Nation/World

Powell: Say The Right Thing Potential Candidate’s Comments Sounding More Gop

On subjects from abortion to the religious right, Colin Powell’s language is quickly evolving in ways that could make him more acceptable as a GOP presidential candidate.

Powell’s shift is no accident. Aides acknowledge that Powell or associates acting with his blessing have contacted several leading Republicans for advice on how to better articulate his views on the House Republican agenda and various issues.

But even as he acknowledged the changes Wednesday, Powell disputed the notion he was making a calculated appeal to the GOP right.

The retired general cast the shifts simply as “sharpening my own thinking and views.”

“I’m not trying to change my message from day to day to appeal to one constituency or another,” he said before a book signing session in suburban Detroit.

As if to prove his point, Powell said he believed the attention he has attracted during his book tour shows that the Republican Party “is a broader party out there looking for leadership than just the part represented by the very active right wing.”

Powell applauded the activism of the GOP right, but took issue with those who say he would have little chance in party primaries because he is a “Rockefeller Republican” with moderate to liberal views on social policy.

“The answer I give to them is, well, find your revolutionary who gets more than 8 or 9 percent of the vote and let me know when you get it,” Powell said.

He did not single out anyone by name, but the remark was an apparent reference to the poll standings of GOP presidential candidates who lag well behind Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole.

Three in that group regularly compete for conservative support and have suggested they are best suited to carry out the 1994 Republican revolution: Texas Sen. Phil Gramm, former Tennessee Gov. Lamar Alexander and commentator Pat Buchanan.

As he delivered his modest salvo, Powell said that he will decide whether to enter the race in mid- to late November. His book tour ends this week and he wants to spend some time discussing his future with family and friends.

While Powell denied any political calculation in the recent tailoring of his language, the shifts have come on issues prominent in GOP politics.

At the outset of his book tour, Powell raised several objections to the House GOP agenda and said of Republicans in general: “There is an edge to them and a harshness to them which tends to hurt those who are in a minority status.”

This week, Powell applauded the ideological energy and commitment incorporated in the House GOP agenda. He said he wasn’t opposed to its provisions as much as he was concerned that “You’ve got to have a sense of compassion that goes along with this Contract With America-revolution.”

As if to answer questions raised by House Speaker Newt Gingrich, Powell forcefully defended the GOP approach to Medicare during a Monday television interview on “CBS This Morning.”

Borrowing a favorite Gingrich line, Powell said Democrats were “demagoging on the issue” by suggesting Republicans wanted to use Medicare savings to pay for tax cuts.

Gingrich himself welcomed Powell’s remarks, saying, “What he said the other morning was very helpful.”

Powell also took pains this week to clarify his position on abortion. Without retreating from his support of abortion rights, Powell said he personally opposed abortion and opposed any federal financing of abortion.

xxxx POWELL STEERING THROUGH POLITICAL MINEFIELD Examples of how Gen. Colin Powell has adjusted his language.

Abortion: ‘If a woman becomes pregnant and does not wish the child, I hope she would carry the child to term and then put the child up for adoption. If, however, it is her choice to abort, it’s a matter between her, her doctors, her family and her conscience and her God. And if she chooses to abort, that’s her choice. So that’s pro choice.” - Sept. 15. “First of all, I am not in favor of abortion. I think we should do everything possible to avoid that choice for a woman. But when she faces that choice, ultimately I think she has to have control over her own destiny, her own body. With respect to federal funding, I, at this point, am not in support of it because I think whereas the woman has the option to make the choice, it doesn’t seem to me that the government has the responsibility to pay for that choice.” - Oct. 16.

Religious right: “I think that religious groups, as with any other group, have a right to present their views. But I’m a little nervous when they go over the line and try to push too hard a religious agenda into a political agenda.” - Sept. 13. “The religious right, I think, has to be given credit for focusing our attention again on the fact that we are a nation under God, focusing attention on the family, focusing attention on the need to love and raise children in a caring environment. And so many of the positions they take I fully support. Where I’ve had some differences is how you translate that into actual public policy and amendment of the Constitution or the enactment of law. But I think it is very, very good that the Christian right has focused us on this again, that we are a nation put here by a divine providence.” - Oct. 16.

GOP agenda in Congress: “We’ve got to be a little careful that all these initiatives that are coming out of the Congress seem to be targeted toward those of our citizens who are in greatest need and least able to protect themselves politically.” - Sept. 19. “I think the Republicans have shown a great deal of energy in trying to solve the nation’s problems, and I support most of the elements of the Contract with America. I think we need to cut government. But we will also have to make sure the American people understand that they will get less service. I think we have to do something about our deficit problem. I support tax cuts if they can be done in a responsible way that does not increase the deficit.” - Oct. 16. -Associated Press



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