Retired General and former Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Colin Powell criticized the Tea Party movement’s inflammatory attacks against President Obama this morning during an appearance on NBC’s Meet The Press, singling out the rhetoric of Newt Gingrich and Sarah Palin. Powell said that while “there’s nothing wrong” with people like Sarah Palin “going out there, presenting her views and animating American political life,” “one of the problems that I’m having with all of this right now is that there is a certain undercurrent of thought that is not helpful.” “When people want to attack the President, attack him. Presidents are used to being attacked. But let’s not go down low,” Powell said.
Pressed by host David Gregory to respond to Newt Gingrich’s recent suggestion that Obama was displaying anti-colonial Kenyan behavior, Powell warned Americans to “think carefully” about Gingrich’s accusations and went on to debunk some of the right-wing’s conspiracy theories:
POWELL: I would just tell my fellow Americans, think carefully about what was just said. Think carefully about some of the stuff that is coming across the blogs and airwaves. Let’s make a couple of points. One, the President was born in the United States of America. Let’s get rid of that one, let’s get rid of the birther thing. Let’s attack him on policy, not nonsense. Next, he is a Christian, he is not a Muslim…And I think we have to be careful when we take things like Dinesh D’Souza’s book, which is the source of all of this, and suggest that somehow the President of the United States is channeling his dead father through some Kenyan spirits. This doesn’t make any sense. Mr. Gingrich does these things from time to time with a big, bold statement. He did it with Sotomayor, she is a “reverse racist.” He did it with Elena Kagan, she ought to be taken off the nomination for Supreme Court justice. And he does it occasionally to make news and also to stir up dust.
Powell said that this kind of rhetoric “may appeal to the fringe elements of the party,” but won’t appeal “to all Republicans” or “the whole country.” He also suggested “it might be good for the President to have the Republicans owning one of the two bodies of our Congress, because then they have responsibility.” “You can’t just say ‘no’ to everything. You can’t just sit around beating up the President,” he added.
It’s unlikely, however, that Gingrich will take Powell’s advice and stop stirring up dust. At yesterday’s Values Voter Summit in Washington D.C., Gingrich accused HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius of “Soviet tyranny” and suggested that the Congress should pass a law “that says sharia law cannot be recognized by any court in the United States.”