WASHINGTON, D.C.—Retired U.S. Army Gen. Colin Powell, who served as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and Secretary of State, complained that the GOP has become too conservative, adding that the only reason he remains a Republican is to annoy the party.
“I think the party has shifted much further right than where the country is and it should be obvious to party leaders that they cannot keep saying the things that they are saying and doing the things that they were doing and hope to be successful in national level elections in the future, not just 2016,” he said.
“So I want to continue to be a Republican because it annoys them,” added Powell, grinning.
He made those comments on Wednesday at the 2015 Washington Ideas Forum, now it its seventh-year. The two-day event, which featured an all-star lineup of speakers from both sides of the political spectrum, was hosted by The Atlantic magazine and The Aspen Institute, a nonpartisan think tank.
While speaking at the event, Powell decided to challenge GOP Presidential frontrunner Donald Trump on immigration, suggesting that the real estate mogul should try having his many immigrant hotel employees stay home for a day.
“If I was around Mr. Trump, Donald, who I know rather well, I would say, ‘You know, Don, let’s see what happens – let’s tell all the immigrants working in Trump hotels to stay home tomorrow – see what happens,’” he said.
Aspen Institute chief Walter Isaacson interviewed Powell during the forum.
Isaacson suggested that one of the reasons Powell stuck out like a sore thumb among other Republicans is due to his support for immigration reform, something that the institute chief claimed is only common among Democrats.
“I don’t agree that it’s the Republican position on immigration,” Powell told Isaacson.
“I think most Republicans understand that we need immigration, we are an immigrant nation, it is in our best interest to do it,” Powell continued. “But there are pockets, as I said previously, there are pockets of intolerance within the Republican party [and] the Republican party had better figure out how to defeat that.”
Although Powell claimed that he is still a registered Republican, the retired general endorsed Obama for president twice.
During the interview, Isaacson highlighted Powell’s support for President Obama and other Democrat-leaning positions such as approving the Iran deal. That brought up the subject of party ID.
“You didn’t mention the fact that I worked for about five presidents in a row who were Republicans,” Powell interjected.
The former highest-ranking military officer in the U.S. armed forces then proceeded to answer Isaacson’s question saying, “Yes, I’m still a Republican.”
Last time Powell found himself as a public employee, he held the Secretary of State position under President George W. Bush.
“In Virginia, you don’t have to declare a party, where I live, but I’m still a Republican,” noted the former public servant.