"Face the Nation" transcript: August 28, 2011

GENERAL COLIN POWELL: He meant a great deal to me. You know, when he gave that same speech, I was serving in Vietnam. When he was killed several years later, I was training to go back to Vietnam. Most of that period, I was away from the country, my wife and young children were in Birmingham, Alabama during those terrible days in 1963 and what Doctor King meant to me was that the second revolution, the second Civil War is under way. It was time now to meet dreams set out for us by our founding fathers. And what Doctor King did was not just free African-Americans, he freed all of America, he caused us through his sacrifice and his service. He caused America to look at a mirror of itself. Look in that mirror, what do you see? Is this who you want to be? Is this the inspiration you want to be to the rest of the world? And the answer was no and we knew he had a change and he was the leader to took us through that change and that's why it's so fitting that he be memorialized in this manner.

BOB SCHIEFFER: Do you feel that his dream has now been realized?

GENERAL COLIN POWELL: No, if Doctor King was here now, he would be raging about poverty, he would be raging about inequality as in our society, he would be raging about the fact that we are not educating all of youngsters and especially our African-American youngsters. He'd also be chewing them out a bit, you know, you got to work harder to get your education. We have to bring back intact families, so we can raise children in loving intact families and he would also be on the world stage talking about poverty and inequality throughout the world. He was a-- he was a man who transcended the African-American experience, he became an American icon and he became an icon to the rest of the world.

BOB SCHIEFFER: Doctor King and his era it was a tough time for America, but we are going towards some more tough times right now. What do you think he would think of today's politics?

GENERAL COLIN POWELL: He would be very disappointed, I mean, we have such a lack of civility in our political life now. We-- we are fixed on ideological poles and we seem unable to come together and Doctor King was always saying, can we come together; can we talk about these issues? Founding fathers argued with each other, but they also knew that argument was part of a democratic process, but ultimately you have to compromise with each other in order to reach a consensus to keep the country moving forward and if all we do is remain fixed on these poles of opposites of political spectrum, the country will not be moving forward and we have got to find the way to get through this and it's going to happen when the American people say knock it off or stop it and we want to see a different attitude with respect to a political life. We want to see a different level of civility in Washington, DC.

BOB SCHIEFFER: General, we are going to take a break here and when we come back, I want to get your reaction to this explosive book by former Vice President Dick Cheney. You had some rather surprising remarks about-- among other people, you. We will talk about that and some more things when we come back.

DR. MARTIN LUTHER KING: One day-- one day


BOB SCHIEFFER: And we're back now with former Secretary of State Colin Powell and we want to talk about politics and talk a little about this book that Dick Cheney himself said is going to cause heads all over Washington to explode I guess I'd ask you, General, is your head exploding?

GENERAL COLIN POWELL: My head isn't exploding and I haven't noticed any other head is exploding in Washington, DC, and the explosive part of the book. And when Mister Cheney says its explosive but what I have read in the newspapers and seen on television, it's essentially a rehash of the events of seven or eight years ago. What really sort of got my attention was this way in which he characterized it, it's going to cause heads to explode. That's quite a visual and in fact, the kind of headline I would expect to come out a gossip column, that's the kind of headline you might see one of the super market tabloids write. It was not the kind of headline I would have expected to come from a former Vice President of the United States of America. Mister Cheney had a long and distinguished career and I opened his book that's what he would focus on, not these cheap shots that he's taking at me and other members of the administration who served to the best of our ability for President Bush.

BOB SCHIEFFER: So you-- you just label them flatly cheap shots?

GENERAL COLIN POWELL: Well yeah, they're cheap shots. I mean, several one he-- he tosses at me, you know, he takes a great credit for my resignation in 2004. Well, President Bush and I had always agreed that I would leave at the end of 2004. After the election, I stayed on three more months because I-- I wanted to and because there were conferences that I wanted to attend and because Doctor Rice hadn't been confirmed. So it's no news there. He says that I went out of my way not to present my positions to the President but to take them outside of the administration. That's nonsense. The President knows and I had told him what I thought about every issue of the day. Mister Cheney may forget that I'm the one who said to President Bush if you break it, you own it. And you've got to understand that if we have to go to war in Iraq, we've to be prepared for the whole war not just the first phase. And Mister Cheney and many of his colleagues were not prepared for what happened after the fall of Baghdad. And I persuaded the President to take the case to the United Nations to see if we can be solved without war. And if it couldn't be solved without war, we would have people aligned with us. Mister Cheney went out immediately after the President made that decision and undercut it by giving two speeches to veterans groups that essentially said he didn't believe it would work. It's not the way you support a President. And he also says that, you know that I was not supportive of the President's position. Well, who went to the United Nations and regrettably with a lot of false information, it was me, it wasn't Mister Cheney. I supported the President. I supported the President's decisions. I gave the President my best advice. Then he goes on to talk about the Valerie Plame affair, and tries to lay it all off on Mister Rich Armitage in the State Department and me. But the fact of the matter is when Mister Armitage realized that he was the source for Bob Novak's column that caused all the difficulty and he called me immediately, two days after the President launched the investigation and what we did was we called the Justice Department. They sent it over the FBI the FBI had all the information that Mister Armitage's participation in this immediately. And we called Al Gonzalez, the President's counsel, and told him that we had information. The FBI asked us not to share any of this with anyone else as did Mister Gonzalez. And so, if the White House operatives had come forward as readily as Mister Armitage had done then we wouldn't have gone on for two more months with the FBI trying to find out what happened in the White House. There wouldn't have been special counsel appointed by the Justice Department who spent two years trying to get to the bottom of it. And we wouldn't have the mess that we subsequently had. And so if the White House and the operatives in the White House and Mister Cheney's staff and elsewhere in the White House had been as forthcoming with the FBI as Mister Armitage was, this problem would not have reached the dimensions that it reached. But Mister Cheney is free to say what he wishes but so far I haven't seen anything in it that is as explosive as he claims it is. And I don't see heads laying on the street.

BOB SCHIEFFER: Well, did you think, I mean--it was no secret that you often disagreed with the vice president as there are always disagreements within any administration.

GENERAL COLIN POWELL: Of course, there are always disagreements. And I think what Mister Cheney should let us see is the nature of the disagreements and he should say why he disagreed with me. And he should at least indicate why I was disagreeing with him. And not just dismiss it with a wave of his hand a barb that is intended to cause heads to explode rather than illuminate the issue.

BOB SCHIEFFER: I just want to put up on the screen that one quote because you referred to it. This is the quote, one of the quotes in the book and he says flatly talking about you, "It was as though he thought the proper way to express his views was by criticizing administration policy to people outside the government."

GENERAL COLIN POWELL: Did he indicate anything in that paragraph or in that section about what I did. I gave my best advice to him, to my colleagues in the National Security Council and above all to the President of the United States of America. And he can't dismiss all of that with that kind of observation.

BOB SCHIEFFER: Well, what do you think happened here, I mean, clearly you had disagreements but this seems reading this book, this seems well beyond disagreement. It seems to be anger here.

GENERAL COLIN POWELL: Well, I'm not going to tribute any emotion to Mister Cheney on writing this book but it was clear by 2004 that the-- the team is not functioning as a team. And we had different views and not just views-- not views that could be reconciled. And so I said to the President that there was-- I would be leaving at the end of the year after the election he had to take a look at his whole team to try to resolve these issues because it was not a smoothly functioning team at that point. And I-- I think that's unfortunate but its reality and I felt that I had to leave the administration. And frankly, I was intended to just serve one term.