MSNBC’s Richard Wolffe: Colin Powell a ‘National Treasure’

Nothing warms the hearts of the liberal media more than a Republican who criticizes other Republicans. Perhaps it was no surprise, then, when MSNBC political analyst Richard Wolffe called retired General Colin Powell a “national treasure” on Friday’s Morning Joe.

The entire Morning Joe panel was praising the former secretary of state for speaking out against North Carolina’s strict new voter ID law in Raleigh recently – and in front of Governor Pat McCrory (R), no less. Washington Post columnist Eugene Robinson lamented Powell as a sort of voice crying out in the GOP wilderness:

"He’s also been consistent in trying to convince the Republican Party to look at demographic projections of this country's population over the next 30, 40 years... And see that if you are going to continue to write off African-American and Hispanic votes you're not going to be a national party. And he keeps saying this and he keeps pointing this out. As a practical matter and as a matter of doing what's right. And he has seemingly no traction in the party whatsoever."
 

Wolffe then struck an effusive note: “Can I just say, by the way, Colin Powell is a national treasure. He is. You know, he is. He doesn't have to do any of this. He's getting paid on the speaking circuit. He could just glide through it. He doesn't have anything to prove and he speaks out on these issues of principles.”

Random House executive editor and Newsweek alumn Jon Meacham hailed Powell as a potential savior for the Republican Party: “He appears about once a year somewhere... and whatever the hot thing of the moment is, he'll actually offer a kind of moderating view. And if the party doesn't heed that, I think they are on a kind of glide path to irrelevance.”

At the end of the discussion, the BBC’s Katty Kay, who had earlier referred to Powell as a “prominent Republican,” finally asked the key question: “Do Republicans still see Colin Powell as a Republican?” Meacham replied, “[T]here are about six moderate Republicans left and he's the most famous one of them.”

In reality, it’s difficult to still count Powell as a Republican. He famously criticized the Republican administration he served under, and he twice endorsed Barack Obama for president. Those are not strong Republican credentials. But by dubbing him a “prominent Republican,” MSNBC can play up the Republican-attacking-other-Republicans angle.

Below is a transcript of the segment:

KATTY KAY: Okay, more Republicans, and one prominent Republican is speaking out against his party's push for stricter voter ID laws. Former Secretary of State Colin Powell blasted North Carolina's voting law during a speech in Raleigh and he did it right in front of Governor Pat McCrory who actually signed the bill into law. The retired four-star general, who spoke moments after McCrory concluded his opening remarks, and said the new voter ID law punishes minorities and will ultimately hurt the Republican Party. Quote, “I want to see policies that encourage every American to vote, not make it more difficult to vote. It immediately turns off a voting bloc the Republican Party needs. These kinds of actions do not build on the base. It just turns people away.” And what North Carolina has done is they’ve shrunk the amount of time for early voting, they've said you have to have the -- your ID with you when you vote, the kind of classic voter ID registration things. But it was interesting that Colin Powell, Gene, took it right on in front of McCrory there.

EUGENE ROBINSON: Well he did. I mean, he's been consistent on voter access issues. He’s also been consistent in trying to convince the Republican Party to look at demographic projections of this country's population over the next 30, 40 years.

KAY: He travels with a graph with him.

ROBINSON: Exactly. And see that if you are going to continue to write off African-American and Hispanic votes you're not going to be a national party. And he keeps saying this and he keeps pointing this out. As a practical matter and as a matter of doing what's right. And he has seemingly no traction in the party whatsoever.



BRIAN SHACTMAN: Well, maybe this goes back to what Joe Scarborough says all the time. If your goal is to win why would you do something like this? And maybe some say it helps you win because you will disenfranchise this group and you’ll get the votes but long term, that just can't be a solution because, I mean, they're going to be able to vote.

RICHARD WOLFFE: Can I just say, by the way, Colin Powell is a national treasure. He is. You know, he is. He doesn't have to do any of this. He's getting paid on the speaking circuit. He could just glide through it. He doesn't have anything to prove and he speaks out on these issues of principles. And this is a fundamental American principle -- people should vote. Participation is key. No matter whether you're Republican or Democrat. So I -- you've got to salute him with respect, really.

JON MEACHAM: You also wonder, he is becoming this kind of Republican Cassandra. He appears about once a year somewhere, said it on Meet the Press, and whatever the hot thing of the moment is, he'll actually offer a kind of moderating view. And if the party doesn't heed that, I think they are on a kind of glide path to irrelevance.

KAY: Do Republicans still see Colin Powell as a Republican?

MEACHAM: That's a terrific question. Depends on -- to go back to President Clinton, depends on your definition of Republican. You know, he's sort of -- there are about six moderate Republicans left and he's the most famous one of them.

Paul Bremmer
Paul Bremmer is a Media Research Center News Analysis Division intern.