WASHINGTON, DC—Top Cabinet officials are up in arms about the allegations of widespread steroid use made by former Secretary of State Colin Powell in his new political tell-all Pumped: Living Fast, Loose, And On The Juice During My Tumultuous DC Days—And Nights.
"I'm gonna get it from all sides for violating the code of silence in the Players Wing," Powell wrote in the book's introduction. "A lot of people out there don't want to know why a politician suddenly gets big. Well, I hate to break it to you, but it ain't always through able policy-drafting."
In the book, Powell paints a picture of a commander-in-chief who not only permitted, but encouraged the use of performance-enhancing drugs, and an attorney general whose buttocks were knotted with gristle from daily injections of equine growth serum.
Powell neither denies nor goes into great detail about his own steroid use.
"I won't deny that I tried it—the stuff was everywhere, especially during the early days," one passage reads. "But I was blessed with certain natural gifts that, combined with my extensive military training, made steroid use largely unnecessary for me."
Powell alleges that during the early days of Operation Enduring Freedom, 80 percent of Bush's Cabinet was abusing steroids.
"The signs were right there, if anyone had cared to pay attention," Powell said. "The bursts of foul-mouthed rage from Cheney… The sudden emergence of Donald Rumsfeld as a major-league heavy hitter in Defense… And how anyone overlooked Condi's pop-eyed, clench-jawed grimace, I'll never know. She was shooting up with synthetic testosterone every six hours—more on Cabinet-meeting days."
Powell argues that tremendous pressure to perform is at the root of steroid abuse among Washington insiders.
"Say you're a politician who's a success in your home state," Powell wrote. "You run for Senate. Bang! Suddenly you're in Washington, mixing it up in the big leagues, and let me tell you, it's a whole different world. You have to hustle harder and work longer just to keep up. You wanna be at the top of the heap? Well, we're all the best of the best and we're all putting in 110 percent every day. A lot of guys will do anything to get a Washington Post headline, and yeah, that includes juicing."
Powell said the pressure gets worse as politicians move up the ladder.
"All eyes are on you—PAC lobbyists are turning up the heat, millions of faithful constituents are watching C-SPAN," Powell wrote. "Take a Cabinet appointee, someone who hasn't even worked his way up through the ranks. Ashcroft, say. The pressure's 10 times worse on a poor sucker like him. If he doesn't swing for the fences, he's failed at the biggest game there is, and there's no such thing as lateral movement in Govvy Town. You're out. Some guys, guys who have been at the top their entire lives, can't take the idea of failure."
According to Powell, White House officials wouldn't abuse politics-enhancing substances if the people in charge didn't push them to do so.
"Okay, I'm gonna come right out and say it," Powell said. "The Big Guy's the one running the show, right from the Oval Office. Let's say your provisions to the Patriot Act are striking out, or you put your foot in your mouth at a press conference. You can expect a little visit. Not the Big Guy himself, but someone will drop by for a little chat. He'll hint that maybe you could add a step, get a little quicker, gain a little more power if you had some of Karl Rove's candy. Oh, Number One's too smart to get caught with it himself, but as sure as I'm standing here, he knows where it is and who's taking it. You better believe it."
Chris Matthews, host of the MSNBC show Hardball, argued that Powell's omissions tell more than his disclosures.
"Well, it's an interesting glimpse inside the clubhouse," Matthews said. "But I don't think Powell's telling us everything he knows. All this about steroid abuse—a thing he denied until he had a six-figure book contract—and nothing about the parties, the recreational drugs, the legions of groupies? Sounds to me like Powell's choosing the one area where he was a choirboy and letting everyone else twist in the wind."
As to whether his former boss used performance enhancers, Powell offered a number of questions.
"Well, I'll let you decide," Powell wrote. "But you might want to ask yourself how a career-Republican bench-warmer found the weight and power to beat a giant like McCain in the '99 primaries. And then you might want to think about why his neck has bulled out so much in the past five years. Listen, I respect the man's abilities, but come on. Put two and two together, America."