*** UPDATED AT 2 PM ET WITH POWELL'S INTERVIEW WITH NBC'S ANDREA MITCHELL ***
One of the GOP's foreign-policy heavyweights, Colin Powell, took Mitt Romney to task for calling Russia the United States' "No. 1 geopolitical foe."
“Come on, Mitt, think. That isn’t the case," Powell, the former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said on MSNBC's Morning Joe this morning.
Powell added, "He’s been catching a lot of heck from the more regular GOP foreign affairs community. We’re kind of taken aback by it. How can you--? Come on. Look at the world. There is no pure competitor to the United States of America.”
He also called some of Romney’s advisers “quite far to the right.”
Though he was tasked with making the case for war in Iraq before the United Nations, it's no secret that Powell, who was George W. Bush's secretary of state, is no fan of the Cheney-Rumsfeld neo-conservative foreign-policy wing of the Republican Party.
Powell, who is doing media interviews promoting his book, endorsed President Obama in 2008. While he has declined to say who he would vote for this time around, he gave a large measure of credit to President Obama yesterday on the Today show on domestic policy, crediting him with pulling the country back from the financial brink and rescuing the auto industry.
His only gripe with Obama was from the left -- that he failed to close the prison at Guantanamo Bay.
*** UPDATE *** On MSNBC's Andrea Mitchell Reports this afternoon, Powell warned Romney against hyperbole on foreign policy, from Russia to Iran.
“I think he needs to not just accept these cataclysmic pronouncements,” Powell said. “He needs to really think carefully about these [statements].”
Powell said Russia had the GDP of a mid-size European country and noted that Russia and China “need to have a good relationship with us.”
He added, “Let’s not go creating enemies where none need exist… let’s not hyperbolize the situation.”
Powell also advocated talking to Iran, played down the notion that Iran was close to developing a nuclear weapon, and suggested it was possible to allow Iran to produce nuclear power and stop them from going further to create a weapon.
“I don’t know what Mr. Romney would prefer to do” as it relates to Iran, Powell said, noting that there weren’t many alternatives to talking to them. Powell warned that there couldn’t be “lofty expectations” in talks with Iran and that it couldn’t be trusted, but stressed, “They’re totally isolated.”
Though he has largely said positive things about Obama on his book tour, Powell, who now makes money in private equity, defended the industry.
There’s “nothing evil about private equity,” he said. “They miss a lot of their bets. Sometimes they kill of companies that need to be killed off.”