CNN showed an interview with former Gen. Colin Powell last night in which the former secretary of state played his cards close to his chest when Wolf Blitzer asked him who he’d be supporting for president.
But based on his comments about the need for a presidential candidate who could repair America’s standing in the world, Powell at times seemed to be indicating a strong inclination towards Sen. Barack Obama.
And he also appeared to send a signal to Republicans that he wouldn’t look kindly on the party if Sen. John McCain became the nominee and many conservatives decided not to rally behind the senator from Arizona.
Here’s the key passage:
“And I will ultimately vote for the person I believe brings to the American people the kind of vision the American people want to see for the next four years. A vision that reaches out to the rest of the world, that starts to restore confidence in America, that starts to restore favorable ratings to America.
Frankly, we’ve lost a lot in recent years. I am going to be looking for the candidate that seems to me to be leading a party that is fully in sync with the candidate, and a party that will also reflect America’s goodness and America’s vision. And I will be looking for the candidate that I think will be the most competent candidate. The one who can deal with problems and bring the government together with the Congress to solve these problems.”
Here is the transcript of the Powell interview as provided by CNN:
BLITZER: Who is your candidate for president of the United States? COLIN POWELL, FMR. SECRETARY OF STATE: I am watching this race with the greatest of interest, and I know all of the leading candidates. Now, I don’t know Mr. Huckabee as well as I know Senator McCain and Senator Obama and Senator Clinton, but I am watching this. And I will ultimately vote for the person I believe brings to the American people the kind of vision the American people want to see for the next four years. A vision that reaches out to the rest of the world, that starts to restore confidence in America, that starts to restore favorable ratings to America.
Frankly, we’ve lost a lot in recent years. I am going to be looking for the candidate that seems to me to be leading a party that is fully in sync with the candidate, and a party that will also reflect America’s goodness and America’s vision.
And I will be looking for the candidate that I think will be the most competent candidate. The one who can deal with problems and bring the government together with the Congress to solve these problems.
And so I know them all. I am a Republican, but I am keeping my options open at the moment. And I am in touch with the candidates. And anybody who wants to talk to me about an issue, I’ll do so. But sooner or later, as any other American, I will make my choice.
BLITZER: Are you leaving open the possibility — and you said you were a Republican — that you might not vote for the Republican nominee this time around?
POWELL: I said — I have voted for members of both parties in the course of my adult life. And as I said early, I will vote for the candidate I think can do the best job for America, whether that candidate is a Republican, a Democrat, or an Independent.
BLITZER: Because you said really nice things about Barack Obama in that interview you did last month with Tavis Smiley.
POWELL: I think that Mr. Obama has done an incredible job in coming to where he is now on the Democratic side of this campaign. And I think he’s been an exciting person on the political stage. He has energized a lot of people in America. He has energized a lot of people around the world. And so I think he is worth listening to and seeing what he stands for.
There are some positions he has that I wouldn’t support, but that’s the case with every candidate out there. And I think every American has an obligation right now at this moment in our history to look at all the candidates and to make a judgment not simply on the basis of ideology, or simply on the basis of political affiliation, but on the basis of, who is the best person for all of America and which party and what does that party look like? And how does that candidate relate to that party and the different wings of the party? And which party and which candidate is best able to take America in a positive direction over the next four years?
BLITZER: But I just want to be clear. You’re not ready to endorse John McCain right now?
POWELL: I am not in the endorsement business right now. I am an American citizen that is examining all of the candidates, listening carefully. And now that we have sort of cleared out the primary underbrush, if I may say that without being disrespectful to any of the candidates who have left, we now have a real campaign before us. And we’ll see how the Democrats sort this out. It looks like John McCain is going to be the Republican candidate. And I will watch and measure them well.
POWELL: It’s not just the candidates. I want to see what the party is thinking. I want to see what the debates look like. I want to see what kind of appointments might be made in a government or on a Supreme Court. I want to look at a whole range of issues before I decide who I am going to vote for.
BLITZER: And this is really a historic moment because a woman, an African-American, one of them are — is going to be the Democratic presidential nominee and might be the next president of the United States.
POWELL: It’s a historic moment and it’s pretty exciting. A woman, a black man who started out his life in Indonesia, has a father from Africa, Mrs. Clinton with great experience, and John McCain, a great American hero who served this country so brilliantly over the years both in war and in peace.
And, so, if this is the way it shapes up when we finally sort it all out, the American people will be given a couple of good candidates to look at, good candidates who mean the best for America. And the American people will have to make a judgment on their political philosophy, and on what kind of party they represent and what kind of leadership they will bring to America for the next four years.
BLITZER: General Powell, thanks very much.
POWELL: My pleasure, Wolf.