John Sununu, a top adviser to Mitt Romney's presidential campaign, has suggested that Colin Powell endorsed President Obama because both men are black.
Speaking on Piers Morgan Tonight on CNN about Powell's endorsement, Sununu suggested policy had not been the main reason for Powell supporting the president. He said:
"Frankly, when you take a look at Colin Powell, you have to wonder whether that's an endorsement based on issues or whether he's got a slightly different reason for preferring President Obama."
Prodded lightly by Morgan about what those reasons might be he did not hesitate to expand:
"Well, I think when you have somebody of your own race that you're proud of being president of the United States, I applaud Colin for standing with him."
Morgan brought the interview quickly to a close. But reaction to Sununu's comments came quickly.
John Sununu supports Romney. Is this because he wants to see a President of his own race? Why's it sound absurd that way but not for Blacks?
— Touré (@Toure) October 26, 2012
After Sununu says something about Powell's endorsement that's unquestionably racist & newsworthy, the pathetic interviewer says... nothing.
— Touré (@Toure) October 26, 2012
Comedian Eugene Mirman tweeted:
Criticize John Sununu all you want, but the same thing was said about Wesley Clark's racially motivated endorsement of Kerry in 2004.
— Eugene Mirman (@EugeneMirman) October 26, 2012
It did not take long before the GOP's damage limitation plan went into action, with Sununu issuing a statement that appeared to contradict what he had said earlier:
"Colin Powell is a friend and I respect the endorsement decision he made and I do not doubt that it was based on anything but his support of the president's policies. Piers Morgan's question was whether Colin Powell should leave the party, and I don't think he should."
Surprisingly enough, Powell made no mention of race when he endorsed Obama for a second time. Instead he praised Obama's handling of the economy in difficult times and expressed support for a range of his policies including healthcare reform, climate change and national security.
"When he took over, the country was in very very difficult straits. We were in one of the worst recessions we had seen in recent times, close to a depression. The fiscal system was collapsing. Wall Street was in chaos. We had 800,000 jobs lost in that first month of the Obama administration and unemployment peaked a few months later at 10%. So we were in real trouble. The auto industry was collapsing, the housing was start[ing] to collapse and we were in very difficult straits. And I saw over the next several years, stabilisation come back in the financial community. Housing is now starting to pick up after four years, it's starting to pick up. Consumer confidence is rising."
Powell also criticised Romney, suggesting he appeared to have changed his stance on some issues:
"The governor who was saying things at the debate on Monday night ... was saying things that were quite different from what he said earlier. I'm not quite sure which Governor Romney we would be getting with respect to foreign policy."
Powell's second endorsement of Obama has clearly riled his fellow Republican party members. John McCain played the role of the disappointed parent. In an interview on Fox News Radio's Kilmeade and Friends he said:
"I'm just saddened because I used to be a great admirer of Colin Powell. We were friends.
"All I can say is that General Powell, you disappoint us and you have harmed your legacy even further by defending what has clearly been the most feckless foreign policy in my lifetime."