The attraction of Powell for Clinton is obvious. Given her recent gaffe over Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and race, she will likely want a high profile African-American on her ticket. From a Democratic perspective, at least within the counsels of the White House, Powell was “right” on the war in Iraq, even though the former secretary of State argued forcefully in favor of war at the United Nations. His military credentials are unimpeachable: service in Vietnam, national security adviser to the President, chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff who oversaw victory in Iraq in 1991, and author of the Powell Doctrine.
But Powell might also be attracted to being on a Democratic ticket. He has always adhered to a few political positions outside of the mainstream of conservative Republican orthodoxy–he favors affirmative action in hiring and he can’t really be described as “pro-life,” for example. In addition, service as vice president, helping with the gradual withdrawal of US forces from Iraq under a Democratic president may, in some sense, feel like vindication to Powell.
Of course, age may work against Powell. He turns 71 in April. But that makes him roughly the same age as John McCain and after all, seventy is the new forty, something for which this 54-year old is exceedingly grateful. In the end, however, I don’t think that Powell would accept a place on the Democratic ticket, which will present Clinton with huge problems should she be the nominee for president.
Much could be said about the advantages and disadvantages of picking Powell. If McCain is the Republican nominee, Powell's strong military and diplomatic background could help, and Powell would also be an historically significant pick. On the other hand, Powell is a Republican who disagrees with many of the policy issues of importance to Democrats.
If Clinton is the presidential nominee, there are a few clear reasons for prefering Obama as for No. 2: First, Clinton and Obama agree on most policy considerations. Second, Obama is a more experienced and seasoned candidate who is "ready from Day One" to wage a winning campaign for the White House. Third, nobody doubts Obama's willingness and talent in making clear to voters the need for change and differences from the Republican alternative. In a year when voters say they want change, picking a candidate like Powell who seems a lot like the guy on the top of the other party's ticket (if it's McCain, that is) would be a misreading of the electorate's mood. Obama, not Powell, would be the best choice.