‘Wash Post’: Colin Powell Was Axed

By: E&P Staff

Karen DeYoung, associate editor at The Washington Post, may have the misfortune of emerging with an important new book at the same time as her much-higher-profile colleague Bob Woodward. But in an excerpt published today in the Post, DeYoung reveals that contrary to what was said at the time, Colin Powell did not willingly give up his post as Secretary of State two years ago, he was asked to exit.

The book, “Soldier: The Life of Colin Powell,” will be published October 10 by Knopf.

The excerpt in the Post today opens with the following.

On Wednesday, November 10, 2004, eight days after the president he served was elected to a second term, Secretary of State Colin Powell received a telephone call from the White House at his State Department office. The caller was not President Bush but Chief of Staff Andrew Card, and he got right to the point.

“The president would like to make a change,” Card said, using a time-honored formulation that avoided the words “resign” or “fire.” He noted briskly that there had been some discussion of having Powell remain until after Iraqi elections scheduled for the end of January, but that the president had decided to take care of all Cabinet changes sooner rather than later. Bush wanted Powell’s resignation letter dated two days hence, on Friday, November 12, Card said, although the White House expected him to stay at the State Department until his successor was confirmed by the Senate.

After four long years, Powell had anticipated the end of his service and sometimes even longed for it. He had never directly told the president but thought he had made clear to him during the summer of 2004 that he did not intend to stay into a second term.

There had been public speculation as the election drew near that the president might ask the secretary of state to reenlist, at least temporarily. Powell was still the most popular member of Bush’s team, far more popular with the public than the president himself. Senior Powell aides were convinced that the secretary anticipated an invitation to stay, and they were equally certain that he intended to accept. The approaching elections in Iraq, hints of progress in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process and the rumored departure of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, a principal Powell nemesis, made the next six months look like a rare period of promise for diplomacy.

The president himself made no contact with Powell after Card’s call. For two days, the only person at the State Department Powell told about it was his deputy and friend of decades, Richard Armitage. Powell dropped off his resignation letter, as instructed, after typing it himself on his home computer.

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