Colin Powell Blames Media, Tea Party for Washington's Divisive Tone

Colin Powell is living proof that not all successful generals make shrewd politicians. On ABC’s This Week with Christiane Amanpour Sunday, Amanpour asks Powell about the “divisive” tone in Washington. Powell first blames the media:


CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, HOST: What about this tone in the country right now? It’s still very divisive. It’s still very sort of brash, some say poisonous. I mean, you can barely get anything done on Capitol Hill, just behind me there. What needs to be done, to actually improve the tone and the ability of people to work together?

COLIN POWELL: The tone is not — is not good right now, and our political system here in Washington, particularly up on The Hill — Congress — has become very, very tense in that two sides, Republicans and Democrats, are focusing more and more on their extreme left and extreme right. And we have to come back toward the center in order to compromise.

A story I like to tell is our Founding Fathers were able to sit in Philadelphia and make some of the greatest compromises known to man — tough, tough issues. But they did it. Why? Because they were there to create a country, where we have a Congress now that can’t even pass an appropriation bill, and we’re running this country on a continuing resolution which is — what else are they here for but to pass appropriations bills?

And so we have got to find a way to start coming back together. And let me say this directly. The media has to help us. The media loves this game, where everybody is on the extreme. It makes for great television. It makes for great chatter. It makes for great talk shows all day long with commentators commenting on commentators about the latest little mini-flap up on Capitol Hill.

So what we have to do is sort of take some of the heat out of our political life in terms of the coverage of it, so these folks can get to work quietly.


At this point, it might have made sense to point out that President Obama called on some Americans to use politics to “punish their enemies.” Or it might have made sense to point out that the Democrats have entrenched on spending and are defending every penny of entitlement spending. Or, Powell could have criticized Obama and the Democrats for their never-ending class warfare, or for their support of the occupy movement. He could have noted that at least some of the divisive tone comes from the partisan way that the Democrats pushed and passed ObamaCare despite the majority of the public’s opposition to it. But that’s not where the conversation went.

AMANPOUR: I get your point about heat and light, but what about the fact that, in fact, it is one of the political parties, although — or rather the big political influence, which is the Tea Party, which quotes left and right the Founding Fathers? They say compromise is a dirty word, and they try to point to the Founding Fathers and the Constitution.

POWELL: They compromised — the Founding Fathers compromised on slavery. They had to in order to create a country. They compromised on the composition of the Senate, of the House, of the Supreme Court, of a president — what are the president’s powers? Can you imagine more difficult compromises today?

Compromise is how this country was founded, and unless two people in disagreement with each other don’t find a way to reach out to one another and make compromises, you don’t get a consensus that allows you to move forward.

But the Tea Party point of view of no compromise whatsoever is not a point of view that will eventually produce a presidential candidate who will win.

AMANPOUR: General Powell, thank you very much indeed.

POWELL: Thank you, dear.


Amanpour’s question is both unfair and unbalanced. Who is really more of a divisive presence, Barney Frank or the Tea Party? The Tea Party rose up as a reaction to divisive and dangerous policies coming from Obama and the Democrats. A shrewd politician who actually disagreed with what Amanpour had said would have rejected Amanpour’s mention of the Tea Party as the divisive force in Washington and redirected back on the president. But Powell endorsed and supported Obama.


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