Powell: Obama still has work to do
January 23rd, 2011
11:22 AM ET
10 years ago

Powell: Obama still has work to do

(CNN) - Former Secretary of State Colin Powell, who endorsed President Barack Obama in the 2008 election, said Sunday that while the president has addressed some of his campaign promises, he still has "got a way to go."

He credited Obama with stabilizing the economy, tackling health care reform and working with countries around the world, but declined to give the president a letter grade.

"Every president has a challenge when it goes from campaigning to governing, takes a while to figure out the difference between campaigning and governing," Powell said on CNN's "State of the Union." "Now we see at the end of the second year, he is definitely focusing on governing… we'll see how 2011 goes."

Powell, who worked in four presidential administrations – most recently under former President George W. Bush – said he expects a strong economic message at the State of the Union address Tuesday. He said the electorate was expecting that focus when Obama assumed office.

"I think he's working very hard on the issue of unemployment, which I think is the major problem facing America right now, and I think, and I hope, this will be the centerpiece of the State of the Union speech," Powell told CNN Chief Political Correspondent Candy Crowley. "We didn't elect 'Superman,' we elected a human being."

Powell seemed to disagree with both sides of the aisle on ways in which to cut spending.

"I am put off when people say you are going to freeze spending" or roll it back to 2008 levels, Powell said. He said the "real money" is in entitlement programs like social security, Medicare and Medicaid, and not in funding for National Public Radio or the National Endowment for the Arts, as some have suggested.

"Don't tell me you're going to freeze to a level. That usually is a very inefficient way of doing it," Powell said. "Tell me what you're going to cut – and nobody up there yet is being very candid about what they're going to cut."

Obama has pledged to freeze non-defense discretionary spending and Republicans have said they want to continue at 2008 spending levels.

But Powell said Obama's energy and "youthful approach" have proved useful in foreign policy. He pointed to countries offering increased assistance in Afghanistan and a more positive rating for America around the world.

"There have been improvements, but at the same time, we could not expect everything to improve for the better all at once just because a new personality came on the scene," Powell said.

Although he would not say for certain what the future will include for American troops in Afghanistan, he said there will be "some level of withdrawal," this summer. He said progress will go backward, however; if military action is not backfilled with a functioning government. The Obama administration pledged a drawdown of troops by this summer.

"One year of surge has produced rather inconclusive results," Powell said. "There are some elements of success and some elements where I think there has been backsliding. I'm not sure where we're going to be in July."

Watch State of the Union with Candy Crowley Sundays at 9am ET. For the latest from State of the Union click here.

soundoff (14 Responses)
  1. megan

    why don"t you gop listen to powell you may learn something about governing.

    January 23, 2011 11:30 am at 11:30 am |
  2. Greg

    Colin Powell is the voice of reason. I would love to see him run for president as an independent. It would force the two major parties to the center. Perhaps reason,sanity and civility would prevail instead of this whacked out extreme left and extreme right mentality that exists in modern politics.

    January 23, 2011 11:30 am at 11:30 am |
  3. Randy, San Francisco

    Didn't Rush Limbaugh excommunicated Powell from the Republican Party?

    January 23, 2011 11:30 am at 11:30 am |
  4. Claudia, Houston, Tx

    Independents thus far have shown appreciation for the work President Obama is doing, they know their politics.

    January 23, 2011 11:39 am at 11:39 am |
  5. diridi

    he has two years to go...powel....did we say it to Bush, or Reagan when they messed like animals in barn....all across the US land....

    January 23, 2011 11:40 am at 11:40 am |
  6. annie s

    Of course he still has work to do – it's only two years into his Presidency, and as Powell said, he has already stabilized the economy, worked on healthcare reform and improved our relationships with foreign countries. I'd say job well very well done so far in view of what he inherited. Now let's give him the room and support to finish what he started.

    January 23, 2011 11:44 am at 11:44 am |
  7. Joan

    How about a headline that says "Powel Praises How Obama Has Handled Many Important Issues" or "Powel Says Obama Has Improved International Relations" which would be true. Your two headlines have had negative intonations. Is the writer of this article Republican?

    January 23, 2011 11:45 am at 11:45 am |
  8. Eric

    The President needs to end both wars and cut Defense Spending literally in half. It is absolutely doable: thousands of bases are not needed, overkill weaponry is not needed, a standing army the size of ours is not needed. STOP THE WARS, CUT THE GUNS, AND YOU'LL BALANCE THE BUDGET.

    January 23, 2011 12:04 pm at 12:04 pm |
  9. Tim Thorp

    Colling Powell is an honorable man with personal achievements. But he showed himself weak when dealing with politicans, mostly when he signed on (and sold part of his soul) with the GW Bush administration. He is not in a very good position to "grade" President Obama. Mr. Powell withered under political manipulations of the Bush administration. President Obama has stayed the course and not faded away even under the meanest attacks the GOP and the teaparty have thrown at him.
    Oh, by the way, let's see what 'accomplishments' the party of NO has to show by Nov 2012. So far, nothing but heated rhetoric.

    January 23, 2011 12:05 pm at 12:05 pm |
  10. Wire Palladin, S. F.

    Powell admits that President Obama has stabilized the economy, tackled health care, and has a foreign policy. He admits that the president has been working hard to correct the unemployment. Right wingnuts forget that "W" told Americans that we were on the brink of a major depression, and that gasoline was $4 a gallon in the last summer of the Bush experiment in 2008. Baggers forget that, not only did a great depression not occur, but 1.3 million private sector jobs have been created in 2010, despite the extremists vowing to make the president a one termer.

    January 23, 2011 12:16 pm at 12:16 pm |
  11. kyle

    From his picks of Palin, Bauchman, Giuliani, looks like he'll be supporting Obama again.

    January 23, 2011 12:23 pm at 12:23 pm |
  12. John G

    If he still has work to do (in the wrong direction like he has been) then stop him now. He SEEMS to be taking on a more middle of the road approach but only time will tell.

    January 23, 2011 12:27 pm at 12:27 pm |
  13. John G

    Independents have shown support for Obama? Maybe that explains the midterm beating democrats took, right? Ha ha

    January 23, 2011 12:30 pm at 12:30 pm |
  14. vic nashville tn

    Obama did every thing he can to build the economy the problem is republicans

    January 23, 2011 12:40 pm at 12:40 pm |