Colin Powell Approves of Chuck Hagel

Colin Powell tells David Gregory why he thinks Hagel should be confirmed for Secretary of State, what he thinks of problems within the GOP, then gives a vague endorsement for gun reform. Elsewhere on the Sunday shows: Cory Booker dodges confirming a Senate run and more Hagel talk. 

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Colin Powell gave an exclusive interview to David Gregory on NBC's Meet the Press. We're going to break down the highlights by topic.

On his relationship with Republicans after endorsing Barack Obama for President: "I'm still a Republican," Powell said.

On Hagel: Powell is a big fan. "He's had a very, very distinguished public service record that he can stand on," Powell said. Powell said he believes Hagel will be confirmed after he's given a chance to respond to questions at his hearing with the Senate. "I think he gets confirmed," Powell said. "I've read some of the responses that he's already put together, and I think he will make a very, very spirited defense of his position. And I think he'll be confirmed." Powell defended Hagel's support for the state of Israel. "There are people who are very supportive of the state of Israel," Powell said. "I'm very supportive of the state of Israel. So is Senator Hagel, and you'll see that in the confirmation hearings, but it doesn't mean you have to agree with every single position that the Israeli government takes." He also defended Hagel from accusations of anti-Semitism. "When they go over the edge and say because Chuck said 'Jewish lobby' he's anti-Semitic, that's disgraceful," Powell said. "We shouldn't have that kind of language in our dialog."

On the rumor mill and the potential nominations of Susan Rice and Hagel: "I think it was not handled well," Powell said. "One of the problems, both with Ambassador Rice and with Chuck Hagel, these sort of signals come out that, "This is who we are thinking about."  And you're left out there to dangle for weeks.  Well, if this is who you're going to nominate, nominate them, and let's get on with the process."

On race and the GOP: It's bad. "There's also a dark vein of intolerance in some parts of the party," Powell said. "What do I mean by that?  What I mean by that is they still sort of look down on minorities." Powell pointed to Sarah Palin's controversial 'shuckin' and jivin'' remark, and Romney surrogate John Sununu saying the President was 'lazy' in the first debate. "He didn't say he was slow, he was tired, he didn't do well; he said he was 'lazy,'" Powell said "Now, it may not mean anything to most Americans, but to those of us who are African Americans, the second word is "shiftless," and then there's a third word that goes along with it." Powell also chided the Republican party for even allowing the birther movement to exist. "The whole birther movement: Why do senior Republican leaders tolerate this kind of discussion within the party?" Powell asked. "I think the party has to take a look at itself." Powell blamed a hard shift to the right for the party's recent down spell. "In recent years, there's been a significant shift to the right, and we have seen what that shift has produced: two losing presidential campaigns," Powell said. "I think what the Republican Party needs to do now is take a very hard look at itself and understand that the country has changed.  The country is changing demographically.  And if the Republican Party does not change along with that demographic, they're going to be in trouble." But he did have idea about what they could do in the future to change their fortunes, namely education, immigration and climate change policy. "Everybody wants to talk about, 'Who's going to be the candidate?'" Powell said. "You've got to think first about what's the party actually going to represent?  If it's just going to represent the far right wing of the political spectrum, I think the party is in difficulty.  I'm a moderate, but I'm still a Republican."

On gun control: Powell seemed to be in favor of an assault weapons ban. He said he is a gun owner and he is familiar with the Second Amendment, but that there still needs to some kind of restrictions in place to stop dangerous people from getting their hands on powerful guns. "I see no need for Bushmasters in the hands of an individual person who might be deranged," Powell said. "You want to fire a Bushmaster, go out to a range and fire a Bushmaster.  But whether or not it's in our overall interest to have these kinds of weapons in the hands of Americans who might not be responsible is a question we have to answer.  How much are we really giving up if we said that this kind of weapon should not be readily available to anybody who wants to buy one?" He also seemed to support a more complex gun registry, and an increase in required background checks. "Surely we should be able to find some meeting of the minds on this issue," Powell said. "Why can't we test everybody, or have everybody run through a screen to make sure that they're a responsible person before they're allowed to buy a weapon, either in a store or in a private transaction? Why can't we do a better job of registering things?"

John McCain and Joe Manchin wouldn't say whether they were going to support Chuck Hagel in his Senate hearing on CBS's Face the Nation. Manchin is scheduled to have a one-on-one with Hagel soon, which should help Manchin make up his mind. "He's coming in next week to speak with me," Manchin said. "I look forward to that. Manchin said he plans on asking Hagel about Israel, the Iraq War, Iran and Afghanistan. Host Bob Schieffer asked McCain if he would be voting against Hagel. "No, nor would I vote for him," McCain said. "This is why we have hearings." Hagel and McCain used to be close friends on the hill, but they've suffered from a falling out in recent years. "My questions about him, and they will be raised in the Senate, are, what his view of America's role in the world?" McCain said. "Whether he really believes that the surge was the worst blunder since the Vietnam War? That clearly - that's not correct. In fact, it's bizarre. Why would he oppose calling the Iranian revolutionary guard a terrorist organization?"

Sen. Kelly Ayotte told Fox News Sunday's Chris Wallace she's confused by the President's choosing Chuck Hagel as his nominee for Secretary of Defense. "I'm very troubled," Ayotte said. "I think that the hearings on this nomination are going to be consequential. I have not made up my mind, but here's where we are. You put up his prior positions. It makes we wonder - it perplexes me why the president nominated Sen. Hagel." One of her biggest concerns involves how Iran took the news of Hagel's nomination. "Iran this week kind of reacted favorably somewhat," Ayotte said. "There were some statements that were favorable to his nomination. In fact, they said they were hopeful that with his nomination, they hoped that we would change our policies. 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." When Wallace asked if Ayotte was leaning towards voting against Hagel, she would only say that Hagel "has a lot of questions to answer."

Sen. Bob Corker brought up a new concern about Hagel's nomination on ABC's This Week: Hagels's temper. Apparently a number of his former aides have come forward to Corker to speak about how he handled things in the office. "There are number of staffers who are coming forth now just talking about how he dealt with them," Corker said. Corker wants the Senate to consider whether Hagel is fit to manage an organization as stressful and complex as the Pentagon. But Corker will get his own one-on-one time with Hagel when the two meet to discuss things this week. Hagel reached out to him to set up a meeting. "He's coming in to see me next week, this is going to be a whole process," Corker said.

NRA President David Keene thinks the current state of Congress is going to protect him from Dianne Feinstein's proposed assault weapons ban. "I would say that the likelihood is that there not going to be able to get an assault weapons ban through this Congress," David Keene told Candy Crowley on CNN's State of the Union. Keene did concede the President could spend some political capital and get the bill through. When asked if the NRA was trying to "gin up" second amendment fear to increase gun sales, Keena blamed the President and Feinstein. "The two people who were selling so called assault rifles are Sen. Feinstein and President Obama," Keene said. "They're the ones scaring people, not us."

Newark Mayor Cory Booker said he's still not sure whether he will run for Senate in 2014 or not. "That's my intention, but it's over a year away," Booker said on NBC's Meet the Press. "A lot could change between now and then." So, Booker wouldn't come out and confirm that he is running, despite already filing paperwork to start a campaign. "I'm not ruling out anything right now but it's premature to be speculative," Booker said. "You have to file the papers even to do research on the issue." Booker did rule out taking on Gov. Chris Christie in what would surely be a losing battle.

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