Video: Did Powell not stand up for Hagel?

posted at 8:01 am on January 14, 2013 by Ed Morrissey

It’s not unusual to see a conservative publication and the mainstream media look at the same event and come away with different conclusions.  After Colin Powell went on Meet the Press yesterday, the Washington Post headline read, “Colin Powell: Chuck Hagel ‘superbly qualified’ to be defense secretary [sic]“.  The Weekly Standard and the Daily Caller came away with a much different impression, however.  “Powell Won’t Stand Up for Hagel on Israel,” read the former, while the latter took a more specific approach with “Powell refuses to defend Hagel on Israeli-Palestinian ‘moral equivalency’”.  Wow, I thought when I first read these headlines, Powell must have really thrown Hagel to the wolves.

Er … not exactly.  While David Gregory asked Powell some tough questions about Hagel’s voting and rhetoric record, Powell offered quite a robust defense for Hagel on Israel, as the clip from the Weekly Standard makes pretty clear:

The Daily Caller’s take was more accurate, but still missed the mark:

“There is a sense among his critics that [Hagel] views this [conflict] in an evenhanded way, that they equally share the blame … Is that his view?” asked David Gregory, the host of NBC’s “Meet The Press.”

“Well, I’ll let — you know, he should be able to give his views which he will do at the confirmation hearing,” Powell said, failing to robustly declare that Hagel does not see Israelis and Palestinians as equally blameworthy.

“I don’t believe that these moral equivalency between the two sides … [and] you will have to ask him what he believes,” added Powell, who has positioned himself as a moderate GOP supporter of Obama.

While it’s true that Powell didn’t explicitly declare that Hagel doesn’t believe in a moral equivalency between the two sides, Powell made it clear that he doesn’t believe it, and strongly implied that he doesn’t think Hagel believes it, either.  Whether that’s true or not is another matter, but as I’ve written in the past, that’s not the real problem with Hagel’s nomination anyway.  The real problem is Hagel’s record on Iran, which includes opposition to both sanctions and a military option to stop Tehran from getting nuclear weapons, and what it says about Barack Obama’s attitude toward Iran in a second term.

Perhaps the impulse to see a bus toss in these remarks has to do with Powell’s accusation about “a dark vein of intolerance” in the Republican Party:

“There is also a dark vein of intolerance in some parts of the party,” he continued. “They still sort of look down on minorities. How can I evidence that? When I see [Palin] saying that the president is ‘shucking and jiving,’ that’s a racial-era slave term. When I see [Sununu] after the president’s first debate, where he didn’t do very well, says that the president was ‘lazy’ — he didn’t say he was slow, he was tired, he didn’t do well — he said he was lazy. Now, it may not mean anything to most Americans, but to those of use who are African Americans, the second word is ‘shiftless’ and there’s a third word that goes along with it.”

Powell went on to slam Republicans for “the whole birther movement.”

“Why do senior Republican leaders tolerate this kind of discussion within the party?” he wondered. “I think the party has to take a look at itself. It has to take a look at it’s responsibilities for health care, it has to take a look at immigration, it has to take a look at those less fortunate than us.”

Well, I’m not aware of any Republican Party support for birthers at any level. In fact, every party leader of which I’m aware has put as much distance between that small clique and the GOP as they possibly could. I’m not sure what Powell means by “tolerate this kind of discussion within the party,” because at least in my experience, they don’t.  The “code words” accusation is another topic, and while many will chafe at the criticism and claim it unfair, it still might be a valuable bit of input into how the GOP comes across to minority voters at times.


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