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Political world reacts to Colin Powell's death: 'A trailblazing leader'

"Colin embodied the highest ideals of both warrior and diplomat," President Joe Biden said.
Secretary of State Colin Powell looks on as President Bush addresses State Department employees on Feb. 15, 2001.
Colin Powell, then the secretary of state, looks on as President George W. Bush addresses State Department employees on Feb. 15, 2001.Kenneth Lambert / AP

Leaders around the world paid tribute to former Secretary of State Colin Powell, who died Monday at 84 of Covid-19 complications.

"Colin embodied the highest ideals of both warrior and diplomat. He was committed to our nation's strength and security above all," President Joe Biden said in a statement. Biden paid tribute to Powell's foreign policy influence and trailblazing legacy as well their personal friendship.

"Above all, Colin was my friend. Easy to share a laugh with. A trusted confidant in good and hard times. He could drive his Corvette Stingray like nobody's business," he said.

SenJoe Biden, D-Del., addresses reporters as Sen. Jesse Helms, R-N.C., center, and Secretary of State Colin Powell look on after meetings Oct. 3, 2001, at the State Department in Washington, DC.
Sen. Joe Biden, D-Del., addresses reporters as Sen. Jesse Helms, R-N.C., center, and Secretary of State Colin Powell look on after meetings Oct. 3, 2001, at the State Department in Washington.Manny Ceneta / AFP - Getty Images file

Powell, a retired four-star Army general who became the country's first Black secretary of state and chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, served twice in Vietnam, where he was wounded in action and later received the Soldier's Medal for rescuing men from a burning helicopter. He rose through the military ranks before serving as national security adviser to President Ronald Reagan, then chairman of the Joint Chiefs under Presidents George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton before his tenure as secretary of state.

"He was a great public servant, starting with his time as a soldier during Vietnam," wrote former President George W. Bush, whom Powell served as secretary of state. "Many presidents relied on General Powell's counsel and experience. ... He was such a favorite of presidents that he earned the Presidential Medal of Freedom — twice. He was highly respected at home and abroad."

Powell was fully vaccinated and was being treated at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, his family said in a statement on Facebook. Powell suffered from multiple myeloma, a blood cancer.

"Today our nation mourns the passing of a truly great man," his successor as secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice, said in a statement. "Colin Powell spent the entirety of his life in service to his country. He was a trusted colleague and a dear friend through some very challenging times."

Secretary of State Antony Blinken said his predecessor was an "extraordinary leader" and a "great man."

"Colin Powell dedicated his extraordinary life to public service because he never stopped believing in America," Blinken said. "And we believe in America in no small part because it helped produce someone like Colin Powell."

Former Vice President Dick Cheney said in a statement: "I'm deeply saddened to learn that America has lost a leader and statesman. General Powell had a remarkably distinguished career, and I was fortunate to work with him. He was a man who loved his country and served her long and well."

As secretary of state, Powell delivered a notable speech to the U.N Security Council in February 2003 laying out the Bush administration's rationale for invading Iraq, saying intelligence backed up the claim that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. U.S. troops invaded the following month. The evidence was later shown to be incorrect.

In recent years, Powell had backed Democrats in presidential races, including Barack Obama. Powell was also highly critical of former President Donald Trump and said he could no longer call himself a Republican after the Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol.

Both Democrats and Republicans were effusive in their praise.

Obama called Powell "an exemplary soldier and an exemplary patriot." He noted that when Powell endorsed him in 2008, he gave a strong rebuttal to critics who said Obama was Muslim.

"The correct answer is he is not a Muslim. He's a Christian," Powell said on NBC's "Meet the Press" at the time. "But the really right answer is 'What if he is?' Is there something wrong with being a Muslim in this country? The answer's no. That's not America. Is there something wrong with some 7-year-old Muslim American kid believing that he or she could be president?"

Former President Bill Clinton and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Powell was "a courageous soldier, a skilled commander, a dedicated diplomat, and a good and decent man."

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said in a statement: "America has lost a trailblazing leader with the passing of Colin Powell. Today we remember and honor a man who truly dedicated his entire life to serving his country."

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., praised Powell as "an historic leader who dedicated his life to defending our nation and our families" and as a "patriot" who "embodied the American Dream."

Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Calif., a staunch critic of the Iraq War, said on Twitter that Powell was "a trailblazer, serving as the first Black Secretary of State."

"Gen. Powell served this country with decency, integrity, & showed respect to everyone he encountered," she added. "May he Rest in Peace & Power."