Dick Cheney made clear Sunday he’d rather follow firebrand broadcaster Rush Limbaugh than former Joint Chiefs chairman Colin Powell into political battle over the future of the Republican Party.
Even as Cheney embraced efforts to expand the party by ex-Govs. Jeb Bush of Florida and Mitt Romney of Massachusetts and the House’s No. 2 Republican, Virginia Rep. Eric Cantor, the former vice president appeared to write his one-time colleague Powell out of the GOP.
Asked about recent verbal broadsides between Limbaugh and Powell, Cheney said, “If I had to choose in terms of being a Republican, I’d go with Rush Limbaugh. My take on it was Colin had already left the party. I didn’t know he was still a Republican.”
Powell, who was secretary of state under President George W. Bush and held the nation’s top military post under President George H.W. Bush, endorsed Democrat Barack Obama for president last year. Nonetheless, since the election he has described himself as a Republican and a right-of-center conservative, though “not as right as others would like.”
Cheney, citing Powell’s backing of Obama over Republican nominee John McCain, said, “I assumed that that is some indication of his loyalty and his interests.”
Cheney’s remarks on CBS’ “Face the Nation” were the latest step in his slow-motion estrangement from Powell since the two worked closely together to manage the Persian Gulf war in 1991 — Powell as the Army general who was chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and Cheney as defense secretary for the elder Bush.
Under the younger Bush, Powell initially backed action against Iraq’s Saddam Hussein and delivered a famous U.N. speech laying out the U.S. case. But Powell and Cheney increasingly parted ways over the Bush administration’s policies on the war and terrorism, with Cheney usually prevailing. Powell left the administration after Bush’s first term.
Wading into the debate over the GOP’s future, Cheney called efforts by George W. Bush’s brother Jeb, along with Cantor and Romney, as “a good thing to do,” but set a limit on how far the party should go.