Powell: "No Regrets" About Backing Obama

Former Secretary of State Colin Powell on "Face the Nation," Sunday, Feb. 21, 2010. FTN CBS

Former Secretary of State General Colin Powell said Sunday he had no regrets about endorsing Barack Obama during the 2008 presidential campaign, but that the president "put too much on the plate for the American people to absorb at this time."

"I think he was the right choice when the nation voted for him," he told "Face the Nation" moderator Bob Schieffer, adding that "he has done some things that help the country a great deal."

Powell noted that "our financial situation is secure now," considering the country was in a recession when the president took office. "Slowly but surely we are started to see the kind of improvements the American people wanted and voted for him for."

He added, "Now his job has to be to convey to the American people that things are going to get better."

Powell conjured an old military expression: "No great strategist and no great battle plan survives first contact with an enemy. And no great political campaign survives first contact with trying to govern in Washington, D.C."

He said that while Americans understand the need for reform of health care and education and energy, their first priority was to fix the economy - the mortgage system, the credit problem, unemployment, trade. "As the president went into these [other] areas, all of which were important . . . in the eyes of the American people, in my judgment, it looks like it was more important than the main attack, which is fix the economy and get Americans working again."

Powell said while change is happening, "it is happening too slowly for the patience of the American people."

He also responded to the president's calls for bipartisanship and compromise, which have gone largely unheeded in Congress. "It's nice to say 'Let's be bipartisan.' But we're a partisan nation. We were raised as a partisan nation. The only bipartisanship you ever see is when they finally sign a bill and everybody says 'Gee, isn't that wonderful.' I don't think he expected such a strong attack and resistance from the Republican Party. But that's what he got."

Schieffer asked the general if "Washington is broken."

"No, I don't think it is broken. I think it is in trouble," Powell responded. "I think the American people are watching it and saying, 'You know, our founding fathers intended for people to argue and have strong views on both sides of an issue. But just as they did in Philadelphia when they were writing the Constitution, sooner or later, you've got to compromise. You've got to start making the compromises that arrive at a consensus and move the country forward.'

"In some ways the government is functioning. It's doing what it's supposed to do, but not well enough. The American people, I think, see the extreme positions being taken, too left on the Democratic side, too far right on the Republican side, the Tea Party movement is also now become a force in American politics. Of course, you've got the overhang of cable television and the Internet, all of which heightens tension and makes it harder and harder for our political leaders in the Senate or in the Congress to quietly make the compromises that are necessary.

"So our system is not broken. It's a great system. But it's in some disarray right now," Powell said. "The American people are looking for their leaders to fix it. They're looking for the White House to fix it. They're looking for leaders in both the Republican Party and the Democratic Party in the House and Senate to start finding ways to compromise and get the country moving and not just scream at each other."
  • Michelle Levi

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