September 18, 1995 in Nation/World

Reagan, Bush Didn’t Grasp Racism, Powell Says

Associated Press

Retired Gen. Colin Powell says his Republican mentors, Ronald Reagan and George Bush, were not “sensitized” to racism and failed to truly understand it.

“The problem with Reagan and Bush and (former Defense Secretary Caspar) Weinberger and their ilk is that they just never knew,” Powell says in an interview with The New Yorker, released Sunday.

The first inklings of the black general’s political philosophy have suggested considerable differences with the conservative direction of the Republican Party he may hope to lead.

Conservative presidential candidate Sen. Phil Gramm, R-Texas, said Sunday that Powell’s ideas sound more Democratic than Republican.

On NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Gramm cited Powell’s statements on affirmative action, gun control, and “the pro-life issue.”

Powell has described himself as a fiscal conservative with more liberal views on such issues as affirmative action, gun control and abortion rights.

In the interview with The New Yorker, he said Bush and Reagan were “two of the closest people in my life,” but adds that on the issue of racism, “they were never sensitized to it. … This was an area where I found them wanting.”

Powell, who served as national security adviser and chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff during the Reagan and Bush administrations, said he “almost went crazy” reading a Republican newsletter saying affirmative action was no longer needed to combat “vague and ancient wrongs.”

“I said, Vague? Vague? Denny’s wouldn’t serve four black Secret Service agents guarding the president of the United States.”

© Copyright 1995 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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