The Mabley Archive: How Jack viewed Colin Powell, a quarter century ago

Gun Rights
In 1988, when longtime Glenview resident Jack Mabley brought his column to the Daily Herald, he made a couple of requests: 1. Let him keep his ugly, old green chair. 2. Launch an edition for his hometown. He kept the chair. And now, more than a decade after his passing in 2006, his second request has been granted. This column is from Feb. 17, 1997.

Colin Powell told his position on abortion, gun control, affirmative action and school prayer last week.

Robert Novak, a syndicated columnist who speaks for the political right, immediately wrote that Powell declared war on conservatives “from the Christian Coalition to the National Rifle Association.”

How absurd. Powell didn’t declare war on anybody. He answered reasonable questions that people like Novak have been pushing for months.

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Why does it have to be “war” with anyone who doesn’t agree with you?

This attitude could be the undoing of the Republican Party next year.

Powell flies into Chicago Thursday in his campaign warm-up and book promotion.

Presidential campaigns last too long, but they do have one benefit. They evolve gradually, they define and sort out candidates, and frequently confound the “experts,” which most of us enjoy seeing.

Bob Dole has evolved from a heavy favorite for the GOP nomination to a nervous front-runner. Phil Gramm has gained a little ground.

But the sad fact for the GOP is that none of their candidates seems to have the chemistry (that magic word) to beat Clinton.

The president has his weaknesses, for sure, but he goes into the 1996 campaign without the baggage that nearly sank him in 1992 – the draft, marijuana, the bimbos. They’ll be recycled, but they’re stale.


And Clinton has done some good things. He’s accommodating with Newt Gingrich on welfare. He has reduced the deficit without major hikes in taxes. (There surely are small increases hidden in that huge budget.)

So the scene on the day of Powell’s arrival in Chicago is that Powell would have a better chance of beating Clinton than any of the Republican candidates.

William Kristol, who was chief of staff for vice president Dan Quayle and is one of the most respected conservative voices, thinks Powell will win the nomination.

As Powell becomes stronger his attackers will become more shrill. He’ll be blamed for every problem in the military since Vietnam. Already the abortion opponents are mounting demonstrations for every appearance by Powell. (Why is it always men who scream the loudest are usually the spokesmen?)


Their evolving dilemma: would they rather lose with Pat Buchanan than win with Powell?

Timothy J. Storm, of Palatine, who’s just a voter, questions Powell’s qualifications.

“Stripped of the public relations spin, General Powell is essentially a military bureaucrat – albeit a uniquely successful one,” Storm states,

“Given the military’s startling backwardness and rampant inefficiency, that, to me, is hardly a high recommendation for a candidate.”

We’ll be seeing a lot of that kind of questioning in coming months.

Cal Thomas, one of our editorial page’s conservative voices, asks how we restore a sense of family values in national life.

We need a firm ideology, Thomas declares, “that sex before marriage is wrong, that faithfulness in marriage is right, that divorce and the single-parent households are major contributors to social decline.”

Dole, Gramm and Gingrich are on their second marriages. Clinton’s extramarital romps are documented.

Powell? He epitomizes everything family values stand for.

The Republicans are in for some intensive soul-searching. If the hard-liners won’t compromise, they’ll probably lose.

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