Colin Powell Endorses Chuck Hagel, Does Not Endorse GOP’s Racist Dog Whistles

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Speaking his mind.
Speaking his mind.

Because endorsing Barack Obama for president (twice!) wasn't enough of a slap in the Republican Party's face, Colin Powell decided to continue breaking the party line on a variety of subjects during a Sunday appearance on NBC's Meet the Press. Speaking about an assault weapons ban, Powell — a gun-owner — asked, "How much are we really giving up if we said that [weapons like the Bushmaster semi-automatic] should not be readily available to anybody who wants to buy one?" (Most of his GOP peers, of course, continue to side with the NRA, whose president told CNN's State of the Union today that such a ban will die in Congress.) The former secretary of State also took on critics of Obama's secretary of Defense nominee, Chuck Hagel. "When they go over the edge and say because Chuck said 'Jewish lobby' he's anti-Semitic, that's disgraceful." Powell added that Hagel's nonagreement "with every single position that the Israeli government takes" does not make him an anti-Semite. "I think he gets confirmed," he predicted. 

But Powell reserved his harshest words for a certain set of Obama's Republican naysayers. "There's also a dark vein of intolerance in some parts of the party," he said. "What do I mean by that? What I mean by that is they still sort of look down on minorities." He went on to name names, including  Sarah Palin herself, who he says invoked a "racial-era slave term" when she accused Obama of "shuckin' and jivin'" on Libya, and loose-tongued Romney surrogate John Sununu, who called Obama "lazy" after the first presidential debate. As Powell points out, "lazy" is a racially loaded term when applied to African Americans — "the second word is 'shiftless,' and then there's a third word that goes along with it."

Finally, Powell offered a bit of advice for his party (and yes, he insisted, "I'm a moderate, but I'm still a Republican"): Lose the crazies. "In recent years, there's been a significant shift to the right," he said. "And we have seen what that shift has produced: two losing presidential campaigns." The GOP needs to embrace the shifting demographics, he contends, meaning greater outreach to Hispanics and more emphasis on issues like education. "If the Republican Party does not change along with that demographic, they're going to be in trouble." So we've heard.