Former Secretary of State Colin Powell celebrated former President George H.W. Bush’s foreign policy legacy on Sunday, but saved the bulk of his praise for his old friend’s character and humility.
Powell got an insider’s perspective of Bush’s administration as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff from 1989 until 1993. Just days after Bush’s death at the age of 94, Powell appeared on CNN’s “State of the Union” to look back on the former president’s legacy. He said one of the reasons for Bush’s foreign policy successes is that he had more experience in foreign affairs than any president in American history. Before becoming president, Bush had been a solider, envoy to China, ambassador to the United Nations, CIA director and vice president.
“What other credentials do you need to be a successful president with respect to foreign policy? So, he knew the world,” Powell said on Sunday. “He understood so many of the personalities who were working in the world at that point. And he was essentially fully prepared to be a foreign policy president. And he was a successful one, a very successful one.”
But Powell said Bush’s remarkable humility played a significant role in helping him to lead toward a “new world order” in which all of the world’s nations would work together and the Cold War’s victors wouldn’t make the same mistake that the allied nations made at the conclusion of World War I — by burdening the losers with all the blame and responsibility.
“That’s who he was. He was like that with everybody,” Powell continued. “That humility, that humbleness, that, don’t take myself so seriously. I am the president, but I’m just one person. And I’m privileged to be in this position and privileged to be able to serve the American people and serve the cause of peace, justice around the world. And history has given me the opportunity to create a new environment, a new world order, and people respecting one another.”
He suggested that the humbleness embodied by Bush is in short supply in today’s political landscape. He recalled that the American people were thrilled with how quickly U.S. troops accomplished their mission during Desert Storm and that the soldiers were going to be celebrated with a giant ticker tape parade up Broadway in New York City.
“The city was going nuts getting ready for it. And he wouldn’t go,” Powell said. “When we talked about it, he said, ‘This is something that belongs to the troops, to you, the other members of the Joints Chiefs of Staffs, Secretary Cheney and Gen. Schwarzkopf. I don’t want to go. I’m not going to go.’ He went to the one in Washington, which was much more subdued, a few months later. But it didn’t surprise me in the least.”
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