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Yes, Colin Powell Deserves a Spot in the Republican Party

In terms of tossing the baby out with the bathwater, it must have been difficult to miss the better than six foot frame of General Colin Powell sloshing around on the back porch. Still, some doctrinaire conservatives have been more than willing to dump the former secretary of state with less fanfare than a greasy cheeseburger wrapper. During his remarks of May 19 in Boston, it became obvious that Powell had noticed:

Rush Limbaugh says, "Get out of the Republican Party." Dick Cheney says, "He's already out." I may be out of their version of the Republican Party, but there's another version of the Republican Party waiting to emerge once again," Powell told the crowd.

It didn't take long before the spittle was flying from both sides of the fence, with Limbaugh firing back in similar fashion:

The only thing emerging here is Colin Powell's ego. Colin Powell represents the stale, the old, the worn-out GOP that never won anything. The party of Gerald Ford, Nelson Rockefeller, Bill Scranton, Arnold Schwarzenegger and those types of people. Has anybody heard Colin Powell say a single word against Obama's radicalism -- or Pelosi or Reid, for that matter? Maybe he has but his fawning media sure hasn't reported if he has said it.

Those words might serve as warming comfort food to the reddest meat eaters among the base, but I hope you'll excuse some of us in the RINO pen if we find that response rather offensive. First of all, pinning anything on Gerald Ford requires the dimmest of wits. He was shuffled into the vice-presidential mix on the heels of a scandal and then ascended to the Oval Office through the fall of Nixon. He was cloaked in a public perception of "corruption" for having pardoned Tricky Dick and sending him off into comfortable retirement when a wide swath of the public was anxious to see presidential blood in the water. He wasn't going to "win" anything.

And when will we grow past this populist impulse to throw stones at the governor of California? Is he a rank-and-file conservative Republican? Obviously not, but he never was, and we knew that going in. What so many fail to realize is the remarkable nature of his being elected at all. Some of us are old enough to remember a time when Republicans were competitive not only in that state's gubernatorial races, but for the Senate seats as well. Those included the terms of Tom Kuchel, John Seymour, and Pete Wilson. But today's Republicans seem to think of California -- and her ginormous chunk of electoral weight -- as nothing more than a left coast basket of fruits and nuts where no proper GOP member should tread. Might it not be more productive to simply be grateful to have gotten hold of the governor's mansion once again?

The final straw here, though, is the snide reference to those Nelson Rockefeller types of people. For those of you who have spent some time steeped in Empire State politics, you'll know that there are plenty of us who spent decades self-identifying as "the Rockefeller Republicans."  Yes, we may have been more liberal on the social issues than our more Southern and flyover state brethren. Or, at best, we took a states' rights stance on many of those topics, knowing full well that some states would issue marriage licenses to gays and lesbians while others would seek to issue hunting permits to trap them during months without an "R" in their names. That's just part of the diverse tapestry of America. Get used to it.

Nelson Rockefeller and his tribe of followers were the Northeast fiscal conservatives who realized that the government needed to be fair to industry and successful Americans as well as the poor and needy. They believed in free markets and still saw America as a land of opportunity where the poorest citizen could rise to the peaks of wealth and power by sheer dint of hard work and ambition, just as the Rockefeller family had done during the earliest days of the Union. And isn't that exactly what so many of you hard-core conservatives are crying out for today?

Colin Powell could do much worse than to be lumped in with the likes of Nelson Rockefeller. And the Republican Party could do far worse than to have diverse voices like that making up the choir. He surely will fail any number of litmus tests which some of you would set before him, but by now he has most assuredly earned the right to a place at the table and a voice in the party. Here, once again, is the exact quote from Rush Limbaugh on the subject:

Colin Powell represents the stale, the old, the worn-out GOP that never won anything. The party of Gerald Ford, Nelson Rockefeller, Bill Scranton, Arnold Schwarzenegger and those types of people.

On behalf of an entire generation of Rockefeller Republicans who don't find General Powell to be in any way unfit for the party, Mr. Limbaugh, may I politely invite you to plant a big ole' smooch on our tubby RINO behinds? You don't need Colin Powell? You don't need those "Rockefeller types of people"?  Well sir, if you are the 21st century face of the GOP, then I hope you keep losing elections until the old party has died off completely.  Let's just hope that Powell is right and there is, in fact, a new version waiting to emerge once again.