July 28, 2009
Posted: 03:05 PM ET
WASHINGTON (CNN) – Former Secretary of State Colin Powell said Tuesday that he has been the victim of racial profiling, but still believes Harvard Professor Henry Louis Gates could have been more patient with the police officer who arrested him.
"I think Skip, perhaps in this instance, might have waited a while, come outside, talked to the officer and that might have been the end of it," Powell said in an interview with CNN's Larry King. "I think he should have reflected on whether or not this was the time to make that big a deal."
Powell said that under the circumstances, Gates may not been in the appropriate frame of mind to best handle the situation. "He was just home from China, just home from New York. All he wanted to do was get to bed. His door was jammed and so he was in a mood where he said something," Powell said. He recalled a lesson he was taught as a child: "When you're faced with an officer who is trying to do his job and get to the bottom of something this is not the time to get in an argument with him."
The former secretary of state said he was racially profiled "many times," including an incident that took place while he was the national security advisor to President Ronald Reagan.
"Nobody thought I could possibly be the national security advisor to the president, I was just a black guy at Reagan National Airport," Powell said. "And it was only when I went to the counter and said is my guest here waiting for me, that someone said, 'Oh, you're General Powell.' It was inconceivable to him that a black guy could be the national security advisor."
Powell called former Alaska governor Sarah Palin a "fascinating figure… you have got to hand it to her."
He repeated his assessment that the former Republican vice presidential candidate had not been ready for the Oval Office last fall, but said she was worth watching.
"Apparently, she is going to re-enter public life…. We will have to see what her plans are," he said Tuesday. "I do not know if she is doing all of this for political purposes or just to start a new life in the wonderful world of speaking. And we will all be watching with great interest."
Powell, who has previously been critical of Rush Limbaugh, reiterated his opinion that members of his party ought to do the same. "The problem I'm having with the [Republican] party right now is that when he says something that I consider to be completely outrageous and I respond to it, I would like to see other members of the party do likewise, but the don't," he said.
When asked if he thinks Republicans are afraid to take on Limbaugh, Powell pointed out that several prominent Republicans have criticized Limbaugh but that "within 24 hours they were backing away because there is a strong base of support for Mr. Limbaugh."
The full interview will air Tuesday night at 9 p.m. EDT on Larry King Live.
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