Former Secretary of State Colin L. Powell said Sunday that he will not leave the Republican Party, although he thinks its future is threatened by a shift too far to the political right.
“I have always felt that the Republican Party should be more inclusive than it generally has been over the years,” said Mr. Powell on CBS’ “Face the Nation” program. “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.”
He said that if the party doesn’t expand its “very, very narrow base,” it will “watch the world go by.”
“The Republican Party has to take a hard look at itself and decide what kind of party are we,” he said.
But Mr. Powell dismissed criticism by former Vice President Dick Cheney that the former secretary of state was a Republican in name only and attacks by conservative radio talk-show host Rush Limbaugh that he should leave the party.
“Rush will not get his wish, and Mr. Cheney was misinformed; I am still a Republican,” Mr. Powell said.
Mr. Powell defended his endorsement last year of Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama, saying that in five decades of voting in presidential elections, he has always backed the person he thought was best qualified to lead the nation.
“Last year, I thought it was President-now Barack Obama,” he said.
The former Joint Chiefs chairman also pushed back at accusations from Mr. Limbaugh that he only voted for Mr. Obama because both men are black.
“He put it in that racial context, and I thought that that was very unfortunate,” Mr. Powell said.
Mr. Powell said he also voted for past Democratic presidential candidates John F. Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson and Jimmy Carter.
He also took the former vice president to task for criticizing Mr. Obama’s plans to close the terrorism-suspect detention facility at U.S. Naval Base Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, saying that President George W. Bush also wanted to shut down the controversial facility.
“President Bush stated repeatedly to international audiences and to the country that he wanted to close Guantanamo,” he said. “The problem he had was, he couldn’t get all the pieces together.”
Responding to Mr. Cheney’s accusations that the Obama administration wants to close Guantanamo to satisfy “European intellectuals,” Mr. Powell, who also supports closing the prison, said, “We’re doing it to reassure Europeans, Muslims, Arabs - all the people around the world - that we are a nation of law.”
Mr. Powell did mildly criticize the president for asking Congress for $80 million to close Guantanamo without first drafting a plan of what to do with the prison’s 240 or so inmates.
“President Obama didn’t handle it very well,” he said, adding that the president’s inaction gave “enough time to opponents of it to marshal their forces as to why we shouldn’t do this.”
On the issue of waterboarding and other controversial interrogation techniques used on captured terrorism suspects, Mr. Powell said that it’s “easy now in the cold light of day to look back and say you shouldn’t have done any of that.”
But he added that when waterboarding was being discussed inside the Bush White House in the months after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, he and others were assured the technique “met the standard of the law.”
“If we had another attack like 9/11, say on 9/11 a year later, nobody would have forgiven us for not doing everything we could,” he said.