Former Secretary of State Colin Powell, who has so far declined to repeat his 2008 endorsement of President Barack Obama, says the economy is the “defining issue” of this year’s election and blames both parties for not doing more to improve it.
“We’ve got to get the economy moving. We’ve got to get unemployment down,” Powell told Fox News’ Sean Hannity Tuesday night. “That’s the defining issue of this campaign.”
Powell, who also served as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and national security adviser under both Democratic and Republican presidents, suggested both parties could do more “to get our fiscal policy under control.”
He criticized Obama for not accepting the recommendations of his own appointed Simpson-Bowles commission on fiscal reforms and Republicans for continuing to stand hard against tax increases.
“We can’t say we’re not going to raise taxes,” said Powell, noting that President Ronald Reagan “raised taxes 12 times” even though he promised not to.
“You can’t say never, never, never,” Powell told Hannity. “We cannot keep going as a nation spending $3 trillion a year and only taking in two.”
Powell, who once considered running for president as a Republican, said earlier Tuesday on NBC’s “Today” program that he has not yet decided whether he will repeat his endorsement of Obama.
He said he wanted to learn more about Mitt Romney’s views on the economy and other issues before deciding. And he appeared to blame the impasse in dealing with the nation’s debt on both the president and Republican leaders in Congress.
Powell stressed that nothing can be “off the table” when it comes to getting the nation’s fiscal house in order.
“We had better realize that we have to go after entitlements. I think we can do a heck of a job cutting the size of government here in Washington,” he said. “And we need some serious people who will sit and say, “Look everything is on the table and if you can convince me that revenue is the way to fix this then let’s talk about that.”
Asked about his 2008 endorsement of Obama over conservative GOP objections, Powell said, “I felt the Republican Party at that time was conveying an impression of harshness. There was a certain ugliness to some of the things that were being said about President Obama.”
But he said it was his views then on the economy “more than anything else” that persuaded him to back Obama over his friend and GOP nominee, Sen. John McCain.
Powell suggested that both parties now are engaged in a rough fight for the White House that could get even nastier as November approaches.
“We’ve got dueling points of view strongly held by both sides, and the president is starting to go to the mattresses just as the Republicans are going to go to the mattresses to try to win the election,” he said.
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