POWELL: I think the president correctly said the other day that he'd been monitoring and following it and essentially been on top of it from the beginning, but that impression was not conveyed to the American people, and the comprehensive speech he gave the other day, I think he would have been better served and the nation would have been better served if he'd given it a few weeks earlier.
But I think the federal government now is fully engaged, and it's become more than a problem of just stopping an oil spill. It's an environmental problem, an economic problem, the welfare of the people in -- in the gulf region, and how do we get it all cleaned up and how is it affecting people?
So it's more than BP and a hole in the -- in the ocean floor. It is a major problem that can only be dealt with by the federal government and all the resources of the federal government. And that's what the president is now doing.
TAPPER: Some are calling for the military to take charge of the whole operation. In fact, Senator Bill Nelson of Florida said it should be put in the hands of a solid figure, like a retired General Colin Powell. I assume you don't want that job, but do you think the military can do a better job than is being done right now?
POWELL: It depends on what you want them to do. The military brings organization, it brings control, it brings assets. Whether it's the right combination of assets that you need right now, I don't know, but certainly I'm sure my colleagues in the Pentagon are looking at it, and what you want is somebody who is in the military now, not somebody who used to be in the military, somebody who is controlling troops now.
What we would do in -- in my time, we would assign it to one of our Army commanders. The Second Army would go in on Hurricane Andrew and -- and take charge of things. But whether that's the right combination of assets, now, I'll have to leave others to decide.
You've first got to figure out, what do we need? Do we need people to clean beaches? Do we need people to put out skimmers? We have lots of fishermen and others down there who are available who want the work and know the water a lot better than an Army unit coming in.
But whether it's Army, Coast Guard, local forces, it is time for a comprehensive, total attack on this problem, to protect the shoreline, to protect the livestock, to protect the wetlands, but most of all to give the people in that part of our country a sense of hope that this is going to be solved.
Sooner or later, they will stop the leak. And after that comes the problem of cleaning up. And after that comes the problem of, OK, this safety system didn't work. What do we need in the future if another safety system doesn't work? What kind of standby capacity do we have to have to deal with this kind of problem if we are going to do more drilling offshore?
TAPPER: I want to move on to some of the other items in the news. Obviously, big news in the last few days with the House of Representatives voting to allow President Obama, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs, and the secretary of defense to repeal "don't ask/don't tell," the ban on gays and lesbians serving openly in the military, if those three figures decide that it's appropriate.
Here you are in 1993 testifying in favor of this ban.
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