Once More, With Feeling

Posted May 22, 2012 at 3:03pm

While his one-time bosses, President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney, both released post-administration memoirs during the past two years, Colin Powell has largely shied away from the limelight.

The 75-year-old former secretary of State, four-star general and ambassador to the United Nations appears ready to break his silence. 

On Tuesday, Powell will promote his latest memoir, “It Worked for Me: In Life and Leadership,” at a sold-out Sixth & I Historic Synagogue. The event is co-sponsored by Politics and Prose and will be hosted by NPR’s Robert Siegel. 

Though it isn’t the first autobiography he’s written (“My American Journey” came out in 1995, “A Soldier’s Way” in 2001), Powell’s book — co-written with Tony Koltz and released Tuesday — is likely to get a close look from the Washington, D.C., crowd.

He sheds light on some of his contentious actions as secretary of State, including the prewar address he delivered to the United Nations in 2003 in which he accused Iraq of harboring weapons of mass destruction. 

In a 2005 interview with “ABC News” shortly after he left the Bush administration, Powell said the presentation was “painful.”

“Yes, a blot, a failure will always be attached to me and my UN presentation,” Powell writes in the memoir. “I am mad mostly at myself for not having smelled the problem. My instincts failed me.” 

Powell further claims that there was no major debate within the Bush administration during the lead-up to the Iraq war, a charge shared by former CIA Director George Tenet but disputed by other members of the inner circle. 

Bush and Cheney, writing in their memoirs, “Decision Points” and “In My Time,” respectively, argue that the decision to invade Iraq was based on years of intelligence that predated the Bush administration. Bush wrote that the choice to invade “reflected the considered judgment of intelligence agencies at home and around the world.”

In addition to recalling the momentous events of his years in power, the book also shares lessons learned and Powell’s advice — his 13 rules — for being an effective leader.

Among the bon mots are: “Perpetual optimism is a force multiplier,” “Share credit,” and “Don’t let adverse facts stand in the way of a good decision.”