Former Secretary of State Colin Powell found himself on the defense this week from a prominent member of the Bush administration, in which he dutifully served nearly seven years ago.
Powell was one of several high-profile targets in a new book released by former vice president Dick Cheney, In My Time: A Personal and Political Memoir. In it, Cheney particularly goes after Powell on the contentious subject of the war in Iraq.
Differences between the two men on the strategy and purpose of the conflict are well known. Cheney, however, took it an unusual step further and lashed out at Powell directly.
On Sunday, Powell appeared on CBS’s “Face the Nation” and bluntly responded to the criticism.
“They are cheap shots,” Powell said of Cheney’s criticisms of his one-term performance in the Bush administration.
Cheney asserted that he played a major role in Powell’s exit from the administration’s secretary of state slot after the first term ended in 2005. Powell says that was not true, noting that he and President George W. Bush had previously agreed to one term of service.
Prior to his role at the State Department, Powell’s career path was one that many would envy. He was the national security adviser under President Ronald Reagan from 1987-1989. He later led the U.S. Army Forces Command and served as the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, a first for an African American. Powell would go on to become the nation’s first black secretary of state in 2001, shortly before the 9/11 terrorist attacks and the start of wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Even before the back-and-forth barbs, Powell had already concluded that the differences between he and Cheney could not be smoothed over.
Powell is not the only Bush administration figure in Cheney’s line of fire. In his memoir, Cheney makes comments about Condoleezza Rice, Bush’s other secretary of state. He also needled George Tenet, the former head of the Central Intelligence Agency.
Cheney, often noted as a no-nonsense vice-president, kept that same spirit in his book. During his publicity tour, Cheney noted to ABC News that “heads are going to be exploding all over Washington” once the public is able to read his work.
The media questioned Powell about Cheney’s hyperbolic prediction. Again, Powell did not hold his tongue.
“That’s quite a visual,” Powell said. “And in fact, it’s the kind of headline I would expect to come out of a gossip columnist, or the kind of headline you might see one of the supermarket tabloids write. It’s not the kind of headline I would have expected to come from a former vice president of the United States of America.”
In My Time is due in stores this week.