Powell Doesn’t Just Say No

SUNDAY, JUNE 9, 1996

Gen. Colin L. Powell was not his usual categorical self on Saturday night: He did not flatly rule out running for vice president with Bob Dole.

The two were guests at a fund-raiser here for Sen. John W. Warner, the Virginia Republican who faces a tough primary fight in his bid for another term.

During the event, held at the home of Kenneth Duberstein, a former Reagan official, the two agreed to meet briefly with reporters. Powell was asked whether, if Dole invited him onto the ticket, he would consider the invitation.

Powell, who in the past has categorically ruled out seeking national office in 1996, said: “Oh, everybody’s heard me speak to this subject, but I’m sure the senator and I will have many conversations in the months ahead.”

Before anyone could ask the retired general what he meant, Warner called a halt to the briefing and steered the two back inside the house.

Aides to Dole have indicated that they have not given up on trying to lure Powell, the former head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, onto the ticket. Dole has softened his campaign rhetoric against affirmative action, which Powell, who is black, supports, and has pledged “tolerance” for those who favor abortion rights. Powell favors abortion rights; Dole opposes abortion on demand.

Dole told reporters on his campaign plane on Saturday that he had watched a broadcast of Powell’s Memorial Day speech at Maryland’s Bowie State University, in which the general said affirmative action had been “good for America.” Dole declined to say what he thought of the speech, beyond noting that Powell “supports affirmative action.”

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