11:32 pm Jan. 13, 2013
On Sunday morning, Colin Powell defended Chuck Hagel's nomination as defense secretary, and excoriated the current state of the Republican Party.
"There’s also a dark vein of intolerance in some parts of the Party," Powell said on "Meet the Press."
"What I do mean by that? I mean by that is they still sort of look down on minorities."
Powell said he still considers himself a Republican, despite having twice voted for President Obama, but the party is in the throes of an "identity problem."
Without mentioning names, Powell rattled off some of the recent problems: the "47 percent" comment made by Mitt Romney; the criticisms from one of Romney's top advisers, John Sununu, calling Obama "lazy" after a lackluster debate; and the Birther faction led by Donald Trump, who Romney indulged as a surrogate throughout the campaign. (Powell didn't mention it, but Sununa also dismissed the general's endorsement of Obama last year, implying it was based primarily on race.)
"Why do senior Republican leaders tolerate this kind of discussion within the Party?" Powell asked.
Powell's primary purpose in appearing on the show was to defend the record of Chuck Hagel, whose nomination as Defense Secretary has come under fire from Republicans and some pro-Israel groups.
"When they go over the edge and say because Chuck said 'Jewish lobby,' he is anti-Semitic, that’s disgraceful," Powell said, when asked about the neo-conservatives who have opposed Hagel. "We shouldn’t have that kind of language in our dialogue. But they’re fully entitled to their views, and I didn’t ever think they would go away and not be heard from again.
"But they have to remember one thing, it’s President Obama, not President McCain and not President Romney, they’ve lost two elections."
At the same time, Republicans were lobbing a variety of attacks against Hagel, across the Sunday shows.
Tennesee senator Bob Corker questioned Hagel's temperament.
"There are number of staffers who are coming forth now just talking about how he dealt with them," he said on ABC's "This Week."
New Hampshire senator Kelly Ayotte said she was "perplexed" by Hagel's nomination, and disturbed by the fact that Iran seemed to welcome his confirmation.
"They said they were hopeful that with his nomination, they hoped that we would change our policies," Ayotte said. "What I want to make sure is that Iran is actually not hopeful, but they're fearful as a result of our nominee, from the secretary of defense perspective, because I think that will cause them to stop marching toward acquiring a nuclear weapon."
The good news for Hagel was that most Democrats joined Powell in defending his nomination.
Rhode Island senator Jack Reed, defending Hagel's temperament, said he "has the wherewithal and the ability to speak truth to power."
And Connecticut senator Richard Blumenthal predicted Hagel would ultimately be confirmed even though Blumenthal said he's "not comfortable yet."