CBS Brings On Obama Supporter Colin Powell To Endorse New Cuba Policy

On Thursday, CBS This Morning interviewed Colin Powell, former Secretary of State and supporter of President Obama, to discuss whether or not the president made the right call in normalizing relations between the United States and Cuba. 

Despite Powell being an open supporter of Obama, CBS ignored his close ties to the president. Instead, co-host Charlie Rose introduced him by noting how “President George W. Bush supported the economic embargo on Cuba, so did the Secretary of State during his first term, Colin Powell. The retired Army General is with us from Washington.” 

Rose began the interview by asking the liberal Republican “You're a veteran of diplomacy. Do you totally support what the president has done, the steps he has taken and plans to take and the deal he has made?” Powell eagerly expressed his support for the president's decision which prompted the CBS anchor to ask his guest if “you're recommending to the Congress that they lift the embargo?” 

While Rose gave Powell a platform to cheer on Obama’s Cuba move, co-host Norah O’Donnell actually asked the former Secretary of State a tough question on the issue of Cuba:

General, can you address the criticism that President Obama by taking this action has vindicated the brutal behavior of the Cuban government, a Castro government that has been so oppressive, a long list of human rights abuses? 

The discussion concluded with Powell once again defending President Obama's reversal of America's policy towards Cuba:

No, I don't think he's done that at all. And nor is that necessarily the case just because you opened an embassy and start to make some movements. I hope that our government will continue to speak out against that kind of behavior and I hope our ambassador going in will make sure that we give this message to them at every opportunity.          

Over on ABC, the reporters at Good Morning America offered little criticism for Obama's Cuba move with co-host George Stephanopoulos declaring that the move could help "thaw a Cold War." NBC's Today expressed a similar tone with co-host Savannah Guthrie cheering a "new era" in U.S.-Cuba relations during the show's Thursday morning coverage. 

See relevant transcript below. 

CBS This Morning 

December 18, 2014 

CHARLIE ROSE: President George W. Bush supported the economic embargo on Cuba, so did the Secretary of State during his first term, Colin Powell. The retired Army General is with us from Washington. Secretary Powell good morning. 

COLIN POWELL: Good morning. How are you all? 

ROSE: You're a veteran of diplomacy. Do you totally support what the president has done, the steps he has taken and plans to take and the deal he has made?

POWELL: Yes, I support it, but, you know, there's a long road that has to be traveled. I had a flashback when I heard the announcement yesterday. A flashback to October of 1962 when I was a young infantry captain on my way to Vietnam and suddenly we got instruction, no you may be going to an Army division in Fort Hood because we’re going to invade Cuba. Well that didn't happen. But over the last fifty years I have watched this policy unfold and I have been a part of it. And as Secretary of State, as you noted, I supported it and even strengthened the sanctions against Cuba. 

But I think it’s time now to turn that page of history. I don't see anything wrong with opening diplomatic relations with Cuba. We have diplomatic relations with other nations just as oppressive as Cuba. It's a way to talk, it’s a way to make your point. They're not going to get off the sanctions list any time soon. Congress isn't going to do that. But it's good to have an ambassador there who can tell the Cubans, this is what comes if you start to respond in a positive way. So I think it’s a way of opening a channel of communications, a door that has not been there before. 

And as Scott Pelley just noted, there is optimism within the Cuban people by this change and therefore I think let's start it, let's get the process going, but let's not have any illusions. This is still a terrible regime, we don’t support their form of government, we don't like what they're doing. But I think having diplomatic relations as we've had with the Soviet Union, with Vietnam and so many other places, we can produce positive change. 

ROSE: So you're recommending to the Congress that they lift the embargo? 

POWELL: No, I’m recommending that the Congress they take it under advisement, monitor what the Cubans are doing and if they reach a point where they think that sufficient progress has been made, then Congress could  consider it. But this is just the beginning.

We're not lifting the sanctions yet and there's a lot of pressure that will remain on the Castro brothers and should be made on them until they start to show the kind of positive movement that we want to see. Releasing political prisoners, opening up the economy, making life easier and more open for the Cuban people. And so this is just one step and there are a lot of steps that have to be made to make this work. 

NORAH O’DONNELL: General, can you address the criticism that President Obama by taking this action has vindicated the brutal behavior of the Cuban government, a Castro government that has been so oppressive, a long list of human rights abuses? 

POWELL: No, I don't think he's done that at all. And nor is that necessarily the case just because you opened an embassy and start to make some movements. I hope that our government will continue to speak out against that kind of behavior and I hope our ambassador going in will make sure that we give this message to them at every opportunity. 

We've gone through the same thing with a lot of other countries and my experience in all of this is once you start talking to someone, you're almost inserting a poison pill into the system where they have to start responding to the pressures that they're still under. And so I think this is a positive step and let's not overemphasize all that's going to happen in the months and years ahead. It's a long process, but I think a page of history has been turned and it's appropriate to do so at this time. 

GAYLE KING: General, I want to turn to the Sony hack attack and reports that the North Korean government is behind it. What do you make of that and if true, what are the implications of that? 

POWELL: Well, I think if it is the Koreans -- and I understand that the government will announce that, the American government will announce that, it's a very serious issue. But, you know, this is a problem that all of us have to face in this internet age. But if we can identify that the North Koreans did it and if we can be specific as to who did it within North Korea, then I think appropriate action has to be taken. I can't tell you what that appropriate action is. We're rather limited in what we can do to North Korea that we haven’t already done. But I'll wait and see what the administration announces and then we'll go from there. 

ROSE: Secretary Powell. Thank you so much for joining us this morning. 

POWELL: Thank you. 

Foreign Policy Cuba CBS CBS This Morning Charlie Rose Norah O'Donnell Colin Powell