Colin Powell was on Face the Nation this morning, and he used his appearance to fire back at both Rush Limbaugh and Dick Cheney’s claims that he is not a Republican anymore. Powell said that Cheney had been misinformed, and Limbaugh is an entertainer who is entitled to his own opinion.
Powell said, “Rush will not get his wish, and Mr. Cheney was misinformed. I am still a Republican and I would like to point out that in the course of my 50 years of voting for presidents I have voted for the person who I thought was best qualified at that time to lead the nation. Last year, I thought it was president, now Barack Obama. In the previous 20 years, I voted solidly for Republican candidates. I voted for Ronald Reagan twice, George Bush 41 twice, George Bush 43 twice. I spent eight years in Bush administrations. I served Ronald Reagan for two years. I spoke at the 1996 convention and I spoke at the 2000 convention.”
He continued, “I have always felt that the Republican Party should be more inclusive than it generally has been over the years, and I believe we need a strong Republican Party that is not just anchored in the base, but has built on the base to include more individuals, and if we don’t do that, if we don’t reach out more, the party is going to be sitting on a very narrow base.”
Powell said that Cheney was misled about him leaving the party, “He was misled if he thought if I left the party. You know neither he nor Rush Limbaugh are members of the membership committee of the Republican Party. I get to make my decision on that. I will continue to work in a way that I think is helpful to the country and the party.” Powell noted that he has voted for Democrats John F. Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson, and Jimmy Carter in the past. He said that he votes for the best person for the job in each election.
Powell said that Limbaugh is an entertainer, but he also has power within the GOP, “Mr. Limbaugh is entitled to his opinion, and I don’t say he shouldn’t have an opinion…but he shouldn’t have a veto over what someone thinks. He is an entertainer. He is a radio figure, and he is a significant one, but he is more than that when the chairman of the RNC Michael Steele issues the mildest of criticisms concerning Mr. Limbaugh, and then 24 hours later the chairman of the RNC has to lay prostrate on the floor apologizing for it, and when two congressman offer the mildest criticism of Mr.Limbaugh, they too within 24 hours have such pressure brought to bear on them that they have to change their view and apologize for criticizing him. If he is out there he should be subject to criticism just like I am subject to criticism.”
The former Secretary of State questioned Rush Limbaugh’s racial reasoning for his support of Obama. He said that race doesn’t explain all 69 million votes in the 2008 election for Obama. He also mentioned that the Republican Party is declining in support among all major demographics, and has lost states like Virginia, Nevada, and North Carolina. He also cited the 200,000 Republicans that have switched to the Democratic Party in Pennsylvania as evidence that the GOP has to broaden its base.
I think those who only see this as an argument between Colin Powell, Dick Cheney and Rush Limbaugh are missing the point. This is a dispute over the future direction of the Republican Party. Powell has become the leading voice for making the GOP more inclusive. Cheney and Limbaugh represent the notion that the GOP needs to stay as it is, or move to the right.
Powell made it clear that he isn’t afraid of Limbaugh or Cheney. He said that there are many other moderate Republicans out there but they are afraid to speak out against Limbaugh because when they do, their inboxes and voicemails fill up. In the short term, I think Cheney and Limbaugh win this fight, but after the GOP gets crushed again in 2010 and 2012, eventually Republicans will see the light and move towards Powell’s view.
The more that I watch this squabble unfold, the more I believe that Colin Powell is the only moderate with the stature and position in the GOP to take on Rush Limbaugh. He has nothing to lose by challenging Limbaugh. Since he isn’t an elected official, and has no desire to seek office, what can Rush do to him?
Limbaugh’s power is over those who depend on public opinion to keep their jobs. This doesn’t apply to Gen. Powell, who despite serving in the Bush administration is still a respected global figure. It is my hunch that Cheney and Rush are destined to lose this fight with Powell.