Colin Powell's next big act?

PUBLISHED : Friday, 29 October, 2004, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 29 October, 2004, 12:00am

It is a long way to the top if you want to rock 'n' roll, as the song by AC/DC goes. American Secretary of State Colin Powell has a long way to go.

Speculation is rife that Mr Powell is on the way out, no matter what the outcome of the presidential election next Tuesday. His much-publicised wrangling with Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld over US direction in the face of terrorism and the war in Iraq has apparently made him so much of an outsider that he wants out.

For that reason, the former general - who was once touted as a future president - seemed to be in job-hunting mode during his three-nation East Asian tour this week. Perhaps he had heard that pop star Britney Spears was not, after all, going to take her risque stage show to China.

Leaders he met in China, Japan and South Korea were cordial, but were doubtless scratching their heads as to what the visit was about. In a matter of days, United States foreign policy could be in different hands.

There could, therefore, be only one interpretation - a farewell visit combined with an employment reconnaissance mission.

At 67, Mr Powell may seem a bit old to be going on the road. His problem, though, is that because this is all he has known for the past four years, he cannot easily give it up.

There are rumours he may one day get to head the World Bank, but that is not the same as being constantly in the public eye. Already a multimillionaire with a guaranteed US$180,000-a-year pension, he will not be short of spare change.

His problem is that he would be leaving office on a low. He did his job to the best of his great abilities, but has little concrete to show for it.

His claim to fame has been losing the war with the neoconservatives of President George W. Bush's administration, which is not unheard of and surely worth nothing more than the occasional free dinner. So, soon without a career but not lacking ambition, he has little choice other than to reinvent himself.

Fortunately for Mr Powell, I am offering my services for free to help him on his way in what must be a difficult period in his life.

That is the kind of guy I am.

I have noticed, following July's meeting of the Asean Regional Forum in Jakarta, that he has considerable talent. After the talks, he donned a hard hat, tucked a hammer in his belt and launched into a soul-stirring version of the Village People's YMCA.

With this sort of record, he has one career option: going head-to-head with Britney.

There are limits, of course, and I am not suggesting that, like the pop idol, Mr Powell should undergo a divorce and two marriages in a matter of months. Nor should he opt for her skimpy outfits and sexually simpering manner.

Rather, I envisage him as a crooner in the mould of Tom Jones, although on reflection, maybe he had better have signs on stage saying that his wife would prefer it if female members of the audience kept their underwear to themselves.

Belting out cover versions of It's Not Unusual and Green, Green Grass of Home, the future pop star known simply as Colin may get to continue going to places that Britney could not - like China.

With the problem of Mr Powell's retirement taken care of, there is the little matter of the vacant position of secretary of state to deal with.

The ideal candidate should be young, willing to travel and able to deal with men like Mr Rumsfeld. He or she would be comfortable around strangers and, in the case of East Asia, enjoy karaoke. Having a view that an independent Taiwan would never be tolerated would be advantageous.

Given the anticipated popularity of Colin and his ability to draw fans away from other performers, there seems to be only one person for the job.

Welcome to the US State Department, Britney Spears.

Peter Kammerer is the Post's foreign editor