I first met Colin Powell in 2003. I was working for Rudy Giuliani and we did a lot of writing together. Rudy was asked by President Bush to represent the United States at the first ever meeting convened in Europe to address the spiraling amount of antisemitism there in the wake of the second intifada.
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So before he went, Rudy wanted to meet with Secretary of State Powell to be sure he was carrying the right message for the US. Powell had the idea that we should advance the trip by writing an op/ed in the New York Times to lay out our goals and shame the elitist Jew haters of Europe. It was a complex stew there — a lot of the anger was in the streets, sparked by waves of immigration from the Middle East. But anti-Semitism has always enjoyed an unfortunate amount of support among the university elite of Europe, as well, to catastrophic effect from time to time.
So I was added to the meeting.
It was a heady experience, just Gen. Powell, Rudy and me. I had never been in the State Department, and to be there for a mission so near to my heart made me feel like if I wrote Rudy’s draft with enough horsepower, it could change the world. I was very young in 2003. We all were.
I said nothing, took notes and Rudy and I wrote a great editorial that took up a full page in the paper of record.
I subsequently met Powell many more times because Powell joined this surreal ‘Get Motivated’ lecture series that booked Rudy a lot. I took this photo of Powell at one of them on Sept. 14, 2010, Denver I think, but possibly St. Louis. Rudy and Powell hung out a lot at those events, even though by then Powell had taken a pretty stark leftward turn and was captivated by Pres. Obama.
I remember having dinner with Powell and Rudy at a regular airport dive bar-restaurant and the two of them laughing because passersby kept coming up to them both and misidentifying them. Someone thought Rudy was “Bob Dole” and Powell couldn’t stop laughing and busting Rudy’s onions over that mis-ID.
Powell told me he loved that Times editorial, and I told him I’d been too scared to mention it in 2003, but that my first girlfriend was an army brat and knew his daughter because they were both aspiring actors. When that girlfriend and I first saw “Reversal of Fortune” together, she went nuts during the great Chinese restaurant scene (Jeremy Irons classic line “I’ll have my own individual order of ginger prawns.” cuz he’s too stuffy to share with these grubby law students from … Harvard Law) when one of the HLS kids at the table with Ron Silver was Linda Powell. Colin Powell loved that story.
RIP General Powell. He was very wrong on Iraq but he was a principled man who served his country loyally and with dignity.
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