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Congressman Rohrabacher defends Colin Powell

Feb 12, 2004

Inside Politics
The Washington Times

February 12, 2004
By Greg Pierce

Powell fires back

Members of the president's Cabinet — even those who are admired by Democrats — have begun to intensify their defense of President Bush's National Guard service during the Vietnam War.

Secretary of State Colin L. Powell took sharp exception yesterday when, during a budget hearing before the House International Relations Committee, Rep. Sherrod Brown, Ohio Democrat, mentioned in passing that Mr. Bush "may have been AWOL."

"First of all, Mr. Brown, I will not dignify your comments about the president, because you don't know what you're talking about," said Mr. Powell, in a sharp break from his normally controlled demeanor.

When Mr. Brown protested that he had only said Mr. Bush "may" have avoided service, Mr. Powell replied, "Let's just not go there."

"If you want to have a political fight on this controversial matter, which the White House is dealing with, fine," Mr. Powell said. "But let's not go there here."

Later in his reply to Mr. Brown, a still-heated Mr. Powell directly admonished a Democratic staffer standing behind the congressman who had been shaking his head as Mr. Powell spoke. "I seldom come to a meeting where I am talking to a congressman and I have people aligned behind you giving editorial comment by head shakes," Mr. Powell said.

Mr. Brown said he could not recall a committee witness reprimanding a staff member, but Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, California Republican, countered that "the secretary is owed an apology for that, not reprimand."