The two most prominent opinion leaders to come out and endorse a presidential candidate are of course, Colin Powell, and Fareed Zakaria. Both endorsements are important but in different ways. Admittedly, Zakaria is a moderate/liberal with a realist bent on foreign policy. He has been a critic of the Bush Administration's unilateralism regarding Iraq (though he supported United Nations action to overthrow Saddam's regime). He was one of the first to point out the dangers of de-Baathification and the disbanding of the Iraqi army. He recognized early and often, that Gen. Shinsecki's estimate for how many allied forces would be needed for Iraq reconstruction was far more sound than the Wolfowitz pie in the sky nonsense. However, Zakaria has a certain independent streak when he talks about liberty, vrs democracy and how it is likely to evolve in from country to country. A big believer in private property, free trade, the rule of law, etc., he sees democracy evolving out of liberty, not liberty evolving from democracy. Obviously, someone who is a deep thinker, but also someone with an independent streak, the fact that he endorsed anyone for President is a bit of a surprise to me. Clearly he understands how important this election is and what it will mean to America's relationship with the rest of the world. In that regard, his endorsement of Obama makes sense.
As for Colin Powell, I knew it would take only a mili-second before conservative propagandists would try to spin this as a racially based decision. But everything I've read about Colin Powell suggests that this is an extraordinary break with those he broke bread with for most of his career. "The Powell Doctrine" is still studied as a formidable foreign policy paradigm, one that would have given the administration of George W. Bush a far greater chance of success, than the Rumsfeldian/Wolfowitz approach. Having been used to further their aims, he has never spoken out against that, though some of his closest confidants have. Powell is someone who measure his words and his actions carefully. Powell's endorsement by itself sends a strong message, but the reasoned justification for the endorsement was a very powerful and relevant statement as to where we are, and what we need as a country. Powell's calling out of Republicans for the demonization of muslims showed Powell to be an American in it's truest sense, not in it's limited neocon version.
All in all, an extraordinary weekend. In addition, newspapers that have never endorsed a Democratic candidate for President have done so, without remorse or a look backwards. These are extraordinary events in a troubled time.