ABC and CBS Lead with Powell v Cheney & Limbaugh, GOP Too Conservative

ABC and CBS, which two weeks ago gave short-shrift to Dick Cheney choosing Rush Limbaugh over Colin Powell as the better representative of the Republican Party (brief anchor-read items), both led Sunday night with Powell push back against Cheney and Rush Limbaugh. “Colin Powell hitting back at Dick Cheney and other Republican critics, saying he's still a member of the party, a party he says has to change,” ABC anchor Dan Harris teased Sunday's World News. On CBS, Russ Mitchell announced: “Tonight, Colin Powell versus Dick Cheney and Rush Limbaugh. The former Secretary of State defends his Republican credentials.”

In the lead CBS Evening News story, Kimberly Dozier made Powell's case, reporting how on Sunday's Face the Nation “he said the criticism he faces points to what's wrong with his party” and “he pointed out the party's recent poor track record, losing the presidency by ten million votes and losing a majority in Congress.” Dozier had noted that Powell endorsed Barack Obama over John McCain last year, but failed to suggest any hypocrisy in then fretting about the Republican candidate, the most liberal since Gerald Ford, losing or then complaining the party is too conservative. Instead, Dozier proceeded to highlight how “moderate Republicans worry that the party is perceived as embracing only a few narrow issues -- anti-abortion, anti-tax and pro-gun rights.”

As opposed to Democrats embracing only a few narrow issues: pro-abortion, pro-tax and pro-radical environmentalism.

Neither story mentioned Powell's criticism of Obama's handling of Guantanamo: “I think President Obama didn't handle it very well by going up to the Congress and asking for $80 million without a plan.”

(Sunday's NBC Nightly News folded Powell into a larger story on expectations Obama will name his Supreme Court pick on Tuesday.)

Harris opened the May 24 World News:
Good evening. Colin Powell, a decorated war veteran knows a thing or two about fighting back, and so today, Powell plunged into the raging debate between moderate and conservative Republicans over the future of the party by answering his loudest critics, specifically Dick Cheney and Rush Limbaugh, who have openly mocked Powell as a Republican In Name Only.

The CBS Evening News story:
RUSS MITCHELL: The battle for the soul of the Republican Party continues this weekend. After his loyalty was questioned by party powerhouses, former Secretary of State Colin Powell responded this Sunday and issued a challenge to his critics. Kimberly Dozier has more from Washington.

KIMBERLY DOZIER: General Colin Powell, a veteran of both the Reagan and the Bush administrations, fired back today at his critics on the Republican right.

COLIN POWELL ON FACE THE NATION: Rush will not get his wish, and Mr. Cheney was misinformed. I am still a Republican.

DOZIER: On Face the Nation two weeks ago, former Vice President Dick Cheney questioned Powell's loyalty to the party for endorsing Barack Obama last fall. Cheney said right-wing radio host Rush Limbaugh, a staunch Powell critic, is the better Republican.

DICK CHENEY, MAY 10: I'd go with Rush Limbaugh. My take on it was Colin had already left the party.

DOZIER: Today on Face the Nation, Powell responded. He said the criticism he faces points to  what's wrong with his party.

POWELL: Well the concern about me is, well “is he too moderate.” I have always felt the Republican Party should be more inclusive than it generally has been over the years.

DOZIER: He pointed out the party's recent poor track record, losing the presidency by ten million votes and losing a majority in Congress. Moderate Republicans worry that the party is perceived as embracing only a few narrow issues -- anti-abortion, anti-tax and pro-gun rights.

POWELL: You can sit on it and watch the world go by, or you can build on the base, but what we have to do is debate and define who we are and what we are and not just listen to dictates that come down from the right wing of the party.

DOZIER: From voices like Rush Limbaugh.

RUSH LIMBAUGH: The only thing emerging here is Colin Powell's ego.

DOZIER: With his 20 million listeners, he remains a powerful force among Republicans. Other GOP moderates are concerned this intra-party wrangling is driving voters away.

TOM RIDGE, ON CNN'S STATE OF THE UNION: Let's be less shrill and particularly let's not attack other individuals. Let's attack their ideas.

DOZIER: Another former White House staffer said of the Powell-Cheney ideological debate, let the best man win.

KARL ROVE, ON FOX NEWS SUNDAY: I want Colin Powell to go out there and lay out his vision and then I want him to back it up by finding people who share it.

DOZIER: The Republican leadership calls this the marketplace of new ideas. The idea is whoever comes up with the best plan to get the most new members gets to shape the next run for the White House. Russ?
Brent Baker
Brent Baker
Brent Baker is the Steven P.J. Wood Senior Fellow and VP for Research and Publications at the Media Research Center