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CNN LARRY KING LIVE
Interview with Colin Powell
Aired July 28, 2009 - 21:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
LARRY KING, CNN ANCHOR: Tonight, Colin Powell exclusive -- he voted for Barack Obama.
How does he think the president is doing six months into the job?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
COLIN POWELL, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: People are starting to get a little uneasy at the number of federal initiatives and the amount of money.
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KING: His first public comments on the arrest of Harvard Professor Henry Louis Gates.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
POWELL: When you're being asked something by a police officer or being detained by a police officer, cooperate.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: His take on the future of the GOP and Sarah Palin.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
POWELL: I don't think she was ready to be president of the United States last fall.
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KING: Reaction to Rush Limbaugh.
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POWELL: He can't tell me that I can't be in the party. I decide what party I'm going to be in.
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KING: Plus, his thoughts on Iraq, Afghanistan and North Korea.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
POWELL: They're not crazy. They are some of the best, toughest negotiators I've ever dealt with. (END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Colin Powell in his own words, next on LARRY KING LIVE.
He's an old friend. It's great to be here in Washington with him. General Colin Powell, the United States Army, retired; former secretary of State; former chairman of the Joint Chiefs; and the founder of America's Promise -- a wonderful organization, which his wife, Alma, by the way, now chairs.
Let's get right to things. And a lot to cover tonight.
And thank you for coming.
POWELL: Good to see you, Larry.
KING: All right. The Gates/Cambridge police furor -- your make -- your take?
POWELL: It was a fascinating story as it unfolded. And, you know, it kind of unfolded in several acts.
But before I kind of talk about that, let me put down a few items.
I know Skip Gates very well. He's been a friend for many years. And he's interviewed me many times. And we have shared a stage many a time. I have the utmost respect for him. He's a great guy.
I don't know Sergeant Crowley, but from all I can tell, he's a fine police officer and he's very sensitive to these kinds of issues. He even taught it to other police officers.
And so we have this situation that unfolded in several acts.
Let me also say that this kind of problem still exists in this "post-racial America." It isn't quite post-racial. We still have conflicts between African-American citizens -- especially males -- and the police department. And we shouldn't wave that away or in any way minimize that kind of problem.
In this particular instance, a lady talked to another lady who said that she saw something happening at the door of this house. The lady correctly called the police department. She couldn't tell if it was just somebody trying to get into their own house or somebody trying to perform a burglary. And she did the right thing and called the police.
There was no racial comment as this call was being made. Sergeant Crowley responded to the call, talked briefly to the woman and then he went to the house to try to make sure that it was secure and what was going on. And a conversation took place.
This is where act two begins. We're not quite sure what the nature of their conversation was, but apparently it disturbed Sergeant Crowley. And apparently Dr. Gates was disturbed by being challenged in his own home, when he was in his home now.
And at that point, words were exchanged. And before too long, other officers arrived. Sergeant Crowley even called for the Harvard University Police to come to certify who was the occupant of this house.
And the next thing you know, they felt that Mr. Gates -- Dr. Gates had disturbed the peace and he's in handcuffs.
Interestingly, the picture of him in handcuffs shows a black officer in front of him and a Hispanic officer also there.
And then the charges were dismissed the next day.
I read it in my newspaper a couple of days later. It looked like just a short story. But in this 24-hour news environment we're in, it went viral. Within about 24 hours, it's all over the country, all over the world. Then it becomes a federal case, when -- when the president feels obliged to say something about it.
The president said, let this be an opportunity to have teaching done (INAUDIBLE)...
KING: But first he said it was stupid.
POWELL: He said that it was stupidity on the part of the police force and then he pulled that back the next day. But he then said in the next day, let's make this an opportunity to teach and learn.
Well, here's what I get out of it. The two women did what they were supposed to do. Sergeant Crowley showed up to do what he was supposed to do.
The argument that took place between the two of them reminds me of when I was a young infantry company commander and on Monday morning they would bring me two GIs who had a fight in the bar on the weekend.
And the question you'll never get answered is, who started it?
So we had this altercation. It's almost like an umpire in baseball who takes just so much guff and then, "You're out of here."
POWELL: That's where we were.
I would say, the first teaching point is when you're faced with an officer trying to do his job and get to the bottom of something, this is not the time to get in an argument with him. I was taught that as a child. You don't argue with a police officer.
In fact, in our schools today, in order to make sure that we don't have things escalate out of control and lead to very unfortunate situations, we tell our kids, when you're being asked something by a police officer, being detained by a police officer, cooperate. If you don't like what happened, if you think that you have been exposed to something that's racist or prejudicial or something that's wrong, then you make a complaint afterwards...
KING: Are you saying...
POWELL: ...and you sue him.
KING: You're saying Gates was wrong?
POWELL: I'm saying that Skip, perhaps in this instance, might have waited a while, come outside, talked to the officer and that might have been the end of it. I think he should have reflected on whether or not this was the time to make that big a deal.
But he's just home from China, just home from New York. All he wanted to do was get to bed.
His door was jammed. And so he was in a mood where he said something.
KING: What about those who say he brings the whole history into that body of a black movement?
POWELL: That may well be...
KING: And the black being (INAUDIBLE)...
POWELL: That may well be the case. But I still think that it might well have been resolved in a different manner if we didn't have this verbal altercation between the two of them.
So my first teaching point for young people, especially -- not for Dr. Gates, but for young people especially is when the police are looking into something and if you're involved in it in one way or another, cooperate. Don't make the situation more difficult.
And I think in this case, the situation was made more difficult. On the part...
KING: And you can honestly...
POWELL: On the part of the Cambridge Police Department, once they felt they had to bring Dr. Gates out of the house and to handcuff him, I would have thought at that point some adult supervision would have stepped in and said, OK, look, it is his house. Come on. Let's not -- let's not take this any further. Take the handcuffs off. Goodnight, Dr. Gates.
KING: Were you ever racially profiled?
POWELL: Yes, many times. KING: And didn't you ever bring anger to it?
POWELL: Of course. But, you know, anger is best controlled. And sure, I got mad.
I got mad when I, as a national security adviser to the president of the United States, I went down to meet somebody at Reagan National Airport and nobody recognized -- nobody -- nobody thought I could possibly be the national security adviser to the president. I was just a black guy at Reagan National Airport.
And it was only when I went up to the counter and said, "Is my guest here who's waiting for me?," did somebody say, "Oh, you're General Powell." It was inconceivable to him that a black guy could be the national security adviser.
KING: How do you deal with things like that?
POWELL: You just suck it up.
What are you going to do?
It was a teaching point for him. Yes, I'm the national security adviser. I'm black. And watch, I can do the job.
So you have this kind of -- there is no African-American in this country who has not been exposed to this kind of situation.
Do you get angry?
Do you manifest that anger?
You protest. You try to get things fixed. But it's kind of a better course of action to take it easy and don't let your anger make the current situation worse.
KING: Jackie Robinson was almost court-martialed (INAUDIBLE) a lieutenant in the Army for being treated roughly.
POWELL: Yes, he was. But remember, when Jackie Robinson then integrated baseball...
KING: He sucked it up.
POWELL: He sucked it up. And he was told by Branch Rickey, you're going to hate this. They're going to scream at you. They're going to shout at you. You're going to be subject to all kinds of abuse.
But you know what?
You're going to beat them because you're going to perform.
KING: We'll be right back. POWELL: And that's what he did.
KING: We'll be right back with General Colin Powell.
Lots to go.
Don't go away.
KING: Did you resent it, Colin, when -- or I should say General or -- what do you like to be called, Mr....
POWELL: From you, Colin.
KING: Oh. From me, Colin.
POWELL: Otherwise General.
KING: You like General better than Secretary of State?
POWELL: Yes. I'm a former secretary, but I'm not a former general.
KING: That's right. Once a general, always a general.
KING: Did -- when you endorsed Obama and some said it was just black on black, did you resent that -- that you endorsed him because he was black and you're black?
POWELL: I didn't endorse him simply because he was black. I felt this was, you know, something to take into consideration. But I also had, on the other side of -- of the issue, a dear friend of 30 years, John McCain, a fellow Vietnam veteran who I had known for many years.
And I spoke at length with John McCain about his campaign and I watched Mr. Obama and his campaign. And at the end, I cannot say I was totally colorblind. But at the end, I convinced myself, based on the facts as I saw it, that he was the better choice for this time in our nation's history.
KING: You cried when he was elected, though.
POWELL: I cried when he was elected. I was in Hong Kong and watching the election results that were in the night before in -- in America. And I was morning in Hong Kong, getting ready to give a speech.
I was talking to my wife on the phone and I was texting with one of my daughters in New York. And I was fairly confident of the outcome of the election at that point. But it still was a shock when -- it was Charlie Gibson on his program who said, "I have one more exit poll to report."
And I'm getting ready to go to speak to a group of Chinese leaders and businessmen. And he said, "I can now confirm that Barack Obama..." -- and I thought he was going to say won this state or that state --.". Is the next president of the United States.
And it hit me. And I just sat down on a chair and said, "My God, we did it." There were people who said America could not do this, America would not do this, but America did do it.
And I think he won not just because he was black, although that influenced most African-Americans and a lot of people. I think he won basically because he convinced the American people that he was the right candidate for the times.
He promised change. He was of a generational difference than Senator McCain. Senator McCain was an excellent candidate and he would have been a good president. But I think the American people were looking for a change from the previous eight years.
KING: Do you think your party is going to pay for some of the way they treated Judge Sotomayor in the -- in the confirmation hearings?
POWELL: I -- I think it will -- it will pass quickly, frankly. I don't think they treated her badly. I've seen lots of confirmation hearings over the years. And what I'm pleased about is once the nastiness started upon her announcement, with members who were not on the Judiciary Committee or not officials of the party saying that she was racist or worse, she's a reverse racist and saying she ought to withdraw her candidacy, members of the Judiciary Committee did what they're supposed to do.
After a few days of watching this, they said let's everybody slow down and have confirmation hearings. And so the confirmation hearings were tough from both sides. And I think the Republicans made the case they intended to make. And some of them will vote for her and some will not. But in terms of the many confirmation hearings that I have seen over the years, it wasn't out of the ordinary.
KING: Do you think she handled herself well?
POWELL: I think she handled herself well. We are now in this age of don't say too much at a confirmation hearing. So it's...
KING: Preferably nothing.
POWELL: Preferably nothing, if you can get away with it. But it was a great disappointment to all of you media types, because they -- you know, there you are with every cable network in the world watching this and the major networks watching it. And gosh, she didn't make enough visual news for us.
KING: By the way, do you keep in touch with Secretary of State Clinton...
KING: ... On matters secretary of State-ish?
POWELL: All matters, personal and secretary of State-ish.
KING: Do Secretary...
POWELL: But I don't -- I don't stick my nose in all the time to give advice. I used to be secretary. I'm not now secretary.
KING: Did you consult with previous secretaries when you were secretary?
KING: Is that the norm, though?
POWELL: Yes. Yes. In fact, we all had a dinner about a month and a half ago here in Washington at Secretary Albright's house...
KING: What makes a good...
POWELL: ... Honoring Clinton, Mrs. Clinton.
KING: ... A good secretary of State?
POWELL: A good secretary of State has to be -- as opposed to other cabinet officers -- has to have a pretty good grounding in international relations. It's -- it's helpful if they have traveled the world and are known throughout the world.
But in terms of actually running the department and being an adviser to the president, it's the same as any other cabinet officer -- intelligence, dedication to the mission, loyalty to the president. And you also have to take care of, as I like to say, from my military experience, the troops entrusted to your care -- the employees, the career bureaucracy who get things done.
KING: Is it hard when you disagree with your president?
POWELL: Well, you don't like to disagree with your president, but part of the job...
KING: When you do.
POWELL: Part of the job is giving the president your best advice. And when you disagree with him, it is not right to not give him that disagreement.
KING: But you are his voice.
POWELL: You are always his voice. It's just like in the military -- you argue, you debate something, but once the president has made a decision, that becomes a decision for the cabinet. KING: And if it's immoral, you quit, right?
POWELL: If it's immoral, you quit.
KING: When we come back, we'll ask the former secretary and former chairman of the Joint Chiefs about whether there was a misconception over recent statements he made concerning questioning the president.
We'll be right back.
KING: We're back with General Colin Powell.
You recently expressed concern that the president may have so many things on his table, he can't absorb them all. And some people thought you were being critical and backing off previous kind of praise for him.
Where do you stand on that?
Or set us straight.
POWELL: I'd be delighted.
KING: OK. Try to be clear.
POWELL: It's hard to set you straight.
POWELL: But I'll try to help your audience understand what I was saying.
What I said was that I was -- I had some concerns at the number of programs that are being put on the table and the amount of money associated with all of these programs. You could consider that criticism or you could consider that advice to the president. It's advice that I have communicated to him through some of his pers -- principal assistants and I've met with him on it. But...
KING: You've talked to him about it?
POWELL: I've talked to him about it. And I've -- not that specifically as that comment. But he and his associates kind of know what I'm saying.
And what I sense as I go around the country is that all of the things that he has started work on -- whether it's health care or education or community service or economic programs to help our economy -- all of those are needed. The American people voted for him for this.
But I'm sensing around the country that people are starting to get a little uneasy at the number of federal initiatives and the amount of money.
The amounts that are being tossed around in the trillions and trillions of dollars, with a national debt that is soaring past $15 trillion to $16 trillion and the kind of deficits that we are having, I sense that the American people are starting to get unease with that level of expenditure and that level of involvement in the lives of the American people.
KING: So your advice is what?
POWELL: I am concerned.
KING: Your advice is?
POWELL: My advice is -- advice I would give to any president, and have in the past, everybody comes into office a new president and they're told by everybody you've got to get it all done in the first year or the first hundred days are important. The first...
POWELL: The first hundred days is a media invention that started with Franklin Roosevelt. We're better off without it.
POWELL: And now it's the six month point. But, you know, you have to have a main attack, as we say in the military. You have to make sure you're focusing on those things that are most important and not try to have a dozen main attacks at once, because you end up sort of frittering your energy and your troops.
Now, President Obama is out there trying to solve all of the problems he said he would solve. And I think that he and his staff, over time, will start to do a better job, in my judgment, of setting priorities. Well, let's focus on this. Right now, it's health care and climate. Well, maybe something else has to slip.
And the greatest concern I'm hearing -- and I see as a citizen and I hear from my fellow citizens as I go around the country -- is, my gosh, where is all this money coming from?
Doesn't this mean more taxes?
And we have to do -- what the administration, I think, and the Congress, has to do a better job in helping the American people understand some of these most complex issues, health care being number one.
KING: Are you annoyed at the far right's criticism of you?
POWELL: Well, you know, nobody likes criticism. But the criticism I get from the very far right is just the cost of being in public life. What I have been saying to my Republican friends, center left and right in the spectrum of the party, is that we better do a good after action review of what happened last fall. And what happened last fall is we lost the presidency by 10 million votes. We lost both houses of Congress. And the party, essentially, lost in almost every demographic that you can list -- rich, poor, white, black, Hispanic.
We are becoming a nation that is increasingly minority. And in 30 to 40 years, the minorities will be the majority. We have a number of states that already have a minority majority.
And so this country is changing. It's getting younger. It's Internet driven. And the party cannot just keep focusing on its solid, very far right wing base -- not throw them out of the party. They have, you know, a point of view. And that point of view has to be taken into account.
But if the party is going to succeed in the future, the advice I'm giving to my Republican friends is you've got to find some way to reach out and draw moderates and Independents more toward the right so that we can build a party that will win.
A base, as I've said before -- the base is no particular use if all you can do is sit on it and you can't build on it.
KING: Do you completely support the action in Afghanistan?
Joe Biden recently said there will be more coalition casualties.
Is this war worth it?
POWELL: There will be casualties in war. And when you put more troops in, such as we have done with the Marines and others, there are going to be more casualties.
KING: How long are we going to be there?
POWELL: That is a question that the president will have to answer, I think, in a year or two, because I think he's -- he's done this variation of a surge. And the Marines are out there doing what they do well.
But as others have said, General Jones and General McChrystal and others, you need an economic solution, as well. You have to make sure that people have well being ahead of them in their lives through economic growth. You've got to have a government that is functioning and is non-corrupt.
And so the infrastructure tasks of economic development, of a democratic government that the people believe in, all of these are as important as the military task. And you have to deal with the situation in Pakistan, which is now intimately linked with the situation in Afghanistan.
How long this conflict will last or our involvement in it will last, I can't answer that.
KING: Are you glad we're leaving Iraq next year? POWELL: I think...
KING: Or by 2011.
POWELL: 2011. And I think it's -- it's appropriate. The Iraqis are now responsible for their own future. They have been given a chance to develop a representative form of government that's living in peace with their neighbors. We'll never have another debate about weapons of mass destruction and a terrible regime has been eliminated.
But our troops have done their jobs. They're starting to pull back now. There are having some difficulties with that. And we can't simply, you know, pull everybody out. We have to help train. We have to help build them up.
But they are -- their future is now in their own hands. Their destiny is their own.
KING: Lots more to talk about with Colin Powell, including some comments he may have about his former state, where he grew up and where I grew up, New York, which I think you might find interesting.
We want to ask him about Dick Cheney's recent questioning about whether we're safe or not, right after this.
KING: We're back with General Colin Powell.
Dick Cheney has said that Obama's policies have made Americans less safe.
Do you buy that?
POWELL: No, I don't think we're less safe. I think the country has done a lot over the last eight years, under President Bush's administration and now under President Obama's administration, to protect our borders, to go after the enemy. We've stabilized the situation in Iraq and turned it over to the Iraqis. The president has gone after the Taliban in Afghanistan.
We have a department of Homeland Security. I still get stopped every time I go through an airport.
KING: They stop you?
POWELL: Yes. Oh, yes. I have to go through security like anyone else. And they -- because I am sometimes frequently seen about town, they make sure that they do an especially thorough job. That's part of our security.
What Former Vice President Cheney was talking about, I think, was some of the interrogation techniques and detention and techniques...
KING: Yes, what did you make of that? POWELL: ... And some of the things that our National Security Agency was doing. I don't think any of that has been terminated. I think what the administration -- the current administration is trying to do is to make sure we've thought all of these policies through and they rest on a sound basis of law.
KING: Is torture a good idea?
KING: You -- your reaction to Sarah Palin -- first her leaving the governorship and her role in the party.
POWELL: I think she's a fascinating figure. And I mean, you've got to hand it to her. In her early 40's, she has been the governor of her state and she's been the mayor of a city in that state. And she is an accomplished woman with a -- with, you know, and also a mom and now a grandmother.
I don't think she was ready to be president of the United States last fall when she was named the vice presidential candidate. And I -- and I said so at the time.
We will now have to see what she is going to do. Apparently, she is going to reenter public life, not as a governor, but as a private citizen. And I think she will be speaking at the Reagan Library next week. And we'll have to see what her plans are.
I don't know if she is doing all of this for political purposes or just to start a new life in the wonderful world of speaking. And we'll all be watching with great interest.
KING: Are you writing another book?
POWELL: I think I will be writing maybe a couple of books in the months and years ahead. But I have so much fun traveling around the country that I'm a little lazy about it.
KING: I want to talk about...
POWELL: And, frankly, I want to take -- I wanted to make sure I was sufficiently removed from my last job so that I would, you know, write this in the cold light of day.
KING: You left with some bitterness, right?
I mean it's fairly obvious.
POWELL: I -- I served for four years. It was always my intention to just serve for four years. And in early 2004, the president and I discussed it. And I told him I wanted to leave after the election.
But, yes, there was a little -- not bitterness so much as disappointment, because, as I said to the President, I didn't think our system was working well and I think he needed to make changes. And the changes he needed to make begins with me, because I was somewhat off frequency with some of his other advisors and the process by which we were doing things.
And so I left with some disappointment. But bitterness, I wouldn't say is the word.
KING: Did you see the movie "W?"
POWELL: Yes, I did.
KING: Were you portrayed well?
POWELL: It wasn't bad. And nobody can portray me...
KING: I mean did they...
POWELL: ...as well as I can portray me.
KING: Did they have the...
POWELL: I would rather you had portrayed me.
POWELL: How's that for a...
KING: You're not Jewish.
KING: Well, you are Jewish. I know you. You're Jewish.
Did you have -- did they have the core of it right?
POWELL: There are many elements of it that I thought were right on and there were some elements that were not right on. I mean it wasn't -- it wasn't a transcript of what happened in the administration.
POWELL: It was -- it was a fictional account.
KING: Do you miss...
POWELL: But it wasn't bad.
KING: Do you miss the action?
POWELL: No, I never miss anything. I always am looking forward. I'm in a lot of action now, it's just of a different nature.
KING: And we're going to talk about some of this.
KING: But you do not get up in the morning and say, I wish I was in that meeting?
POWELL: No. I read all the things that are going on in all the meetings and I just have another cup of coffee and smile.
KING: Would you talk to Iran?
POWELL: I have always said that it was in our interests to have a dialogue with Iran, but it should be a full dialogue on all issues before you start focusing on nuclear weapons or anything else.
KING: Some other things to talk about, including maybe an announcement about New York.
Don't go away.
KING: We are going to come back to other things current and the like, and we are not going to do a current thing now, but I think you were a 2.0 was your grade point average in high school. You went to City College, which admits everybody, I think. And you joined the ROTC, and you wind up where you are now.
They are naming a building after you at City College. When you look back at that -- I want to ask you two key questions. New York, what part of that played into this?
POWELL: A lot played into it. The city of New York is a remarkable place, and when I was growing up it was a relatively safe place. Yes, we had drugs and crime, but I had an intact family living in those tenement blocks of New York.
My aunts watched out for me. They kept me in play. I was not a great student and my cousins were going to college and becoming doctors and lawyers and I am just schlepping around, hanging around. But they kept me in play. It never would have occurred to walk in and say, you know, I am not doing that well in school. I am going to drop out. They would have killed me, God love the kid.
They never asked me if I wanted to go to college. It was not a question for me to decide. You are going to college. That is all there is to it. So I had a family and teachers in a public school, the New York Public School System, not any private schools, not the best high schools in New York, just the middle of New York Public School System, kept me in play and gave me an education.
City College of New York, my alma mater, gave me a great education. After four and a half years, I finally finished, still 2.0, but A's, straight A's in ROTC. And they said, you go to the Army and what not. Go to the Army and get out of here. They grounded me. They gave me grounding.
And when I went to the Army with my little 2.0, but A's in ROTC, I went up against West Pointers and graduates of Princeton and Harvard and wonderful places, and I found that I got a better education in the public school system of New York than I realized. And they did a good job.
And so, years go by. I become Chairman, I become Secretary of State. And when I leave Secretary of State, I start visiting CCNY again, because they have named a center after me. And I met some of the fellows, young students in my center. They are Powell Fellows. And they went around the room in the President's office, President Greg Williams, and they all told me their story.
And they were from Ghana. They were from Columbia. They were from everywhere imaginable. They were all immigrants. They were all low-income kids. And when they got through telling me what they were getting at City College, what they were getting from the New York School System, it brought tears to my eyes. And I just said to them, this is exactly what the school did for me 50 something years ago.
And now I am back and I want to help. So now they named a center after me. I kid about it. They said to me, go in the Army, and we don't want to see you anymore, and now I am one of the greatest sons City College ever had.
KING: So you leave New York, but New York never leaves you. Therefore, do you have a thought about the Mayor's race?
POWELL: Of course, yes. I think that Mike Bloomberg has done a tremendous job in his eight years as the Mayor. In 2005, when he was running for his second term, I was asked about this and I said, I am a Virginian now, but if I lived in New York, I would vote for Mike Bloomberg.
Well, he has managed now to run for a third term, and I feel even more strongly about it. I think he is a great candidate. I think what he has done for education, what he has done to manage the economic problems New York is having, what he has done for safety, what he has done for tourism -- he is an independent guy who is always trying to solve problems.
And he is working for the whole city. So I think Mike Bloomberg should be given a third term. And yes, I would say, reelect Mike Bloomberg.
KING: When we come back, Rush Limbaugh, apparently, was on a show the other night and said something about you? I'll ask you to comment right after this.
KING: On Friday night, Greta Van Susteren interviewed Rush Limbaugh and you came up.
Let's take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RUSH LIMBAUGH, TALK SHOW HOST: What Colin Powell, and whoever else thinks he is the piece de resistance, let them lead the Republican Party, form their own third party. Right now, I do not know what Colin Powell stands for. I don't know what Obama is doing, he agrees with or disagrees with. Well, he did hint he doesn't like all the spending. But then last December, he said the American people want higher taxes and bigger government. That is not Republicanism.
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POWELL: What I said that he is referring to was not the American people wanting higher taxes and more government. They don't. Who does? But the Republican Party cannot live on a slogan that says we want limited government, and then they never do anything to limit the government.
The deficit increased during the previous eight Republican years. We created more government, not less government. What the American people want is effective government. They want government that works. They want a health care system that takes care of them. They want homeland security.
And so I believe what the Republican Party ought to focus on is limited effective government, with the emphasis being effective, and not just using slogans like limited. But meanwhile earmarks increase, more government spending.
With respect to taxes, nobody wants their taxes raised. I don't want mine. And there is nothing wrong with saying don't raise taxes. But at the same time, you have got to take a look at all the spending, the spending in the previous Administration, and the spending in this Administration.
Where is the money coming from? We are just printing it or borrowing it from the Chinese. And so, we are leaving a heck of a debt for our kids.
KING: Do you take umbrage though -- do you every say to yourself, hey, I went to war. I went twice to Vietnam. I served my country. This guy criticizing me never spent a day serving his country. Do you ever say to yourself, wait a minute?
POWELL: No, of course not.
KING: You don't get mad at that?
KING: A normal person would.
POWELL: I --
KING: Not that you are not normal, but a normal person would.
POWELL: You know what --
KING: No violence. POWELL: Mr. Limbaugh is entitled to his point of view. That is what makes this country great. And he is free to criticize me all wishes to.
KING: Of course, I was asking you though do you take umbrage? Do you feel like, wait a minute?
POWELL: No, because I can handle his criticism. The problem I am having with the party right now is when he says things that I consider to be completely outrageous. And I respond to it. I would like to see other members of the Party do likewise. But they don't.
KING: Do you think they are afraid to take him on?
POWELL: Well, I know a number of instances where sitting members in Congress or elsewhere in positions of responsibility in the party made light criticism of Rush, and within 24 hours they were backing away because there is --
POWELL: -- a strong base of support for Mr. Limbaugh.
KING: So what? There is a strong base of support for everybody.
POWELL: Yes, but I do not have to worry about winning elections or having people who are supporting me or not supporting me. I am free and independent and can make any statements I want, and Mr. Limbaugh is free to criticize me all he chooses to, but he cannot tell me that I cannot be in the Party.
I decide what Party I am going to be in. And he can accept that or not accept it. And I know what I stand for, and people know what I stand for. I stand for a strong defense. I stand for a reaching out foreign policy. I stand for responsibility in government, responsibility in our daily lives. And I am very socially moderate, which troubles a number of people in the party, but I am.
KING: Back with more of General Powell, right after this.
KING: We are back with General Powell. One of the puzzles of the world is North Korea. No one knows them. Who are they? What do they do? What do they think? Are they going to bomb us? You know them, right? You have met with them.
POWELL: I have met with the North Korean Foreign Minister several times during my time as Secretary of State. My read is that this is a desperate country in great need and it has only one real asset that the rest of the world cares about, and that is its nuclear program. They are not going to give it up easily, if at all. Some people suggest they will never give it up because then they have nothing to trade with. And so what I think what we have to do is to keep working the problem, keep talking to them through the 6-party framework. They are going through a transition now as their leader becomes more and more ill, and I expect he will eventually pass from the scene. And I do not expect them to make any significant changes in policy until that transition takes place.
Keep talking to them. They are not going to use these weapons. There are not enough of them to seriously think about it. They live in a rather odd, bizarre system, as we know. Some people call the system crazy, but I am telling you, Larry, they are not crazy. They are some of the best, toughest negotiators I have ever dealt with.
And you can read the whole history of our negotiations with North Korea going back to the Korean Armistice discussions. And you will find they know what their positions are and they will drive you crazy. And they will use your impatience against you. And so, let's call them outrageous, let's them even crazy as a regime, but they are good, tough negotiators.
KING: How do you think Secretary Clinton is dealing with them?
POWELL: I think she is dealing with them properly. She is sticking with the six-party framework. You always find a situation with the North Koreans where if you say something to them that is perhaps not as diplomatic as you might say something, they will respond in kind. They almost love it. They almost --
KING: What do they want?
POWELL: They want, one, survival of their system and their regime, number one. Two, they desperately need a lot of economic aid, and they need energy aid. But they are quite prepared to let their people starve. They are quite prepared to let hundreds of thousands of people die to preserve the regime.
KING: And that's not crazy?
POWELL: The system is crazy. I am just talking about their negotiation. Their negotiation is not crazy. In the last year or two they got off the terrorist list. They got their 25 million dollars back and they gave up nothing for it. They are good negotiators, but they are a tyrannical, terrible regime.
KING: But you don't fear them militarily?
POWELL: Anything they would do militarily is suicidal. I don't want them to have nuclear weapons. I want to get rid of those nuclear weapons. And President Bush used to say all the time, there is a better life and world waiting for you if you get rid of these weapons. But they're not prepared to make that step. They're not confident that we really aren't committed to regime change.
KING: I want to ask about Iran when we come back. Don't go away.
KING: We're with General Powell, a couple of segments left. Great having you with us. Hope we can do it more frequently.
Why don't you get your own show.
POWELL: Good idea. Are you retiring?
KING: Why this show? I didn't say this show. I said get your own show.
KING: OK. Iran, now, they have disputed elections. Has Obama dealt with that well?
POWELL: Yes, I think so. A lot of people say, you know, you should be more outgoing with respect to your condemnation, but the Iranians have a unique ability to take anything we do that is critical of them and turn it against us and to mobilize their population against us.
There is something very significant happening in Iran right now. Demonstrations are continuing. Some of the Ayatollahs and religious figures are disagreeing with other Ayatollahs and religious figures. So there is a churning take place right now, and I think it is best for us to watch this and let the Iranians sort out where they are going.
Be prepared it engage with them if engagement seems appropriate and they want to do it. Make sure they understand that until they do something about this nuclear weapons program or nuclear program, I should say -- we've not yet established it's a weapons program. But you have to assume that they want to produce a weapon. Until they do something about that, until they knock off their terrorist activities, support of terrorist activities, there's just so much we can do.
KING: If you assume that, then must you fear that?
POWELL: You should fear it. You should fear Iran having a nuclear weapon. I think, though, that, while we are negotiating and trying to get something going, the centrifuges are spinning. They're well on their way to having a nuclear program.
Sooner or later I think the solution may rest in a nuclear program that produces energy but goes no further, if you could find a way to keep it from going up the ladder of escalation to weapons grade enrichment at 90 percent of enrichment possibility.
And so I think a solution is going to have to be found because, so far, after years of negotiations and discussions with us and the Europeans and the Iranians, they have not stopped their program. In fact, it's continuing and escalating to the great distress of their neighbors and especially the great distress of Israel.
KING: Concerning Secretary Clinton, you -- when you were made secretary of state, you said you didn't want to be president. At that time there was wide talk about it. So you were not someone with ambition politically. She was someone with great ambition politically who didn't get the job she wanted.
Do you think that will affect her?
POWELL: No. As I watch her performance, she seems to be in the mold of almost all secretaries I have known. She is loyal to the president. She's carrying out his policies. And she is well known on the world stage as a former first lady. And I don't know if she has any future ambitions after four or eight years of the Obama administration. And if she does, she's keeping them pretty much to herself.
KING: How do you rate Vice President Biden?
POWELL: Vice President Biden is a very good friend of mine. I don't want to -- I don't give grades to sitting officials. But I think he is doing what the president wants done.
With Joe, you will always get an expression now and again or a statement that you weren't expecting.
KING: Joe being Joe?
POWELL: Joe being -- excuse me -- Vice President Biden. He's Joe to me. I think he's a very distinguished public official. I've known him for years. I worked with him for years. And I think he's doing a good job as vice president.
KING: A couple of things in closing when we come back, a couple of areas you may not think we'd talk about. Don't go away.
KING: A couple of other quick things. Baseball and the press seems to be against steroids, but fans turn out in record numbers. What do you make of the whole steroid issue?
POWELL: It troubles me because I think it contaminates the game. It isn't natural ability and performance; it's enhanced ability by --
KING: But people keep going.
POWELL: People love to see balls go out of the ball park.
KING: What do you do?
POWELL: I think that we have a responsibility to young Americans, the kids coming up, to crack down on this and to make it clear that this is unacceptable in a sport where we are measuring natural talent and everybody comes to the game with their natural talent. And nobody should have an advantage through the magic of chemistry.
KING: Still a Yankee fan?
POWELL: I was never a Yankee fan.
KING: What were you?
POWELL: I was --
KING: You grew up near the stadium.
POWELL: I was a New York Giants fan.
KING: Do you still root for them in San Francisco?
POWELL: No. As you recall, Larry, growing up in New York, you got your baseball allegiance genetically from your father.
POWELL: And so if your father was a Giant fan, you were a Giant fan. And so I was a Giant fan. And then they, as you well know, left --
POWELL: -- the Polo Grounds and moved to California.
KING: So who do you root for?
POWELL: I root for the Nationals.
KING: The worst team in baseball?
POWELL: They weren't when we were trying to buy them.
POWELL: I was one of the groups trying to buy them. And we didn't get them. And I watch the Nationals closely.
KING: Do you ever look in the mirror and kind of pinch yourself and say, I'm the kid from City College with the 2.0 grade point average, look at me now?
POWELL: Yes. And I -- I'm just so honored to have had that kind of grounding in New York and with my family and people who stuck with me and the people who stuck with me once I got in the Army and trained me.
And when I came into the Army in 1958, we had only seen the last segregated unit four years earlier. The country was still a racist place, Jim Crow. But the Army said to me, we're now integrated; that's all there is to that. Anybody got any questions? No. OK. Powell listen, we're don't care where you came from, we don't care your color, we don't care where your parents came from. All we care about is performance.
KING: You're a great American.
POWELL: Thank you.
KING: And a good friend.
POWELL: Take care, Larry.
KING: General Colin Powell.
Anderson Cooper and "AC 360" are next.