In a radio interview on Friday, President Barack Obama responded to remarks by former New Hampshire governor John Sununu, a top adviser to GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney, who suggested former Secretary of State Colin Powell endorsed him because of his race.
"I'll let General Powell's statements stand for themselves," Obama told Michael Smerconish, the Philadelphia-based radio host. "He spoke about the fact that my foreign policy during a very difficult time had been steady and strong. He talked about, with respect to our economy, that we had helped to rescue America from a potential Great Depression and that we were moving in the right direction. I don't think that there are many people in America who would question General Powell's credibility, his patriotism, his willingness to tell it straight, and so any suggestion that General Powell would make such a profound statement in such an important election based on anything but what he thought was what's going to be best for America doesn't make much sense."
Obama did not appear eager to engage in a debate about the role of race in political discourse, or was content to let Sununu's comments stand. Newark, N.J. mayor Cory Booker, an Obama surrogate, however, seemed less reluctant to address the issue in an appearance on CNN's "Starting Point" Friday morning.
"Whether (Sununu) meant it or not, it was a statement that is unfortunate and just reflects a lack of understanding and sensitivity. He's got himself in a jam, and he's going to wear that jam for awhile," Booker said
"But the one thing I don't like about our political culture is we take one person's comments, stupid or not, and then we just try to spread it out and lay over everything. Mitt Romney didn't say this, you know, so it's for me just a dumb comment. It's unfortunately something that's worth talking about because we still in America--" he said before being cut off by Soledad O'Brien.
"This is days before this election," he continued later. "Really, I hope what Americans are is not the dumb racially-tinged comments of an individual. There's too much at stake. There are larger issues. What are the plans and platform of candidates? Let's make decisions on that."
Powell, a Republican, endorsed Obama's reelection on Thursday morning, having endorsed him previously in 2008. Sununu appeared on CNN Thursday evening and suggested that his endorsement had to do in part with the fact that both are African-Americans.
"Well, I think when you have somebody of your own race that you're proud of being president of the United States, I applaud Colin for standing with him," Sununu said. He later issued a statement that he did "not doubt that it was based on anything but his support of the president's policies," but didn't apologize for his initial statement.