Colin Powell on CNN:You can't balance budget by cutting NPR

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And when it comes to Afghanistan, Powell said he wouldn't pretend to be a soothsayer and predict how this quagmire will ultimately be resolved, saying he's not even certain the "surge" there has really worked.





CROWLEY: Let me ask you about a couple of hot spots, primarily Afghanistan. We are six months from when the president says he wants to begin withdrawing U.S. troops from there, from what we see -- and we're not over there and I'm sure you know a great deal about it, it does not look as though there's been so much change that we can begin to bring home troops in June.


CROWLEY: Do you see that date as being a time for a major withdrawal, or do you think there will be a symbolic withdrawal?


POWELL: I can't answer that. And I don't think anyone can. I think the president and his advisers and his commanders, General Petraeus and others, will have to make a judgment in June or July as to...


CROWLEY: Is it heading in that direction, do you think?


POWELL: I really can't answer that. I think that one year of surge has produced rather inconclusive results. There is no question that when you put an American infantry battalion somewhere or a Marine battalion somewhere, it's going to get quieter. And they are going to destroy some of the enemy and some of the enemy is going to slip away and hide and come back later.


So I'm confident we can do that. But unless you back-fill with a functioning government that's non-corrupt, that is competent, and that will give the citizens in that area confidence in their security and confidence in their government, then it will slide backwards.


And so I cannot yet tell whether or not the surge is successful. There are some elements that suggest success and some elements where I think there has been back-sliding. So I'm not sure where we're going to be in July. But the president is committed to have a review at that time. And based on the circumstances, have some level of withdrawal. I just don't though what that level will be, and I don't think anyone knows yet.





Powell also said there was no truth to any rumor that he would replace Robert Gates as Secretary of Defense.  Joe Klein in Time magazine speculates that Hillary Clinton might want the job, but advocates that she stay at State.

Former Secretary of State Colin Powell still carries some gravitas, and he definitely shifted some independent and Republican minds when he endorsed Barack Obama in 2008 for President.

But  Powell says he's not willing to commit to doing so again for 2012, giving him the ability to basically become a respected political pundit who occasionally opines on one of the Sunday morning public affairs programs, as he did yesterday, where he was the lead guest by CNN's Candy Crowley on her show State of the Union. Powell was asked about Congressional Republicans talking tough about cutting spending, which Powell  has previously spoken critically about.  The Retired General told Crowley that despite what some Republicans say, defense should absolutely be on the proverbial chopping block table:

CROWLEY: Where would you with specificity say, look, we don't need a bigger military and we cut there.

POWELL: Yeah. I think we have to look at everything, both domestic and our international accounts. As we draw down from Iraq and as over the next several years as we draw down from Afghanistan, I see no reason why the military shouldn't be looked at.

When the Cold War ended 20 years ago, when I was chairman and Mr. Cheney was secretary of Defense, we cut the defense budget by 25 percent. And we reduced the force by 500,000 active duty soldiers, so it can be done. Now, how fast you can do it and what you have to cut out remains to be seen, but I don't think the defense budget can be made, you know, sacrosanct and it can't be touched.

But the real money in the entitlements, it's Social Security and Medicare and Medicaid. And unless we do something about those, you can't balance the budget. You can't fix the deficit or the national debt by killing NPR or National Endowment for the Humanities or the Arts. Nice political chatter, but that doesn't do it. And I'm very put off when people just say let's go back and freeze to the level two years ago.

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

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