Powell: Obama has lost ‘some of his ability to connect’

Holly Bailey

Retired Gen. Colin Powell, a moderate Republican who endorsed President Obama in 2008, said he believes the president has lost "some of his ability to connect" with the American people by taking on too many problems at once instead of focusing solely on the economy and jobs.

"The president… has to, I think, shift the way he has been doing things," Powell told NBC's "Meet the Press." "There are so many rocks in our knapsack now that we're having trouble carrying it." Obama, he said, has to, "like a razor blade," focus on the single most-important issue facing the country: the nation's rising unemployment rate.

At the same time, Powell cautioned Obama's critics to "think carefully" about their attacks on the president, advising Republicans to stick to criticism of Obama's policies rather than peddling conspiracies about his religion and birthplace. "This is not helpful," Powell said. "If you want to attack the president, attack him. Let's not go down low… Let's attack him on policy, not nonsense."

Asked if he's still a Republican, Powell said he was, but admitted, as he has previously, that he's not comfortable with the "right wing shift of the party." Asked about the tea party movement, Powell, who served as George W. Bush's Secretary of State, said he believed it's a "good thing" for conservatives to be fired up but he questioned the movement's ability to transform from a movement to a governing force.

"This movement doesn't become a real force until it starts to talk to the issues," he said. "You can't just have a slogan and catchy phases."

The tea party, he said, has to have an agenda that Americans can "see, touch, and actually believe in."

(Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)