Colin Powell issued a sharp rebuke Tuesday night to Rush Limbaugh and Dick Cheney for trying to exclude him from the backbiting Republican Party.
Before some 1,500 business leaders in Boston, as well as Patriots quarterback Tom Brady and wife Gisele Bundchen, the retired general and former secretary of state spoke openly of the dispute roiling the Grand Old Party after election setbacks and polls putting its popularity at roughly one of five Americans.
"Rush Limbaugh says, 'Get out of the Republican Party.' Dick Cheney says, 'He's already out.' I may be out of their version of the Republican Party, but there's another version of the Republican Party waiting to emerge once again," Powell told the crowd.
UPDATE: Limbaugh hit back at Powell on his radio show today.
"The version of the party that he's waiting to emerge is not the Reagan wing of the party. Does Powell have the pulse of the Republican Party, folks? He's for more spending. He's for higher taxes. He's against raising the social issues. He's for affirmative action. He's for amnesty for illegals. He endorsed Obama.
"And now there's an agenda -- an emerging agenda -- that he's waiting for for the Republican Party? The only thing emerging here is Colin Powell's ego. Colin Powell represents the stale, the old, the worn-out GOP that never won anything. The party of Gerald Ford, Nelson Rockefeller, Bill Scranton, Arnold Schwarzenegger and those types of people. Has anybody heard Colin Powell say a single word against Obama's radicalism -- or Pelosi or Reid, for that matter? Maybe he has but his fawning media sure hasn't reported if he has said it."
Powell, the former secretary of state, split from the Bush-Cheney administration over the Iraq war after he presented to the United Nations what he had been told was ironclad evidence that Iraq was pursuing weapons of mass destruction. That, of course, turned out not to be true.
Then, just before last November's election, Powell delivered his prized endorsement to President Obama, giving him a major last-month boost.
Powell, who was talked about as a presidential candidate himself over the year, called Obama "a transformational figure" who "brings a fresh set of eyes, a fresh set of ideas" at a time the nation urgently needs them. "He has met the standard of being president," he said.
The most recent tiff started earlier this month when Powell told a group of corporate executives that “the Republican Party is in deep trouble” and blamed Limbaugh, saying he “diminishes the party” and corrupts our public life with “a kind of nastiness that we would be better to do without.”
“I don’t care what Colin Powell says,” Limbaugh responded soon after. “This kind of stuff is said about me three times a day … and Colin Powell is just another liberal.”
“What Colin Powell needs to do is close the loop and become a Democrat,” Limbaugh said.
About Political Intelligence
Glen Johnson is Politics Editor at boston.com and lead blogger for "Political Intelligence." He moved to Massachusetts in the fourth grade, and has covered local, state, and national politics for over 25 years. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @globeglen.