One of the things that makes people resonate to Secretary of State Colin Powell is that one gets a sense that he’s a gentlemen in a very old-fashioned way. He’s a spit and polish military man who has made us proud in two administrations and before that as a soldier.

Yesterday the even-tempered general went to the Hill to testify and ended up scolding a staffer for rudeness. Powell was defending his pre-war claims about Iraqi weapons when a staff member caught his attention. Any one who’s lived in Washington knows the type. You can almost picture the sort of snotty staffer who made the secretary of state deviate from the topic at hand to ask, “Are you shaking your head for something, young man, back there?”

Rep. Sherrod Brown, a Democrat from Ohio, was also quite justly dressed down by the secretary. Brown casually repeated the charge that the president was likely AWOL from military duty. We expect to hear this during a political season. On the campaign trail. 

Powell, who had “calmly answered barbs by Democrats over the administration’s inability to find weapons in Iraq,” according to the WaPo report, became “testy” at Brown’s AWOL remark. The exchange deserves to be read in full. Finally, somebody tries to raise the level of debate on Capitol Hill.