July 5th, 2009
10:44 AM ET
5 years ago

State of the Union: Powell on Sotomayor, affirmative action


WASHINGTON (CNN) – One of the country’s most prominent African-American Republicans says the Supreme Court nomination of Judge Sonia Sotomayor should not be derailed because of her ruling in a high-profile case that raised the issue of affirmative action.

“What we can’t continue to have is to have somebody like a Judge Sotomayor, who is announced, and based on one simple, tricky but nonetheless case that the Supreme Court has now decided, have her called a racist or a reverse racist, and she ought to withdraw her nomination because we’re mad at her,” Powell said Sunday in an interview that aired on CNN’s State of the Union.

“She seems like a very gifted and accomplished woman,” Powell also told CNN Chief National Correspondent John King. “She certainly has an open and liberal bent of mind, but that’s not disqualifying. But she seems to have a judicial record that seems to be balanced and tries to follow the law. And so I hope we do have a spirited set of hearings.”

“And, she ought to be asked about everything from both the left and the right,” Powell said of the woman who would become the first Latina on the nation’s highest court if confirmed by the Senate.

Pointing to his own life, Powell also weighed in on the issue of affirmative action more generally – an issue likely to be a focus of Sotomayor’s upcoming confirmation hearings.

“You don’t have an obligation to bring in anybody who’s not able to do the work. You should always have qualifications. But once you have those qualifications, is there something wrong with a taxpayer-funded institution not making sure that it is representing the entire public, the entire population? And I think that’s a good rule for private institutions as well.

Call it affirmative action. Call it diversity. It goes under lots of different names.

“I have a hunch that maybe 55 years ago, somebody took a look at my rather mediocre high school grades, but at the same time thought ‘maybe this kid can make it.’ And they let me in the City College of New York.”

soundoff (53 Responses)
  1. SensibleFella

    Problem here is relatively simple...Powell is not a Republican and shouldn't speak on behalf Republicans.

    July 5, 2009 10:56 am at 10:56 am |
  2. Get Real

    Powell is a go-between.

    July 5, 2009 10:59 am at 10:59 am |
  3. John

    Yeah, right. Would love to see the process unfold for a Republican nominee with half the gaffes and an overturned high profile decision. Oh, that's right. A Republican nominee would no longer be the nominee.

    July 5, 2009 11:00 am at 11:00 am |
  4. Bill

    Powell is a republican, but has a different opinion about some issues than other republicans,

    July 5, 2009 11:00 am at 11:00 am |
  5. Denna

    Thank you Mr. Powell. – @SensibleFella 10:56 a.m. – Actually, Mr. Powell is far too intelligent to be a Republican. You people should be d@mned grateful that he considers himself one. What the GOP needs is a party filled with Colin Powells. You and your ilk should just break off into a third, fringe party and crown Crazy Limbaugh as your king. Kudos to the none-insane elements of the GOP.

    July 5, 2009 11:01 am at 11:01 am |
  6. Dusty

    Powell is a republican in name only.

    July 5, 2009 11:05 am at 11:05 am |
  7. No Obama = No Hillary

    SensibleFella,
    I see that you're reading again from the Rush talking points. Try harder.

    July 5, 2009 11:07 am at 11:07 am |
  8. Michelle

    Who *writes* this blog? The subject of this article is referred to throughout as "Powell." I'm guessing you mean Colin Powell, former secretary of state and national security advisor. But who can tell?

    Also: it's *amazing* to see right-wingers fall upon their own in a blood frenzy, whenever someone makes the mistake of advancing a non-party-line opinion. This is why you people are all but irrelevant in the national conversation today.

    July 5, 2009 11:07 am at 11:07 am |
  9. Doc

    Denna,
    Well said!!

    July 5, 2009 11:08 am at 11:08 am |
  10. InlandEmperor

    Gen Powell, welcome back. It's nice to hearyour measured, intelligent, response to questions about America. The country is hopeful that you may well set the pace for an intellectual exchange that has been so absent in recent years.

    July 5, 2009 11:10 am at 11:10 am |
  11. Paul Cain

    Your article never mentions who "Mr. Powell" is! How about adding his first name?

    July 5, 2009 11:11 am at 11:11 am |
  12. Stacy

    Why is it we always say African America or Native American and make everything about race. I never hear this White American. Why cant it be this American instead of making everything into skin color?

    July 5, 2009 11:12 am at 11:12 am |
  13. Jimmy

    The problem with Sotomayor is her consistent and many comments about the wisdom of a particular race and gender being superior to another race and gender. This is something she has repeated over and over, not just once. She has a mania about the superiority of the Hispanic race and female gender. She should not be confirmed.

    July 5, 2009 11:12 am at 11:12 am |
  14. Gary

    She should be disrailed because she is part of the anti constitution group that is trying to destroy the constitution. She has proven time and time again that she is a racist and is not capable of being fair in her decisions. I think I read that she has the highest percentage of opinions being overturned than any other judge in the country around 70% of those that go to the supreme court. She has proven that she is not in sync with the constitution or history to be overturned that often. She personally does not qualify to be an associate justice of the supreme court. We don't need a racist on the supreme court, we need someone who is blind to race and does not base decisions on the race of the individual.

    July 5, 2009 11:15 am at 11:15 am |
  15. 2pacolypse Now

    to SensibleFella,

    The problem with you is that Powell is exactly the type of Republican the GOP needs to become, more moderate, in the middle, and able to intelligently take on all issues instead of the Neo-Crazed Sarah Palin, John Boehner, Mark Sanford, Rush Limbaugh, John Ensign, John Cornyn, Mitch McConnell, Newt Gingrich type of Republicans who won't win elections. The public is fed up with the far right loons who are only interested in obstruction instead of construction in ideas and policy.

    The only other GOP candidates who are even viable at this point who are considered moderates are Mitt Romney and Tim Pawlenty and Charlie Crist. However, the far right loons who control the base of the party will villify them all including Powell which will lead again, to them staying a minority. The GOP refuses to be inclusive and change to what the people want because their party only wants what they want., which is division.

    July 5, 2009 11:15 am at 11:15 am |
  16. jmack

    Mr. Powell, Ms. Sotomayor had her "chance" with her original ruling. There was nothing "tricky" about this case. All nine Justices ruled that the Sotomayor "reasoning" used in her decision was, in fact, unreasonable. Yet you, Mr. Powell, with all your years of legal experience, deem Ms. Sotomayor worthy. I do not.

    July 5, 2009 11:16 am at 11:16 am |
  17. pt

    1. Racism is alive and well in American media. It seems only blacks are permitted to negatively comment about blacks, hispanics on hispanics, etc. without being labeled racist by the media.
    2. Why is Powell suddenly dominating various CNN news articles? Why is CNN holding back on McKinney (the former lawmaker who slapped the White House guard) being detained by Israel? There are many news worthy activities. Come on; stopping squeezing every angle on positive articles and report news.

    July 5, 2009 11:20 am at 11:20 am |
  18. Dianne IL

    "Problem here is relatively simple…Powell is not a Republican and shouldn't speak on behalf Republicans."

    Is it because he doesn't agree with you that you want to exclude him from your party? Sorry, Mr. Sensible, it's people like Colin Powell that will save the Republican party. Loud, hate filled mouth-pieces from whatever party are a turn-off.

    What IS relatively simple is this country needs intelligent, reasonable, unselfish and honest leaders. I'm not sure we have enough of them and I don't know where to find them but we can't listen to rich and getting richer radio personalities for our advice.

    July 5, 2009 11:25 am at 11:25 am |
  19. sanjac

    Until everybody can just think of themselves as an American without the hyphen, we will continue to be subjected to the politicos taking advantage of our division to futher their own lust for power.
    Gen Powell is only half right, having an open mind, if he means being impartial is fine for the court, being a liberal is not a qualification, nor a disqualification. Being able to see if a certain law violates the Constitution is a requirment. I don´t think she can do this. She is too interested in promoting her own political agenda. She should withdraw her name and run for office. The court has to at least try to stay above party and politics.

    July 5, 2009 11:27 am at 11:27 am |
  20. Operation Crush Rush

    Why dont the racists posting on here ever have the guts to come out and say they are racists?They always hide under hoods.PS,John King is so biased for republicans it hurts.hahaha

    July 5, 2009 11:38 am at 11:38 am |
  21. JP

    Sotomeyer would not be the nominee if she wasn't hispanic. If you think about that its really pathetic.

    July 5, 2009 11:39 am at 11:39 am |
  22. Jan Illinois

    Powell is clear on this, to bad he wasn't clear on WMDs. before we sacrificed thousands of soldiers and billions of dollars . You listen to his logic, he should have been on the steps of the White House screaming for no war, BUT HE WAS NOT. He knew and he did nothing, makes him a traitor as I see it.

    July 5, 2009 11:42 am at 11:42 am |
  23. Ken in NC

    @ jmack ....... In your posting, you said, "All nine Justices ruled that the Sotomayor "reasoning" used in her decision was, in fact, unreasonable."

    That is not correct. The rueling was a 5 to 4 vote by the Nine Justices.

    July 5, 2009 11:45 am at 11:45 am |
  24. kevincollins

    Hmm, it's interesting in that so many gripe about affirmative action in college selections yet Bush received extra points for being the son and grandson of alumni. Hypocritical, no?

    July 5, 2009 11:59 am at 11:59 am |
  25. Steve J, Michigan

    Since being on the 2nd circuit she has been involved in 380 rulings with 5 out of 6 being overturned by narrow margins.. Roberts has even overruled one of his own rulings since sitting on SCOTUS. She doesn't seem to anymore racist then most people. Sessions comes to mind pretty easily. She's obviously more intelligent then Thomas by a long shot.. I don't see much that the right can do to prevent her from sitting on the bench.

    Steve-Michigan

    July 5, 2009 12:19 pm at 12:19 pm |
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