Ken Adelman’s credentials in Republican circles go back four decades. He served in the Commerce Department, then under Donald Rumsfeld at the Office of Economic Opportunity and the Department of Defense, during the Nixon and Ford administrations respectively. During the Reagan years he headed the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency, and his advice to the 40th President was indispensable during the summits with Mikhail Gorbachev that helped bring the Cold War to an end.
In 2001 Adelman joined the Defense Policy Board and worked with Rumsfeld and Paul Wolfowitz (whom he’d helped bring into government service) in the planning leading up to Operation Iraqi Freedom. He was a strong supporter of the Iraq war during its first years, but after the start of the second Bush term his opinion changed; two years ago he published an article in Vanity Fair arguing that the United States should not have launched the operation, and has since described himself as having moved from being a “neocon” to being a “con-con” (by way of distinguishing himself from the American Conservative “paleocon” crowd).

Yesterday, Adelman dramatically distanced himself from his former colleagues when he informed George Packer of the New Yorker that he would vote for Sen. Barack Obama for President next month, explaining:

Why [am I doing so], since my views align a lot more with McCain’s than with Obama’s? And since I truly dread the notion of a Democratic president, Democratic House, and hugely Democratic Senate?

Primarily for two reasons, those of temperament and of judgment.

When the economic crisis broke, I found John McCain bouncing all over the place. In those first few crisis days, he was impetuous, inconsistent, and imprudent; ending up just plain weird. Having worked with Ronald Reagan for seven years, and been with him in his critical three summits with Gorbachev, I’ve concluded that that’s no way a president can act under pressure.

Second is judgment. The most important decision John McCain made in his long campaign was deciding on a running mate.

That decision showed appalling lack of judgment. Not only is Sarah Palin not close to being acceptable in high office—I would not have hired her for even a mid-level post in the arms-control agency. But that selection contradicted McCain’s main two, and best two, themes for his campaign—Country First, and experience counts. Neither [of these] can he credibly claim, post-Palin pick.

It is true that Sen. McCain’s initial response to the economic crisis was confusing, since his traditional stand has been in favor of deregulation, and the conflict between the Bush administration and conservative Republicans put him in something of a quandary. But in the weeks since then he and his advisors have given a lot of thought to what will be required in the next four years, and his statements on economic policy, especially during the last debate, reflect this. And where Gov. Palin is concerned, I would guess that Adelman’s objections to her are as much founded on her determined support of the Iraq war as they are on what he perceives as her inexperience. In any event, though Adelman’s announcement is not as earth-shaking as Gen. Colin Powell’s was on Sunday, it does make one wonder who, among prominent Republicans, will next endorse Obama-Biden.