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Thursday, 21 November, 2002, 23:16 GMT
Powell's wife vetoed presidential bid
Powell promoting his autobiography in 1995
Powell was riding high in the polls in 1995
The wife of US Secretary of State Colin Powell stopped him standing for president in 1996 by threatening to leave him, according to a new book.

Mr Powell - then a popular retired general - was almost assured of being the Republican party's presidential candidate should he have wanted the nomination.


If you run, I'm gone

Alma Powell, according to author Bob Woodward

It has been known for a long time that his wife Alma was opposed to his running, fearing he might be attacked or shot.

But Bob Woodward, one of Washington's most respected and best-connected journalists, says she told her husband she would walk out on him if he sought the presidency.

"If you run, I'm gone," she is alleged to have said.

The episode is related in Mr Woodward's latest book, Bush at War - an account of the debate within the US administration that led to the campaign in Afghanistan and the decision to confront Iraq.

War hero

The son of Jamaican immigrants, Mr Powell served in Vietnam and rose through the ranks of the army to become the highest-ranking black soldier in US history.

As chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in 1991, he was credited with helping achieve the swift victory over Iraq in the Gulf War.

Alma Powell
Alma Powell did not want to be First Lady
Mr Powell retired from the military in 1993.

Two years later, he embarked on a national tour to promote his autobiography, My American Journey, fuelling speculation that he was preparing for a possible presidential campaign.

But in November 1995, he announced he would not run in the following year's election - saying he had little stomach for political life and his family mattered more to him.

"To offer myself as a candidate for president requires... a passion and commitment that, despite my every effort, I do not yet have," he said at the time.

No Lady Macbeth

But Mr Woodward, best known for his part in uncovering the Watergate scandal, says that Mr Powell had to choose between his marriage and his presidential prospects.

He writes: "Running for president, becoming president, making Mrs Powell first lady was not what she wanted for her life. 'You will have to do it alone,' she said."

Mr Powell's marriage is known as one of the strongest in American politics.

His wife has supported him through his career, while remaining away from the public eye.

Correspondents describe her as the antithesis of the active political wife ever eager to bolster her husband's ambitions.

In recent decades some American First Ladies - such as Rosalyn Carter, Nancy Reagan, or most prominently Hillary Clinton - have used their position to campaign on a number of issues.

Others, such as Betty Ford or Laura Bush, have preferred to keep a low profile.

See also:

15 Nov 02 | Americas
10 Sep 02 | Americas
01 Sep 02 | Breakfast with Frost
20 Sep 01 | Americas
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