Retired Gen. Colin Powell yesterday urged Vice President Gore not to play "the polarizing race card" by condoning inflammatory remarks by Gore campaign manager Donna Brazile.

In an interview with Bloomberg.com, Brazile criticized Republicans for what she said is a shabby record on issues of concern to minorities.

"Al Gore and Bill Clinton have worked hard for the last seven years to improve the lives of African Americans and Hispanics," she said. "On the other hand, the Republicans bring out Colin Powell and [Rep.] J.C. Watts [R-Okla.] because they have no program, no policy. They play that game because they have no other game. They have no love and no joy. They'd rather take pictures with black children than feed them."

Saying he was offended by the remarks, Powell told Gore that playing the race card "immediately contaminates and destroys the opportunity for open debate on issues of importance to all children."

He also noted that his extensive volunteer work is done to "help feed, educate and spiritually nourish all of America's children, black and white, and not just for a photo op."

In a letter to Gore, Watts urged him to discipline his campaign manager.

Brazile, the first African American woman to run a major party presidential campaign, said she was speaking broadly about the GOP and meant no offense to Powell or Watts.

A Dreary Poll for Democrats

Whether it's Al Gore or Bill Bradley, the Democratic presidential nominee should defeat George W. Bush--as long as the Democrats can paint him as a coldhearted Republican who doesn't care about education, Social Security or equal rights.

That's the silver lining for Democrats in an otherwise dreary poll released yesterday by Emily's List, which supports Democratic female candidates backing abortion rights.

The survey of female voters, conducted by Celinda Lake and Geoff Garin, found that Bush holds comfortable leads over both Democratic contenders. Particularly alarming for Democrats are the numbers on values.

"Women still give Republicans a whopping 17-point advantage on moral values," Lake said, noting that Democratic candidates score low on issues related to personal responsibility, ethics and honesty.

But, Garin said, "as women learn more about George Bush, there is more and more potential for them to peel away and move to Democratic candidates." He said the reason for Bush's early support--especially among women--is that he is still largely unknown nationally and has been "running a campaign designed to be less scary to women voters with his emphasis on compassion."

McCain Dislikes Attack Ad--Sort Of

Arizona Sen. John McCain's campaign can't decide whether it hates or loves an ad campaign running in New Hampshire. Sponsored by Americans for Tax Reform--a "front organization" for conservative strategist Grover Norquist, former senator Warren Rudman (R-N.H.) charged yesterday--the ads allege that McCain's campaign finance reform proposals would emasculate the Republican Party, while leaving Democratic labor union money to flow unchecked. Last month, Norquist's group ran a similar ad.

In the new spot, President Clinton's face is transformed into McCain's.

Rudman, who is McCain's national campaign chairman, blasted Norquist as "a registered foreign agent" at a news conference in Manchester, N.H., and he demanded that the ad stop. With even more passion, he insisted that Norquist reveal where the $50,000 is coming from to pay for the assault. "Is it tobacco money? Is it people in the health care industry?" Rudman asked. "Are they worried that McCain is getting traction up here?"

Claiming that Norquist is a supporter of George W. Bush, Rudman called on the Bush campaign to join his denunciation. Norquist denied he is a Bush supporter and refused to release his list of donors.

At other moments during the day, however, both Rudman and McCain said they actually sort of like the ad. "In a way it helps," the candidate said as his bus rumbled along. "I can say, 'Look how scared they are of me! Look what a threat I am to the special interests.' In a way, I wish they'd keep it up."

Staff writer David Von Drehle in Manchester contributed to this report.