- Created on 14 January 2013
(CNN) -- Former Secretary of State Colin Powell said Sunday he's still a member of the Republican Party, despite voting for President Barack Obama in the last two elections and being very critical of the GOP of late.
"I think the Republican Party right now is having an identity problem - and I'm still a Republican," Powell said on NBC's "Meet the Press." "But in recent years there's been a significant shift to the right, and we've seen what that shift has produced: two losing presidential campaigns."
Powell said the key for the GOP is to recognize that the country is changing and the party needs to change along with it.
"I think what the Republican Party needs to do now is take a very hard look at itself, and understand that the country is changing demographically. And if the Republican Party does not change along with that demographic, they're going to be in trouble," Powell said.
Powell said the Republican disconnect with minorities runs deep and encompasses everything from problems with immigration reform to tax rates among lower-income people. But he also suggested elements of racism may be in play.
"There's also a dark vein of intolerance in some part of the party. What do I mean by that? What I mean by that is, they still sort of look down on minorities," Powell said.
Former Gov. Haley Barbour, R-Mississippi, responded to Powell's comments later in the show and agreed Republicans have to do better among minorities.
"We have to improve our standing among all of those. The good thing is, with the right kind of policies and the right kind of effort, we will do that. Remember, George W. Bush, the last Republican (president), got 44% of the Hispanic vote - so it's not like there's some 1,000-year history here," Barbour said.
Going forward, Powell said, Republicans have to think not just about who their next presidential candidate is going to be, but also about what the whole party stands for. For the GOP, Powell said, it's time to stop moving so far to the right and come back toward the middle.
"I'm a moderate, but I'm still a Republican. That's how I was raised, and until I voted for Obama twice, I had voted for seven straight Republicans for president," Powell said.
- Created on 14 January 2013
(CNN) -- An adviser to Sarah Palin chided the Hollywood Foreign Press Association on Monday for awarding several Golden Globes to the HBO political drama "Game Change."
The film, based on the book of the same name by the journalists John Heilemann and Mark Halperin, was a critical portrait of Palin's tumultuous role in John McCain's 2008 presidential campaign. The movie picked up three Golden Globes Sunday evening, including one for best mini-series or motion picture made for television.
Julianne Moore also won an award for her portrayal of Palin. Ed Harris won for playing McCain.
Palin aide Jason Recher called the film a work of fiction.
"It comes as no surprise that the Hollywood Foreign Press recognized another Hollywood group, HBO, for their work of fiction and awarded a prize for best fictional filmmaking," Recher told CNN. "The reality was an original American story, not a screenplay by people who only imagined events to fit their fiction."
Recher and other Palin loyalists from the 2008 campaign have been sharply critical of the film since it was released early last year. At the time, Palin's political action committee responded with a slickly-produced video montage of pundits praising Palin's impact on the McCain campaign.
Palin backers say the movie is based primarily on the biased accounts of former McCain advisers Steve Schmidt and Nicolle Wallace, two of Palin's fiercest critics.
The creators of the film, Jay Roach and Danny Strong, have defended their work, saying they relied on people both critical of and sympathetic to the former Alaska governor in developing the project.
In her acceptance speech, Moore thanked comedian Tina Fey and former CBS anchor Katie Couric for making "a significant difference in the 2008 election." Fey famously mocked Palin on Saturday Night Live, and Couric won plaudits for an interview with Palin in which the vice presidential nominee seemed flustered and unprepared.
Recher said Sunday's award show was a vivid example of Hollywood liberalism at work.
"The media is reporting last night was Hollywood shining the light on and celebrating women," he said. "It's clear however they only celebrate women who fit their political ideology. Women who don't conform to their liberal values are torn down in terribly harsh ways -- a clear double standard which was awarded last night."
- Created on 14 January 2013
(CNN) -- Sen. John McCain, prominent among the Washington ranks who have questioned former Sen. Chuck Hagel's suitability for the top Defense Department post, said Sunday he will not exert his power to block Hagel's nomination.
"No," he told CNN when asked directly whether he would block the nomination in the Senate. "I plan to make a judgment as to whether I think he's appropriate to be Secretary of Defense or not."
Each senator has the power to prevent a nomination from advancing to the floor, and one of McCain's close colleagues, Sen. Lindsey Graham, has suggested he would put President Barack Obama's nominee to lead the CIA on hold while awaiting answers on the U.S. Consulate attack in September in Benghazi, Libya.
McCain said he does not plan to block that nomination or that of John Brennan for the CIA, either. He said he does have questions for both.
Of Hagel, the Arizona Republican said, "There will be a number of questions about his view of America's role in the world, about Iraq, about Afghanistan, about Iran, the threat of Iran."
McCain also described his reservations regarding Hagel's remark "that (the) surge in Iraq would be the greatest blunder since the Vietnam War, which is clearly a bizarre statement."
Some senators from both sides of the aisle have expressed their concern about selecting the former Nebraska Republican to lead the Pentagon. McCain's reservations stand out in part because of their once-vibrant friendship and partnership. Both were injured in the Vietnam War.
Some have described their difference in Iraq war policy as a stress point in the relationship. After McCain aided Hagel in his first campaign for the U.S. Senate, Hagel returned the favour as a national co-chair of his 2000 presidential bid. Hagel stayed out of the race when McCain ran again in 2008.
McCain told CNN last week that he hoped their friendship remained.
"The friendship, I hope, is still there," he said on "The Situation Room," saying their world views had split "rather dramatically."
"I respect, admire, and call him a friend, but I have very serious questions about whether he will serve in the way that I think serves America's best national interests."
Officials supportive of Hagel's confirmation but spoke to the media on the condition of anonymity have gone on the offensive in support of the nominee.
In response to charges he has not been a staunch supporter of Israel and expresses sympathies toward Iran, the officials pointed to votes he cast in favor of military aid to Israel and his recent call for the U.S. to "keep racheting up sanctions" on Iran, among other evidence. They also highlighted his leadership experience as evidence he is ready to direct the massive government department.
Critics have also taken issue with Hagel's 1998 description of an ambassadorial nominee as "openly, aggressively gay" -- for which he has since apologized -- and his remark in 2007 when he said the "Jewish lobby intimidated lawmakers."
McCain said Sunday on CBS' "Face the Nation" that if asked today, he would not vote against Hagel, "nor would I vote for him."
In his statement after Obama announced Hagel as his pick, McCain said, "Chuck Hagel served our nation with honor in Vietnam, and I congratulate him on this nomination.
"I have serious concerns about positions Sen. Hagel has taken on a range of critical national security issues in recent years, which we will fully consider in the course of his confirmation process before the Senate Armed Services Committee."
McCain will have the opportunity to pose his questions as the top Republican on that committee.
"I have a clear record of almost always giving the administration the benefit of the doubt, Republican or Democrat," he said on CBS. "But in this particular case, 'advise and consent' is still a role that we play as senators."
CNN's Barbara Starr, Ashley Killough and Kevin Liptak contributed to this report.
- Created on 14 January 2013
(CNN) -- When a set of recommendations to reduce gun violence hits President Barack Obama's desk on Tuesday, it will trigger a new stage in a decisive political battle consuming Washington. And it will show just how much America may have changed in the wake of last month's massacre in Newtown, Connecticut.
The proposals from a White House task force may include some with broad support on issues involving mental health. But one of the most intense flashpoints is already known: The group, overseen by Vice President Joe Biden, is expected to support reinstating an assault weapons ban.
"I would say that the likelihood is they will not be able to get an assault weapons ban through this Congress," National Rifle Association President David Keene said Sunday.
But the powerful gun rights lobbying group is gearing up for a fight, which, CNN has learned, will include an ad campaign.
"When a president takes all the power of his office and is willing to expend political capital, you don't want to make predictions," Keene said on "State of the Union."
Keene said he also does not believe Congress will pass a ban on high-capacity magazines.
The NRA argues that such bans won't help stop gun violence and that they infringe on Second Amendment rights.
But Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Connecticut, said the NRA's prediction is wrong. "I think that this issue is going to continue to move," he told "State of the Union," speaking from Newtown.
"The NRA does not represent gun owners anymore. This is not your father's NRA. It represents gun manufacturers," Murphy said.
While the NRA does receive large sums of money from gun makers, Keene insisted that manufacturers are "not our constituency."
"Our constituency is twofold," he said. "It's the American people who want to own guns and use them legally, and it's the Second Amendment itself."
Biden told reporters last week, amid meetings with a wide array of groups, that he had never heard so much support for "the need to do something about high-capacity magazines."
Sen. Dianne Feinstein, who is pushing a ban similar to one that expired in 2004, has said she believes it will make it through Congress.
"All of the things that society regulates, but we can't touch guns? That's wrong," Feinstein said in December after 27 people, including 20 children at Sandy Hook Elementary School, were killed in Newtown by a gunman who then shot himself to death.
Numerous mass shootings have involved high-capacity weapons.
Obama set up the task force and instructed the group to have proposals by the end of January. Biden said last week he will have a set of recommendations ready for the president by Tuesday.
While the NRA, with 4.2 million members, holds a great deal of sway, it faces a country deeply concerned about the kinds of weapons that have been used in numerous mass killings. It's also facing a new foe: a political action committee created by former U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and her husband, Mark Kelly.
Giffords was shot in the head in a mass shooting two years ago that killed six people.
"With Americans for Responsible Solutions engaging millions of people about ways to reduce gun violence and funding political activity nationwide, legislators will no longer have reason to fear the gun lobby," the two vowed in a USA Today op-ed last week.
Obama made clear Saturday that he's ready for a fight over how to respond to gun violence.
In his weekly radio address, he gave a list of challenges ahead, including protecting "our children from the horrors of gun violence."
"These, too, will be difficult missions for America. But they must be met," he said.
The Obama administration will try to pass an assault weapons ban, an administration official said Friday.
Sen. Joe Manchin, D-West Virginia, told CNN he believes that a ban on assault weapons alone, "in the political reality that we have today, will not go anywhere." A strong advocate for Second Amendment rights with an "A" rating from the NRA, he has expressed openness to changing laws but argues that other aspects of society should change as well. "It has to be a comprehensive approach," he argued Sunday on "State of the Union."
Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-New York, on Sunday called on the nation's largest gun retailers to "participate in a temporary moratorium on selling assault-style rifles until Congress has considered legislation to reduce gun violence," his office said in a statement.
"Since the Sandy Hook massacre, sales of assault-style rifles have skyrocketed and are poised to grow even further during an upcoming 'Gun Appreciation Day' organized by extreme pro-gun activists," the statement said.
The group behind the event, scheduled for January 19, uses its website to encourage Americans to "go to your local gun store, gun range or gun show with your Constitution, American flags and your 'Hands off my Guns' sign to send a loud and clear message."
Dick's Sporting Goods, one of the largest sporting goods retailers, suspended sales of certain semi-automatic rifles nationwide after the Newtown massacure.
Another likely point of contention between gun rights activists and those supporting stricter gun control is a call for universal background checks.
Biden has said several groups that his task force met with support such checks for all gun buyers, including those who purchase through private sales.
Keene has also told CNN that he does not support instituting background checks for purchases at gun shows.
He said Sunday the NRA does support the idea that people who are ruled mentally incompetent should be listed as not allowed to purchase firearms.
In the interview Sunday, Keene complained that Biden's panel didn't really listen to what the NRA had to say.
Despite promises that the task force had not reached conclusions before hearing from all sides, "the conclusions were reached," he argued. "We suspected all they wanted to be able to do was to say he had talked to us, and now they were going to go forward to do what they wanted to do."
Another question facing Biden's panel is how to tackle images of shootings in entertainment.
His task force met with leaders of the the film, TV and video game industries.
It's unknown what the task force may suggest as a response to what Obama has described as a culture that often "glorifies guns and violence."
Meanwhile, across the country, Americans of all stripes are debating the issue in person, in town hall meetings, and in social media.
- Created on 14 January 2013
(CNN) -- Former President George H.W. Bush was discharged Monday from the hospital in Houston where he spent several weeks receiving treatment for bronchitis, a bacterial infection and a persistent cough, his spokesman Jim McGrath said in a statement.
Dr. Amy Mynderse, the internal medicine physician in charge of the former president's care, added that Bush "has improved to the point that he will not need any special medication when he goes home, but he will continue physical therapy."
Bush, who's been hospitalized in Houston since November 23, said he was "deeply grateful" for the doctors and nurses at The Methodist Hospital.
"Let me add just how touched we were by the many get-well messages we received from our friends and fellow Americans," Bush said in the statement. "Your prayers and good wishes helped more than you know, and as I head home my only concern is that I will not be able to thank each of you for your kind words."
He was moved out of the hospital's intensive care unit just over two weeks ago. He was listed in guarded condition while he received treatment for what McGrath called "a stubborn fever."
Doctors were at several points optimistic that his release was imminent. McGrath said in December that Bush had been undergoing physical therapy in preparation for discharge.
After release from the intensive care unit, McGrath said Bush's "exchanges with doctors and nurses now include singing." He received visits from family members including his wife over the Christmas holiday, and was serenaded by the gospel-turned-country quartet of the 1970s and '80s the Oak Ridge Boys.
Oak member Joe Bonsall said of their telephone performance for the former president, "We asked what song he would like to hear and he said 'Elvira,' so we blasted some 'oom pop a mau mau's' in the direction of Houston, Texas."
Four months older than former President Jimmy Carter, the 88 year-old Bush is the oldest of the living former presidents.
CNN's Kevin Liptak and Gregory Wallace contributed to this report.