Powell vs. the Rolodex Rangers


His term may be winding down, but the secretary of state is still doing what he has done most for the Bush administration: putting out fires set by the White House’s foreign policy.

A week after the tsunami struck shores around the Indian Ocean, Colin Powell hit the Sunday talk show circuit to do some damage control—not by clearing debris or purifying water in Aceh, but by explaining why the initial U.S. response to the disaster received so much criticism.

Powell’s diplomatic counteroffensive included stops at CBS’s Face the Nation and CNN’s Late Edition. Naturally, Powell at each stop repeated the message that the U.S. was on top of tsunami relief from day one and that Americans are the most generous people around.

However, Powell did manage to make news. An interesting break from the mantra was his use of a new term for ex-officials who talk to reporters: “Rolodex rangers.”

He used it with Tim Russert on NBC’s Meet the Press: “There is always some former official around, some ‘Rolodex ranger’ that always shows up to criticize what we are doing. But I want the American people to know that they should be very proud of what their country has been doing and what our private sector has been doing to help these desperate people in need.”

A query of the Nexis database of news articles and broadcast transcripts, as well as an Internet search, indicates this is the first ever use of this term. Powell’s legacy, perhaps?