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CBS Prompts Pro-Obama Powell on If He's 'Still Republican'; Ignores Libya

CBS This Morning brought on liberal Colin Powell on Thursday so he could break his endorsement of President Obama and boost the Democratic candidate that he supported in 2008. Norah O'Donnell spotlighted Powell's service with "several Republican presidents" and wondered if he was "still Republican." When the former secretary of state claimed that he's a "Republican of a more moderate mold," Rose pressed him if he "may have to leave the Republican Party, if it continues in the direction that it's going."

Despite noting Powell's past service as secretary of state and national security advisor, and asking for his "concerns...about Governor [Mitt] Romney's foreign policy," neither Rose nor O'Donnell once mentioned the ongoing issue of the terrorist attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya. They decided instead to joke with their guest about his love of the viral musical track, "Call Me Maybe."

The PBS veteran led the interview with the Obama endorsement question. It only took seven seconds for the morning show to get the "Breaking News: Powell Endorses Obama" graphic up once the former general confirmed that he was voting for the incumbent. The guest then had over a minute and a half without interruption to make his case for the President's reelection by repeating the Democratic campaign's talking points on the economy.

When Powell ended this long answer with a critique of Romney's economic plan, Rose followed up by asking if he had spoken with either Obama or the former Massachusetts governor. The former Bush administration official replied by targeting the Republican nominee:

POWELL: ...[N]ot only am I not comfortable with what Governor Romney is proposing for his economic plan, I have concerns about...his views on foreign policy. The governor who was speaking on Monday night...at the debate was saying things that were quite different from what he said earlier. So, I'm not quite sure which Governor Romney we would be getting with respect to foreign policy.

O'Donnell then asked her "concerns" question about Romney's foreign policy proposals. The guest basically extended his argument about the former governor's supposed inconsistencies in that area. Her co-anchor prompted even more criticism by asking whether Powell was "concerned about the people that are advising Governor Romney." Even with this much attention on foreign policy, the two CBS anchors completely ignored the Libya issue.

The only time they even mentioned negative comments about the President was when Rose pointed out that "the principal criticism of some about the President is they do not know how the second term would be different, and he has not laid that out and that's some concern." Powell acknowledged this "concern," but then went on the attack against Congress, which the journalist was all too eager to facilitate in a follow-up question: "So, you blame the failure to find a grand bargain on the Congress and not on the President?"

O'Donnell and Rose's question about their guest's Republicanism came near the end of the interview. Powell cracked back by asking the PBS veteran what his party affiliation was:

O'DONNELL: General, you worked for several Republican presidents. Are you still a Republican?

POWELL: Yes. I think I'm a Republican of a more moderate mold, and that's something of a – of a dying breed, I'm sorry to say. But, you know, the Republicans I worked for are President Reagan, President Bush 41, the Howard Bakers of the world - people who were conservative; people who were willing to push their conservative views; but people who recognized, at the end of the day, you've got to find a basis for compromise. Compromise is how this country runs.

ROSE: But then, General – are you then saying that you think you may have to leave the Republican Party, if it continues in the direction that it's going?

POWELL: No. I didn't say that at all, Charlie, but nice try. (Rose and O'Donnell laugh) I said I'm a moderate Republican, and there are fewer of us. What party are you in, Charlie?

ROSE: I'm an independent. (laughs) General Powell, any time you want to come and make news, please come here. We love having you here to talk about important issues, because of the number of important roles you have served. So, thank you very much for this.

POWELL: Thank you, Charlie. I'll call you, maybe. (Rose and O'Donnell laugh)

It's hard to take CBS seriously when they spend more time kidding around with Colin Powell about a stupid music number than they do on a continuing national security scandal.

The full transcript of the Colin Powell interview from Thursday's CBS This Morning:

NORAH O'DONNELL: You know him. He was the former secretary of state. General Colin Powell broke with the Republican Party in 2008 to endorse Barack Obama for president. He called him then a transformational figure.

CHARLIE ROSE: The former national security adviser and chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff is with us this morning. General Powell's memoir is called, 'It Worked For Me: In Life and Leadership'. General, good morning.

[CBS News Graphic: "Powell's View: Fmr. Sec'y Of State On Campaign 2012"]

GEN. COLIN POWELL, FMR. SECRETARY OF STATE: Good morning, Charlie; good morning, Norah

ROSE: Will you endorse President Obama this race?

POWELL: Well, you know I voted for him in 2008, and I plan to stick with him in 2012, and I'll be voting for he and for Vice President Joe Biden next month.

ROSE: That's an endorsement of President Obama for re-election.

[CBS News Graphic: "Breaking News: Powell Endorses Obama"]

POWELL: Yes. Let me say why: when he took over, the country was in very, very difficult straits. We were in one of the worst recessions we had seen in recent times, close to a depression. The fiscal system was collapsing. Wall Street was in chaos. We had 800,000 jobs lost in that first month of the Obama administration, and unemployment would peak a few months later at 10 percent. So, we were in real trouble. The auto industry was collapsing; the housing industry was starting to collapse; and we were in very difficult straits. And I saw, over the next several years, stabilization come back in the financial community. Housing is now starting to pick up. After four years, it's starting to pick up. Consumer confidence is rising. And so, I think, generally, we've come out of the dive, and we're starting to gain altitude.

It doesn't mean we are – problem solved. There are lots of problems still out there. The unemployment rate is too high. People are still hurting in housing. But I see that we are starting to rise up. I also saw the President get us out of one war, start to get us out of a second war, and did not get us into any new wars. And finally, I think that the actions he has taken, with respect to protecting us from terrorism, have been very, very solid. And so, I think we ought to keep on the track that we're on.

With respect to Governor Romney, I have the utmost respect for him, but, as I listen to what his proposals are, especially with respect to dealing with our most significant issue - the economy - it's essentially, let's cut taxes and compensate for that with other things. But that compensation does not cover all of the cuts intended or the new expenses associated with defense.

ROSE: You said you have listened to Governor Romney. Have you talked to Governor Romney about this? Did you give him an early notice that you plan to endorse the President again?

POWELL: No, I didn't give anybody an early notice. I have spoken to Governor Romney. We had a very good conversation a few weeks back.

O'DONNELL: Did he ask you for his – for an endorsement of him back then?

POWELL: No.

O'DONNELL: And have you spoken with President Obama?

POWELL: I speak to the President on a regular basis, and he didn't ask either. This is my decision, based on my looking at it as a citizen. I think this is an exciting race between two very, very capable men, and I signed on for a long patrol with President Obama, and I don't think this is the time to make such a sudden change. And, not only am I not comfortable with what Governor Romney is proposing for his economic plan, I have concerns about his – his views on foreign policy. The governor who was speaking on Monday night at the – at the debate was saying things that were quite different from what he said earlier. So, I'm not quite sure which Governor Romney we would be getting with respect to foreign policy.

O'DONNELL: What concerns do you have about Governor Romney's foreign policy?

POWELL: Well, it's hard to – it's hard to fix it. I mean, it's a moving target. One day, he has a certain strong view about staying in Afghanistan, but then, on Monday night, he agrees with the withdrawal - same thing in Iraq. On almost every issue that was discussed on Monday night, Governor Romney agreed with the President with some nuances. But this is quite a different set of foreign policy views than he had earlier in the campaign. And my concern, which I've – I've expressed previously in a public way, is that, sometimes, I don't sense that he has thought through these issues as thoroughly as he should have, and he gets advice from his campaign staff that he then has to adjust or modify as he goes along.

ROSE:  Are you concerned about the people that are advising Governor Romney?

POWELL: I think there's some very, very strong neo-conservative views that are presented by the governor that I have some trouble with. There are other issues as well, not just the economy and foreign policy. I'm more comfortable with President Obama and his administration when it comes to issues like, what are we going to do about climate; what are we going to do about immigration; what will we do about education - lots of things like that. I do not want to see the new ObamaCare plan thrown off the table. It has issues. You have to fix some things in that plan. But what I see, when I look at that plan, is 30 million of our fellow citizens will now be covered by insurance, and I think that's good. We're one of the few nations in the world - with our size and population and wealth – that does not have universal health care.

ROSE: You know that the principal criticism of some about the President is they do not know how the second term would be different, and he has not laid that out and that's some concern.

POWELL: I think it is a concern. I think the President has started with the plan he issued yesterday, in some interviews he has given, that he's going to focus on the economy; he's going to focus on debt. You can argue whether he should focus on debt and jobs, but they're all interlinked. I think the major problem faced either by Governor Romney or President Obama - whoever should win the election - is going to be what to do about the fiscal cliff we're about to fly over, you know? This is something that was put in place by Congress, and while we're talking about the two candidates for president, let's not forget that Congress bears a lot of the responsibility for many of the problems that we have now. They're the ones that write the appropriations bills. They're the ones – they're the ones that pass the legislation for more spending and for the various entitlement programs that people have trouble with.

And so, I think it's a close race. I think every American should look at both candidates carefully, measure them against your own personal views. I really am pleased the way the President saved the auto industry, and I think that brought a lot of jobs back to Ohio and Michigan and other parts of the north – middle part.

ROSE: So, you blame the failure to find a grand bargain on the Congress and not on the President?

POWELL: I – the failure to find a grand bargain - why do we need a grand bargain? Why do we need Simpson-Bowles? This is work the Congress is supposed to be doing. You're not suppose to need need special committees to come along. We have a Congress of 535 people, with dozens and dozens of committees. Why can't they, up on the Hill, start talking to one another, reach across the aisle. But it will take greater presidential leadership, and I think what the President said, in one of his remarks yesterday, is that he intends to spend more time trying to bring that leadership up to the Hill, and get both parties, both sides start talking to one another. But every candidate can say, I'm going to do this; I'm going to do that. But in reality, it's the Congress that actually does it or doesn't do it, and I don't think the Congress has been meeting its responsibilities.

O'DONNELL: General, you worked for several Republican presidents. Are you still a Republican?

POWELL: Yes. I think I'm a Republican of a more moderate mold, and that's something of a – of a dying breed, I'm sorry to say. But, you know, the Republicans I worked for are President Reagan, President Bush 41, the Howard Bakers of the world - people who were conservative; people who were willing to push their conservative views; but people who recognized, at the end of the day, you've got to find a basis for compromise. Compromise is how this country runs.

ROSE: But then, General – are you then saying that you think you may have to leave the Republican Party, if it continues in the direction that it's going?

POWELL: No. I didn't say that at all, Charlie, but nice try. (Rose and O'Donnell laugh) I said I'm a moderate Republican, and there are fewer of us. What party are you in, Charlie?

ROSE: I'm an independent. (laughs) General Powell, any time you want to come and make news, please come here. We love having you here to talk about important issues, because of the number of important roles you have served. So, thank you very much for this.

POWELL: Thank you, Charlie. I'll call you, maybe. (Rose and O'Donnell laugh)

— Matthew Balan is a news analyst at the Media Research Center. You can follow him on Twitter here.