The Passion of the Weiss

Sometimes I rhyme slow, sometimes I rhyme quick. But most of the time, I don't rhyme.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Blogging and Nonsense

There are few things in the world that can make you feel like a bigger jackass then when you're watching Colin Powell get interviewed live while taking notes to blog later about it. Then when Powell gets asked why he never wanted to become a politician, he replies:

"Well, I'm certainly glad we have people like George Bush and John Kerry and John McCain because we need politicians. It's getting harder and harder to find people willing to submit themselves to all the criticism and all the blogging and nonsense that comes with it. Who'd want to put up with stuff like that?"

Then of course, my friends that I had gone to the event with, looked at me and just started laughing. But the truth of the matter is, Colin Powell is actually one of the few people I've ever seen in person who I can honestly say that I admire. This Monday night, I had the privelige of watching the former Secretary of State alternately lecture and do a Q&A for about two hours. The result was one of the most engaging and interesting nights I've ever been a part of.

Now for the last two years I've shelled out hefty chunks of change to watch a lecture series that takes place at the Gibson Amphitheater (formerly the Universal Amphitheater) and have gotten to see some of the most interesting minds in our country today. These included speeches from Alan Dershowitz, Bill O' Reilly, Bill Maher, Dennis Miller, George Tenet, Bob Woodward, Andrea Mitchell, Tim Russert, John Edwards, Newt Gingrich and my personal favorite, Thomas Freidman. Now I don't necessarily agree with all of these speakers but you can't front on the fact that they all had compelling viewpoints that were at least interesting to hear (save for Dennis Miller who in my opinion is neither funny nor very politically knowledgeable).

But out of all the speakers that I've seen, it was only Colin Powell (and of course Freidman) who left me blown away with his sheer knowledge and intelligence. I know that a lot of people hate on Powell for presenting the bogus intelligence report to the UN, or think of him as Bush's lackey, or think that he should be going around on a world tour bashing the Bush administration. But to watch Powell in person, you understand that he has too much class and restraint to start bashing a former employer, even if he may disagree with his opinions. Furthermore, people can say all they want about our post-war strategy or even our decision to go to War, these are viable things to critique, but one cannot honestly say that anyone knew that Hussein definitely was not trying to get WMD. And for the record, during the course of the speech, Powell even said that if the administration had known that Hussein didn't have a nuclear program, in all likelihood there probably wouldn't have been a war.

But for all the wonkishness and the incessant debating of "what ifs," the thing that struck me the most about Powell is that he's absolutely hilarious. Not hilarious in that whoever he paid to write his speech is obviously a talented comic writer. But hilarious like, his comic timing is perfect, his delivery flawless. I mean, how many 68-year old black former five star generals do you know that can impersonate a cantakerous elderly Jewish man from the Bronx...flawlessly. Powell proved again a fact that should be inscribed on the comedic hall of fame: the only three types of people who are funny are blacks, Jews, and Canadians. That is all. (with a few exceptions)

I think my favorite part of the evening came from Powell and the Rabbi/interviewer (event was sponsored by the University of Judaism, needless to say that my friend Jeff Cowan and I at 6'5 and 6'3, respectively" were definitely the two tallest dudes in the room, it felt like synagogue all over again) started talking about Russia.

Powell turns his head to the room and falls back into storyteller mode and says, "So Bush and I are having a conversation about Vladamir Putin. I'm trying to tell him that I'm not sure that we should completely trust him. Bush looks at me and says 'Don't worry Colin, I looked into his eyes and saw his soul.' (then Powell pauses and kind of looks at the ground giving a 'I can't believe our President said something so completely asanine look). Well, I said to Bush, 'Mr. President, I looked in his eyes and saw KGB." (insert laughter here)

But it wasn't just his sense of humor that struck me. I confess that before seeing him speak, I had liked Powell but didn' t know much about him. In the back of my mind, I'd always believed that part of the reason for his popularity was the fact that Americans almost always instinctively venerate Generals. But it wasn't the case. Powell has one of the sharpest minds I've ever seen. I think that man could even have gotten John Walker Lindh to fight for him if he'd spoken with him for like 20 minutes. His presence is that commanding.

And for those who wrongly believe that just because he served in Bush's administration, Powell is automatically some sort of Republican sycophant, that belief just isn't true. Powell proclaimed himself an independent and instructed the crowd, "I know you think most military men are strict Republicans , but that just isn't the case. Most are independent, they just happen to be conservative on defense issues which often leads them to vote for Republicans."

Furthermore, Powell also expressed his disagreement with the troop size that we had when we went into Iraq, a critique that obviously holds up when you examine the situation today. He even described how he personally went to Gen. Tommy Franks' office to advise him that we needed more troops to win the war and the peace afterwards. Of course, this request was denied (and if I had to guess Donald Rumsfeld was also behind that decision).

For those two hours, you couldn't help but look at Powell and think about what an amazing president he would've made. It's a tragedy that the political process has to be so dirty as to discourage men like Powell from running. From watching him speak, one really got the impression that he would've been one of those rare great presidents who could've shaped the world for good. He even mentioned how close he came to running in 1996, before ultimately choosing against it (prolly a wise move because NO ONE was beating Clinton that year). I guess it's sort of stupid to think about what if's, but from watching this man's brilliant and measured mind at work, it was clear at least to me, that if it had been Colin Powell in the White House on September 11, 2001 and every day after that, our nation would not be in the straits that it is currently in.

So, there you go, the rare non-sarcastic, non-cynical post, about someone who actually inspired me. My heart is still made out of iron, don't get it twisted, but every now and then you just see something that gives you hope that not all people in power are craven lunatics. Just most of them. Thank god this post is over. Tomorrow, I promise more blogging and nonsense.


At 9:25 PM, Blogger Nate said...

Anyone disagreeing with the Blacks, Jews, and Canadian as comedians thing isn't paying attention. As well, it sucks that the nature of our Political system is such that a man that would truly be fit to be President never will be. How do I sign up for this lecture series???

At 10:17 PM, Blogger Passion of the Weiss said...

There are two more left...Ann Coulter and Al Franken and a roundtable featuring Natan Sharansky, Wesley Clark and one other big wig. Google University of Judaism lecture series (they're prolly sold out but it's worth a shot)

At 1:34 PM, Anonymous Matt A said...

If anyone pays to see Ann Coulter I will personally decapitate them-while simultaneously leaving the head and body intact! I always thought Colin Powell was a half-decent beacon of hope in the fledgling political arena, but he's consistently sold out. His son, Michael Powell had the deciding vote (Chairman of the FCC) on whether to allow the AOL/Time Warner merger, perhaps the largest vertical integration the country has ever seen, and a baffling move considering it was a clear communications monopoly. But he sensibly decided to wait and speak to his father (Colin, who happened to be on AOL board...hmmm) and so the merger happened. I don't even have to bring up how Powell switched his pacified position regarding Iraq to War Monger overnight, protesting in front of the UN that he had concrete evidence of WMD, which turned out to be bogus, and everything was forgotten with chuckle and "Oh that CIA, giving us faulty intelligence."

At 2:27 PM, Blogger Andrew said...

And his most hilarious comment that you've quoted:

"Well, I'm certainly glad we have people like George Bush and John Kerry and John McCain because we need politicians."

At 6:57 PM, Anonymous David said...

Say what you will about Ann Coulter, her Oscar predictions, as they appear on her website, are both hilarious and on point. On a personal note, I have a rap show on Sunday at Club Red Square in Woodland Hills. Normally, acts of shameless self-promotion constitute a suicidal faux pas, but I have decided to sell out to the mastondonic corporate entity known as "The Passion of the Weiss." To get a sample of what my street bangers sound like, visit either of my web sites,, or,
Do that, and you'll understand why cats from the high rise condos of Seattle to the wine bars of Pasadena are getting crunk.

At 10:34 PM, Blogger Passion of the Weiss said...

Matt...I don't think you can call the man a war monger, there are dozens of very intelligent and sane minded individuals who did support the war (christopher Hitchens and Tom Freidman I think would lead any list). And about the WMD, hindsight of course is 20/20, you have to respect a man who can admit he's wrong. Which is more than I can say for Bush. Say what you want about Ann Coulter, she sucks (but so does Al Franken in my book, I dislike idealogues in all stripes)

At 2:09 PM, Blogger amphimacer said...

As a Canadian Jew, though not black, I am almost as funny as I could be. But that's not why I'm commenting. Those old enough to remember Gulf War 1.0 will remember General Schwarzkopf, who led that shindig for the U.S., and who in an interview at the time stated that Colin Powell was the smartest man he had ever known. Smart, independent, and with real experience in military matters, as head of the Joint Chiefs, he still stuck with Dubya -- an appalling breach of good sense. Although I don't think he was dishonest, I do think he did not use his intelligence adequately in choosing to support this war, even as far as he did, and that lapse puts him beyond the pale as a useful commentator. I knew it was wrong, Scott Ritter knew it was wrong, and my mother knew it was wrong -- frankly, out of the bunch of us, it's my mother's political instincts I trust the most.


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