Moments after Gov. Pat McCrory left the stage, former Secretary of State Colin Powell took aim at North Carolina's new voting law Thursday, saying it hurts the Republican Party, punishes minority voters and makes it more difficult for everyone to vote.
"I want to see policies that encourage every American to vote, not make it more difficult to vote," said Powell, a Republican, at the CEO Forum in Raleigh.
"It immediately turns off a voting block the Republican Party needs," Powell continued. "These kinds of actions do not build on the base. It just turns people away."
The retired general served as the keynote speaker at the event and made his remarks moments after McCrory finished his remarks. His comments represent the most high-profile criticism of the Republican-crafted law that requires voters to show photo identification at the polls, cuts early voting days and makes it harder for students to vote.
Here's a list of reasons this doesn't matter, despite the fact that many commentators are making it sound like Powell went all Thunderdome on McCrory and the rest of his demented tribe:
First, it certainly doesn't matter to the NC legislators and governor. "Punishing minority voters" and “turning people away” is the entire point of the exercise.
Come to that, Powell is exactly the sort of voter – if you know what I mean – that the NC laws were designed to disenfranchise anyway. His dismay and anger are their personal triumph.
Second, it doesn't matter to their base because Powell is part of the old Republican establishment, which the base now loathes, and he was part of the Bush II administration, which the base now pretends never happened.
Third, objecting to McCrory's claim that NC's new vote suppression laws are actually aimed at curbing voter fraud, Powell said this:
"You can say what you like, but there is no voter fraud," Powell said. "How can it be widespread and undetected?"
And there – right there – is why the rest of America doesn't care, either. Too many of us remember that presentation to the UN Security Council in February 2003, when Powell insisted that Saddam's regime had an active WMD program – which, although he claimed it to be widespread, remains undetected to this day. Powell later called that speech a "blot" on his record, but he was wrong: That is his record. Karma's a bitch.
Even if he's on the right side of history – as he happens to be in this instance – he has pretty much no moral or political authority left to buttress his case. He has only his celebrity, and good luck with that. Perhaps he rues the day he ever met the Bush family, as well he might, but that's where things stand.