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Colin Powell on “Meet The Press:” “I will be voting for Barack Obama.”

With 16 days to go before the general election, Ret. Gen. Colin Powell threw his support behind Sen. Barack Obama, praising the candidate’s “intellectual vigor” and calling him “a transformational figure.”

The endorsement came on NBC’s “Meet The Press” in a 20-minute one-on-one with interim host Tom Brokaw.

Powell, who served in three Republican administrations, said, “It isn’t easy for me to disappoint Sen. McCain,” for whom he has “the highest respect and regard.” However, he cited his disappointment in the McCain campaign’s strategy of robocalls that attempt to link Obama to terrorist activities, saying the tactic is “inappropriate” and “goes too far.”

Powell also said that he believed that Gov. Sarah Palin was “not prepared to be vice president” and suggested an overall unhappiness with the Republican Party, saying it “has moved even further to the right.   

“The new president will have to fix our reputation in the world,” Powell said. “We have got to stop polarizing.”

Powell had particular distaste for Republican’s “name-calling” attempts to attack Obama as a Muslim. This particularly hit home, he said, when he saw a photo essay about the Iraq War that included a photo of a woman visiting the grave of 20-year-old American son, a decorated veteran whose headstone featured the star-and-crescent symbol of the Muslim faith.

— Posted by Dana Harris