes grumbling in the background.

He said to Colin Powell over a satellite phone “Mr. Secretary,” adding further “they said you kicked me off this plane.”

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Powell had not thrown Biden or anyone else out of the plane. Then working as secretary of state of President George W. Bush, Powell had a strategy. He mumbled the name of the first Defense secretary of President George W. Bush “Rumsfeld!”, adding “Goddammit!”

Following the powerful call to U.S Central Command, Powell had managed to secure seats for Biden and his team to depart.

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The incident from Bagram Air Base, which Biden recalled in his remembrance “Promises To Keep,” came months following the American invasion of Afghanistan. Then working as chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Biden was on a task of searching for the truth for a dispute he’d start to question.

Powell, who passed away on Monday at the age of 84, had already found himself entangled in a foreign policy conflict with fellow Cabinet members for Bush’s ear. The conflicts would strengthen over the coming years as fellow members like Vice President Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld distressed for conquering Iraq, a decision about which Powell claimed later he had apprehension about, even as he made the matter for it in public.

Foreign policy and muscle cars
Foreign-policy-and-muscle-cars

Very often, Biden found himself by the side of Powell. Chasing the hallways of power jointly for years, the duo represented an era of bipartisan policy agreement that now looks outdated and, in the matter of the Iraq War, misguided.

In his final year, Powell looked as terrified as Biden at the situation of the Republican Party, which he stated had permitted conditions to encourage that resulted in the ferocity of the 6th January revolution at the US Capitol.

What has been stated by President Joe Biden on Monday?

On Monday afternoon, Joe Biden stated in the White House South Lawn, “I became friends with Colin Powell, who we just lost,” he was speaking there at an event held for honoring educators. He further said “He’s not only a dear friend and a patriot, one of our great military leaders and a man of overwhelming decency.

But this is a guy born the son of immigrants in New York City, raised in Harlem in the South Bronx. A graduate from the City College of New York, and he rose to the highest ranks not only in the military but also in areas of foreign policy and statecraft.”

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Earlier in the day, Biden had called for flags flown at half-staff for glorifying the life of his friend. In a statement, Biden mentioned “Over our many years working together, even in disagreement — Colin was always someone who gave you his best and treated you with respect,” adding further “From his front-seat view of history, advising presidents and shaping our nation’s policies, Colin led with his commitment to the democratic values that make our country strong, “Time and again, he put country before self, before the party, before all else — in uniform and out — and it earned him the universal respect of the American people.

Biden and Powell sustained alongside each other some of the final foreign policy moments of the last century, and first ones for this century, compelled by the ideas of civility, experience, and working-class values, and a fascination with vintage muscle cars. They were in opposing camps for a maximum of decades, Biden a Democrat and Powell a Republican.

They caught up in the middle and, in 2016, with Jay Leno on a racetrack, where they raced their Corvettes and reciprocated some light trash talk. Powell called out to Biden “Where were you?” adding further “I kept looking in the mirror and I didn’t see you.”

Biden saw Powell from the lens of his decades-long military career, amidst which he asserted political independence. He considered him as a stabilizing influence on a chain of US presidents and viewed in his worldview a foreign policy belief that, at times, equated his own, grounded in clear ambitions and consent and support from the American people.

In his statement, Biden wrote “Above all, Colin was my friend,” adding further “Easy to share a laugh with. A trusted confidant in good and hard times. He could drive his Corvette Stingray like nobody’s business, something I learned firsthand on the race track when I was Vice President. And I am forever grateful for his support of my candidacy for president and our shared battle for the soul of the nation. I will miss being able to call on his wisdom in the future.”

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Growing close during the Bush years

Biden came forward to claim Powell as a calming, if often drive-out, a voice in Bush’s administration. He continuously came in front of Biden’s foreign relations panel, incorporating amidst Powell’s declaration hearings when Biden raised his amazement at the performance of Powell.

Biden stated before when the committee voted unitedly to advance his nomination “I have not seen any notes slipped to you and there has not been a binder in front of you, and this has been a tour de force on your part, and you should be complimented publicly for that.”

In the early days of Powell when he used to serve as Bush’s secretary of state, a return to public life after a years-long military career through which he achieved widespread faith among the Americans, as per polls, Biden confronted him frequently in the Senate or at the White House.

When Biden was called to the White House to confer with Bush before his first visit to Europe, he reached the Oval Office just when Powell was walking out. Bush called out to his top diplomat sp that Biden could listen.

While giggling Bush said “Colin!” adding “Remember to pack clean underwear.” Powell cracked a joke since he crossed Biden on his way out saying “See what I have to put up with, Mr. Chairman?”

The subsequent years would observe the influence of Powell in the administration, and an adapting Biden looked closely from his place on Capitol Hill. As hawks like Cheney and Rumsfeld proposed for war in Iraq, Biden was sure of the abilities of Powell to propose a contradictory voice, although since he was asked if the secretary of state was being kept in the alliance.

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As written by Biden in his book, “Powell and the State Department were as much in the dark as I had been on that sightless night on the tarmac in Bagram,” continuing wrote As I look back on it, I have come to believe that no matter how close Powell was to the president, it seemed George W. Bush had a way of keeping his foreign policy hidden from his secretary of state.” When Biden described reservations about encouraging Iraq straight to Powell, he mostly got a beneficial retort: Powell would tell Biden “Call the president,” adding “Tell him what you just told me.”

Mutual grief over the Iraq war

In the end, both Powell and Biden went for such actions for which they were regretting later in the lead-up to the Iraq Battle. The lengthy speech delivered by Powell at the United Nations, putting in the matter for a US-led battle to disarm Saddam Hussein, induced many Americans along with Biden, to get underneath the attempt; later, Powell claimed the address would be a “blot” on his report forever.

In 2003, Biden voted to empower the use of military force in Iraq but had come to see the vote as a blunder by 2005. Fifteen years later, he was still pushed to respond for it, sometimes in a misguided pattern, during his run for president last year.

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Following up years after the incursion of Iraq at a birthday party, Powell and Biden started to recall his era in the Bush White House. Standing on a back deck when other party-goers went inside, Powell voiced disturbed by the experience.

Powell said to Biden “I think I have him. I think he agrees, and then he goes the opposite way.” Adding further, “I don’t know what’s wrong with him.”

Biden took a more pessimistic opinion. He wrote in his book “I remember that night thinking how Powell was kidding himself about Bush like he still had to rationalize to himself that he’d been outmaneuvered in a political game by these two shrewd old hands; he still wouldn’t recognize that President Bush had simply made the wrong decisions.”

‘We need people who will speak the truth’

Till now, the mutual respect between the duo lasted. By the time Biden was counting for his third run for president, Powell had finished a break with the GOP that started in 2008, when he supported Barack Obama, and by carrying on Biden, his running partner, in the last weeks of a fiery presidential election.

The decision made by Powell to support Obama over his friend and fellow Vietnam War veteran Sen. John McCain was a pivotal moment, his support simplified concerns among some common voters that Obama missed adequate foreign policy experience, the same burdens selection of Biden as a running partner were aimed to diminish.

The support and encouragement established a personal bond between Obama and Powell, the first Black president and the first Black secretary of state, that persisted in Obama’s presidency. Obama, including his best administration officials, discussed Powell on the battle in Afghanistan and other foreign policy cases. Powell, now also a moderate Republican, proposed a light slam of how the young administration was aiming its energies.

Powell told CNN’s Larry King in 2010, “He should have focused on the economy … to the exclusion of almost everything else domestically,” adding further “When you’re starting as a president, you have to figure out (what) is most important.”

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Still, in 2012, Powell supported Obama again, this time upon Mitt Romney. He stated at the time that he trusted it perpetually, and he wasn’t confident if Romney stood on foreign policy.

He said, “I signed on for a long patrol with President Obama, and I don’t think this is the time to make such a sudden change.”

He would never endorse a Republican presidential candidate again, supporting Hillary Clinton in 2016 and conclusively Biden last year. The possibility of the next four years of Trump, the same encouragement that led Biden into the race, had gathered the men together again.

Powell told “I certainly cannot in any way support President Trump this year,”, adding further he is “very close to Joe Biden on a social matter and a political matter.”

“I worked with him for 35, 40 years,” he stated, “and he is now the candidate, and I will be voting for him.”

Pointing at Biden’s virtual nominating convention, Powell got into an argument with his longtime Washington mate as the apt candidate to conquer moderate Republicans.

In a video released by the Democratic National Convention Committee ahead of the second night of convention programming, Powell said “Joe Biden will be a president we will all be proud to salute,” further said, “With Joe Biden in the White House, you will never doubt that he will stand with our friends and stand up to our adversaries — never the other way around,”.

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Powell had made his final break with the Republican Party after Five months, following would-be revolutionaries scowled the US Capitol where Biden’s election achievement was being accredited. 

“You know I’m not a fellow of anything right now,” Powell stated adding further “I’m just a citizen who has voted Republican, voted Democrat, throughout my entire career, and right now I’m just watching my country and not concerned with parties.” “We need people that will speak the truth,” Powell concluded.

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