ON WEDNESDAY, NOVEMBER 10, 2004, eight days after the president he served was elected to a second term, Secretary of State Colin Powell received a telephone call from the White House at his State Department office. The caller was not President Bush but Chief of Staff Andrew Card, and he got right to the point.This lengthy article is excerpted from Soldier: The Life of Colin Powell by Karen DeYoung. It's obviously a concerted attempt by Powell to present his own version of events, including his final goodbye to Bush:
"The president would like to make a change," Card said, using a time-honored formulation that avoided the words "resign" or "fire." He noted briskly that there had been some discussion of having Powell remain until after Iraqi elections scheduled for the end of January, but that the president had decided to take care of all Cabinet changes sooner rather than later. Bush wanted Powell's resignation letter dated two days hence, on Friday, November 12, Card said, although the White House expected him to stay at the State Department until his successor was confirmed by the Senate...
The president himself made no contact with Powell after Card's call. For two days, the only person at the State Department Powell told about it was his deputy and friend of decades, Richard Armitage. Powell dropped off his resignation letter, as instructed, after typing it himself on his home computer. (The White House later pointed out a typo and sent it back to be redone.) Loath to reveal either surprise or insult, he used the letter to claim the decision to leave as his own.
The appointed time found Powell already in the Oval Office for a routine meeting; when it concluded, he lingered as the others left. As Powell later remembered it, Bush seemed puzzled and called after his departing chief of staff, "Where you going, Andy?"
"Mr. President, I think this is supposed to be our farewell call," Powell prompted.
"Is that why Condi ain't here?" he recalled the president asking.
That was probably the reason, Powell replied.
Card walked back inside, and the three men sat down. Powell had already decided to use the opportunity -- likely his last as secretary of state -- to unload...
The session ended with a cordial handshake, and the secretary returned to the State Department. "That was really strange," he reported to Wilkerson. "The president didn't know why I was there."