In a combative and wide-ranging interview on Fox News with host Bill O’Reilly, Gen. Colin Powell once again defended his support for President Obama and his disenchantment with his Republican Party, stating that there is a “vein of intolerance” running through the GOP.
One of O’Reilly’s initial tactics was to confront Powell, the former secretary of state under President George W. Bush, for claiming that he was partly basing his support for Obama on his disagreement with the Republican economic approach. But O’Reilly threw out stats showing that the economic situation for African-Americans actually got worse under Obama.
Powell seemed offended that O’Reilly would “just see me as an African-American.” Powell said he was speaking for all Americans, not just African-Americans, and that he believed the economic situation for blacks and Latinos would improve if they were provided with the educational skills to take advantage of jobs in a technologically advanced economy.
Powell is considered one of the most respected members of the GOP, which has led many Republicans to a state of extreme agitation that Powell has twice supported Obama — with many of them accusing him of acting purely on racial grounds.
As Powell said he was bothered by the rightward shift in the GOP, O’Reilly tried to get him to back off comments he made responding to prominent Republican John Sununu calling Obama “lazy” and Sarah Palin for criticizing Obama’s “shuck and jive” during the consulate attack in Libya.
“I know Sununu, you know Sununu. He’s not a racist, so why even bring it up?” O’Reilly said. “Just say he was foolish for putting it that way.”
“Let me tell you why,” Powell said. “I would never call John a racist. He used some very poorly chosen words in my judgment, and I think he might agree with that in retrospect. But you have to understand the impact this has on minorities throughout our country. If you want to appeal to these people, if you want to bring them to the Republican Party, and give them reason to vote Republican, you have to avoid using this type of language, which could infuriate people and cause them to go vote.”
As for Palin, O’Reilly said, “You know Gov. Palin is a performer, she’s performing for her crew. She’s not a racist.”
“I didn’t use that term,” Powell responded. “You keep saying they’re performing for their base, they’re talking to their people. I’m saying they have to talk to a larger group of people for the Republican Party to get back on the right track.”
They also disagreed on the efforts by Republicans to change the voting procedures in many states by adding ID requirements that would make it tougher for many people to vote. While many Democrats said these measures were intended to lower minority turnout — something that a few Republicans were caught on tape admitting — O’Reilly said he didn’t see anything wrong with requiring someone to show an ID to stop fraud.
But Powell said there was no evidence of fraud, and if the Republicans truly wanted to appeal to more minorities, they would make it easier for everyone to vote and then give those groups reason to vote Republican.
At the end of the interview, O’Reilly said many Republicans believe Powell turned on the party because he was still angry that the Republicans and the Bush administration made him look bad by having him testify at the U.N. more than a decade ago about the presence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq as a justification for the U.S. invasion. But Powell laughed and called that speculation “a bunch of nonsense.”