BEHIND THE NEWS: In the public eye

October 20, 2008 1:46:23 PM PDT
I'm not sure most of people could stand the psychodrama of being in public life. It's fascinating, of course, to deconstruct and analyze everyone's motives and predicaments during this political season -- but I'm not sure most of us could handle it.

That said, I'm fascinated by the psychological machinations of the people involved in these high-stakes, high-drama times.

John McCain is intriguing because the guy we saw on David Letterman and at the Al Smith dinner last week bears little resemblance to the man who is on the campaign stump. Long-time Republican wags are even stumped by the personality they see in McCain the candidate.

Certainly that was one of the reasons Colin Powell gave for endorsing Barack Obama over the weekend. Powell and McCain have been friends for 25 years, but the former Secretary of State and former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs came out of the political closet, so to speak, in backing Obama.

It was also something of payback for Powell -- and that's the other fascinating psychodrama being played out -- , who was politically hung out to dry by the Bush Administration when he made the case for invading Iraq to the United Nations. The information he had with him was faulty intelligence from the C.I.A. about weapons of mass destruction (WMD's). Did Powell know it at the time? Did he intentionally give false information to the U.N. and, by extension, to the American people? Only he knows that. But we do know that Powell had argued against other members of the Bush Administration, and said that invading Iraq was not the wisest move in 2003; that invading and occupying an Arab country was not what the U.S. should be doing.

Powell's public support of the invasion, along with the New York Times reporting -- faulty, as it turns out -- helped stanch much of the vocal opposition to the war.

With The Times and Powell talking about Saddam Hussein having WMD's, it undermined anti-war sentiment. So there are many who remember that about Colin Powell.

There are many others who, in the short-memory reality of America in 2008, do not. And for them, the Powell endorsement may be a big deal.

Then there's the psychodrama of Sarah Palin. To quote one media writer, it's not clear if the audience was laughing with her or at her this weekend on Saturday Night Live. Having Palin show her lighter side, while entertaining, was not exactly what the McCain campaign needed politically. She needed to show her gravitas, if anything.

And finally there's the remarkable transformation of Michael Bloomberg, who was three years ago dead-set against having term limits overturned by anything but a vote of the people who voted it into law. Now the New York Mayor wants the City Council to overturn it, which would allow him to run for a third term. Mr. Bloomberg, who has been praised for the millions he's given away to local charities, has reportedly been putting the squeeze on those local charities to lobby for the Council to overturn the law. There are many who in the past praised the Mayor for his philanthropy, because it was seemingly not connected to his political career. Have times changed?

We'll have the latest from the candidates, and the term limits campaign, tonight at 11.

We'll also have any breaking news of the night, plus Lee Goldberg's AccuWeather forecast, and Scott Clark with the night's sports. I hope you can join Liz Cho and me, tonight at 11.

BILL RITTER


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