General awaits call to storm White House

US presidential race: The architect of the allies' Gulf war victory could be the hero that disillusioned voters desperately seek

"I want a hero," sang Byron, "an uncommon want,

When every year and month sends forth a new one."

Forrest Gump; Rocky and Rambo; Clint Eastwood in the role of the solitary avenger: these have been America's contemporary heroes. Ronald Reagan's genius lay in knowing how to transform the blur between the movies and the real world into electoral gold.

Colin Powell's rare political asset, the one he will seek most avidly to exploit should he decide to run for the presidency next year, is that his life precedes art, that his personal story is a Hollywood blockbuster waiting to happen. And it is his political good fortune that the planets are aligned in such a way right now as to present a quality political outsider with a unique opportunity to storm the White House.

As poll after poll has shown, the public is disillusioned with those who govern, deeply possessed of a sense of national decline. They are thirsting for a flesh-and-blood hero. This week he broke the two-year interview silence that followed his retirement from the army in 1993. We now know the general is willing: he would love to become President. He claims he has not heard "the calling" yet, but a man in the public eye does not flirt with the electorate if he lacks the desire to obtain the most seductive prize in politics.

He says he has "the skills to do the job''; he confesses neither of the two parties completely fits him yet; he suggests the time is ripe for a third party to claim "the sensible centre"; he teases that "Forrest Gump Colin Powell" will make up his mind whether to run at the end of his two-month book tour, which will combine a chance to add to his $6m (pounds 3.9m) advance an opportunity to survey the electoral terrain.

In talking about his book, My American Journey, he will be drawing attention to a life that is a classic fulfilment of the American Dream: the son of Jamaican immigrants, brought up in Harlem, who, through work and perseverance, rose to be Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, head of the world's mightiest military force. For whites he is not a Jesse Jackson but a Mandela figure, whose all-American virtues transcend colour. For blacks he is a role-model, an admirer of Martin Luther King who does not deny the existence of racism in America but whose example extols the triumph of self-esteem over adversity.

But on the strength of his soldierly image alone the latest polls show that were he to run as an independent he would trail Bill Clinton and Bob Dole by a narrow margin. As a Republican candidate he would defeat Mr Clinton by 10 points. When the public gets to see General Powell performing on the public stage, as they will to saturation levels in coming weeks, they will quickly identify qualities of leadership, self-possession, gravitas and charm unmatched by all the other declared presidential candidates.

The question is: how does the general mean to plot his path to the White House? Indications are that his heart tells him to go independent, his head Republican. The statements he has made in recent days show he distrusts what he calls "rigid ideology from any direction"; that he is disturbed by "the class and racial undertones" beneath the rhetoric of the right wing and put off by the "patronising liberalism" of the left.

Yet he has left the door open to the Republicans, claiming the party is wider and more moderate than one might think from listening to Newt Gingrich and the Christian right.

Another question the general will be asking himself is whether he wishes to sink to the inevitable political trickery an election demands and expose himself to the media scrutiny that goes with the campaign territory. Reporters have started to ask whether he behaved altogether nobly during the Iran- Contra affair; whether he failed to act early enough on information he personally received on the US Army's most shameful deed in the Vietnam War, the My Lai massacre.

For now the general is weighing up, evaluating. Those who know him well say there is only one thing certain: if he runs, he will do so only once he is as certain as he was before embarking on the Gulf war that the odds are stacked heavily in his favour. Asked by Time this week whether he would bring to his politics his celebrated all-or-nothing "Powell Doctrine" of war, he replied: "You don't do it to fool around. You do it to win. And I think that's a pretty good rule for life as well as for military operations."

News
people Emma Watson addresses celebrity nude photo leak
News
Katie Hopkins appearing on 'This Morning' after she purposefully put on 4 stone.
peopleKatie Hopkins breaks down in tears over weight gain challenge
News
Boris Johnson may be manoeuvring to succeed David Cameron
i100
News
peopleHis band Survivor was due to resume touring this month
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
News
people'It can last and it's terrifying'
News
In this photo illustration a school student eats a hamburger as part of his lunch which was brought from a fast food shop near his school, on October 5, 2005 in London, England. The British government has announced plans to remove junk food from school lunches. From September 2006, food that is high in fat, sugar or salt will be banned from meals and removed from vending machines in schools across England. The move comes in response to a campaign by celebrity TV chef Jamie Oliver to improve school meals.
science
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Life and Style
fashionModel of the moment shoots for first time with catwalk veteran
Life and Style
fashionPart of 'best-selling' Demeter scent range
News
i100
Sport
Tom Cleverley
footballLoan move comes 17 hours after close of transfer window
Sport
Alexis Sanchez, Radamel Falcao, Diego Costa and Mario Balotelli
footballRadamel Falcao and Diego Costa head record £835m influx
Life and Style
fashionAngelina Jolie's wedding dressed revealed
News
i100
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Web Developer/UI Developer (HTML5, CSS3,Jquery) London

£55000 - £65000 per annum: Harrington Starr: A Global Financial Service Organi...

Data Scientist (SQL, PHP, RSPSS, CPLEX, SARS, AI) - London

£60000 - £70000 per annum: Harrington Starr: A prestigious leading professiona...

C# Web Developer (C#, MS Dynamics CRM, SQL, SQl Server) London

£40000 - £50000 per annum: Harrington Starr: A Global Financial Service Organi...

Oracle developer- (Oracle, PL/SQL, UNIX/LINUX) - Trade- London

£50000 - £70000 per annum: Harrington Starr: One of the global leaders in prov...

Day In a Page

'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes': US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food served at diplomatic dinners

'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes'

US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food
Radio Times female powerlist: A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

Inside the Radio Times female powerlist
Endgame: James Frey's literary treasure hunt

James Frey's literary treasure hunt

Riddling trilogy could net you $3m
Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

What David Sedaris learnt about the world from his fitness tracker
Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Second-holiest site in Islam attracts millions of pilgrims each year
Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

The big names to look for this fashion week

This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York
Will Self: 'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

Will Self takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Toy guns proving a popular diversion in a country flooded with the real thing
Al Pacino wows Venice

Al Pacino wows Venice

Ham among the brilliance as actor premieres two films at festival
Neil Lawson Baker interview: ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.

Neil Lawson Baker interview

‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.
The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

The model for a gadget launch

Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

Get well soon, Joan Rivers

She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

A fresh take on an old foe

Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering