Skip to main content

Powell: 'No interest' in more government service

By the CNN Wire Staff
Click to play
Colin Powell on politics, war and future
  • Colin Powell responds to suggestion he be named White House chief of staff
  • "I haven't been asked, and I don't expect to be asked," he says
  • He calls midterm election results "a body blow" for President Obama

(CNN) -- Former Secretary of State Colin Powell said Monday that he has "no interest" in government service in response to a recently televised suggestion by Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell that President Obama name Powell as White House chief of staff.

"I haven't been asked, and I don't expect to be asked," Powell told CNN's "Larry King Live" in an interview set to air Monday night. "... I don't expect to be asked because I've had 40 years of government service ... I have no interest in government service."

Instead, the retired Army general suggested Rendell would be a better pick.

"He's been running around throwing my name around," Powell said. "This is the first chance I've had to suggest that Ed Rendell is an accomplished politician, accomplished governor, mayor of a great city. I think he'd be a terrific chief of staff."

Pete Rouse has been serving as interim White House chief of staff since Rahm Emanuel exited the post October 1 to run for mayor of Chicago, Illinois. An increasing number of senior Democrats inside and outside the White House say it's looking more likely that Rouse will stay on.

Powell, who served as secretary of state from 2001 to 2005 under President George W. Bush, also reflected on the results of this month's midterm elections, calling them "more than a shellacking" against Obama.

"The American people are losing some focus on President Obama, what he's trying to do," he said. "And when you look at the election results, as he said, I mean he got shellacked. But I think it was more than a shellacking, I think it was a real body blow that he now has to reflect on and figure out how to come back."

Powell also addressed the controversial waterboarding interrogation technique that gained a level of infamy during the Bush administration, saying he wouldn't support the practice now.

"The president of the United States, who has a responsibility to protect the American citizens, felt that, in that circumstance, waterboarding was appropriate, and as he clearly said, approved it and takes responsibility for the approval of it," Powell said. "I think subsequently, as you kind of go down the years and take a look at what has happened over the years, I think it could now be called torture."

Powell noted that the FBI and other intelligence agencies have downplayed the quality of information the technique elicits, saying authorities can get better tips "through more vigorous and professional interrogation."

"But the president of the United States is the one that is responsible for our safety and at that time the one thing we were most concerned about is to make sure we get everything we need to prevent another 9/11 attack," he said.

Bush recently took responsibility for the go-ahead for waterboarding terror suspects in his memoir "Decision Points," released earlier this month.