Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Powell on his Party

Colin Powell unloaded on his own political party Sunday on "Meet the Press."

Powell on his Party

File photo of Colin Powell
File photo of Colin Powell

Although many voices from the political left label large parts of the Republican Party intolerant, bigoted and too far right, it's rare when a top Republican joins that chorus.

Yet that's what happened Sunday on NBC's "Meet the Press" when one of America's most-respected Republicans, former Secretary of State Colin Powell, offered a harsh assessment of his own party.

You can see the interview here.

Asserting that he remains a Republican, Powell, nonetheless, called the GOP a party with "an identity problem," one that has shifted too far right and shown the nation a "dark vein of intolerance."

The result, he noted, is two successive loses in presidential elections.

Powell, who supported President Obama in 2008 and 2012, blasted parts of his party for pushing policies and allowing language and discussion that contributes to the sense that it tends to "look down on minorities."

He noted demographic changes that increase the voting power of minorities and specifically pointed to GOP initiatives in several states (including Pennsylvania) making it more difficult for minorities to vote, and to the "birther" movement.

He noted much of the former was struck down by the courts or backfired, resulting in high minority turnout. And of the later he asked, "Why do senior Republican leaders tolerate this kind of discussion?"

He also made reference to comments last year from former Alaska Gov. (and 2008 Veep candidate) Sarah Palin who said Obama was "shuckin' and jivin'" on attacks in Benghazi. Powell called her words "a racial-era slave term."

Powell hasn't been much in the news, but the last major polling data on him (a CNN poll in May of 2009, after he supported Obama's election) found a 70% approval rating.

I suspect a new poll would produce a similar number. And I believe public figures with the experience and credibility of Powell should be a greater part of the public debate.

But I wonder whether leaders of his party will seriously consider his remarks, or write them off as an over-generalized racial rant.

Daily News Political Columnist
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About this blog
John Baer has been covering politics and government for the Daily News since 1987. The National Journal in 2002 called Baer one of the country's top 10 political journalists outside Washington, saying Baer has, "the ability to take the skin off a politician without making it hurt too much." E-mail John at baerj@phillynews.com.

John is the author of the book "On The Front Lines of Pennsylvania Politics: Twenty-Five Years of Keystone Reporting" (The History Press, 2012). Reach John at baerj@phillynews.com.

John Baer Daily News Political Columnist
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