Condi Rice Confirmation Hearing in Progress

Senator Barbara Boxer must have really been irked to find her name left off the nominee’s opening remarks.

In them, Rice thanked only the senior California senator, Dianne Feinstein, whom she has “admired as a leader on behalf of our state and our nation.” That gesture, along with other conciliatory statements through the first part of the question-and-answer session, was an attempt to make the confirmation as easy as possible.

But Boxer had other ideas in mind. She blasted the administration’s case for war and outlined the NSA’s role in presenting it. Taken aback by various suggestions that she suspended professional judgment to advance a political agenda, Rice quickly replied that she would be more than happy to continue discussing Iraq — without the senator impugning her integrity. She then explained the administration’s position, and back-and-forth banter ensued.

I’ll post the transcript when it’s available. From what I saw, Rice did as good a job as any in defending the war. And her character-assassination response — whether accurate or not — was a strong move, casting Boxer as overly aggressive while demonstrating both composure and toughness under fire. The latter point likely helped her show the American public that she’s cut out for diplomacy. In that regard, Boxer may want to think about whether she miscalculated.

Update: The Los Angeles Times provides an excerpt of the exchange. Upon closer examination, I think that Boxer raises legitimate questions about accountability, as the following statement notes:

As the nominee for secretary of State, you must answer to the American people, and you are doing that now through this confirmation process. And I continue to stand in awe of our founders, who understood that ultimately those of us in the highest positions of our government must be held accountable to the people we serve.

To her credit, Rice addresses Boxer’s concerns:

The fact is that we did face a very difficult intelligence challenge in trying to understand what Saddam Hussein had in terms of weapons of mass destruction. We knew something about him. We knew that he had — we had gone to war with him twice in the past, in 1991 and in 1998.

We knew that he continued to shoot at American aircraft in the no-fly zone as we tried to enforce the resolutions of U.N. Security — that the U.N. Security Council had passed. We knew that he continued to threaten his neighbors. We knew that he was an implacable enemy of the United States who did cavort with terrorists.

We knew that he was the world’s most dangerous man in the world’s most dangerous region. And we knew that in terms of weapons of mass destruction, he had sought them before, tried to build them before, that he had an undetected biological weapons program that we didn’t learn of until 1995, that he was closer to a nuclear weapon in 1991 than anybody thought. And we knew, most importantly, that he had used weapons of mass destruction.

That was the context that frankly made us awfully suspicious when he refused to account for his weapons-of-mass-destruction programs despite repeated Security Council resolutions and despite the fact that he was given one last chance to comply with Resolution 1441.

Now, there were lots of data points about his weapons-of-mass- destruction programs. Some were right and some were not. But what

was right was that there was an unbreakable link between Saddam Hussein and weapons of mass destruction. That is something that Charlie Duelfer, in his report of the Iraq survey group, has made very clear, that Saddam Hussein intended to continue his weapons-of-mass- destruction activities, that he had laboratories that were run by his security services. I could go on and on.

But Senator Boxer, we went to war not because of aluminum tubes. We went to war because this was the threat of weapons of mass destruction in the hands of a man against whom we had gone to war before, who threatened his neighbors, who threatened our interests, who was one of the world’s most brutal dictators. And it was high time to get rid of him, and I’m glad that we’re rid of him.

You may disagree with this account, but you’d be hard-pressed to say that she was evasive.

But, while Boxer asks some legitimate questions, it’s pretty clear that she does some grandstanding. On the one hand, she tells Rice that “you no doubt will be confirmed — that’s at least what we think,” which is more or less an extension of an olive branch. On the other hand, she rips right into the administration and attempts to place blame on the NSA. Rice pushes right back. She tries to wobble Boxer’s posture by pulling the integrity card. Given the high political stakes, it’s warranted.

FILED UNDER: General, Iraq War, National Security
Robert Garcia Tagorda
About Robert Garcia Tagorda
Robert blogged prolifically at OTB from November 2004 to August 2005, when career demands took him in a different direction. He graduated summa cum laude from Claremont McKenna College with a Bachelor of Arts in Philosophy, Politics, and Economics and earned his Master in Public Policy from Harvard's Kennedy School of Government.

Comments

  1. Just Me says:

    I only saw a small portion of the hearings, since I had to get my son from kindergarten. I did get to hear Kerry’s remarks (don’t really remember there being much of a question in there). The Kerry remarks was almost his stump speech from the election, and I thought “oh my, he has forgotten he lost the election and is still running for president.” I didn’t get to see him actually ask her anything, but it gave me a chuckle.

    Up to that point, she seemed to be holding her own pretty well, but the senators asking questions weren’t too hard on her either, when I was watching up until Kerry started his campaign speech.

  2. Walter E. Wallis says:

    Boxer should be held to answer for the fact that she and her North Bay lady political associates came to power on an anti-military platform that among other things drove most of California’s military bases away. Barbara HATED the military and did everything in her power to criple them.

  3. Zed says:

    wasn’t it Feinstein who included Rice in her book on “great women leaders”

    back stabbing scratching ?

  4. Bachbone says:

    My California friends tell me they think there should be fewer Boxers and more briefs.

  5. bryan says:

    Actually, I heard part of Finestein’s intro on NPR, and it was a pretty class introduction. Boxer, on the other hand, was clearly being an ass. If you’re going to say someone lied, don’t say they “lost respect for the truth.” I’m sure that drove Rice up the wall, being called a liar by a California grape nut grandstander using flowery terms.

  6. You Said It, LTC Ryan
    Boxer really doesn’t understand a damn thing, but luckily Rice is able to defend her integrity with nothing more than the truth. Go see Outside the Beltway for more about this.

  7. ken says:

    The Bush admininistration, from the president on down, lied about WMD. Look folks, the truth about the matter is that Iraq did not have any WMD, you know that now as well as anyone. Iraq was not a danger to the United States.

    Without any truth to charge that Iraq had WMD there could not be any evidence to back up this claim. What Rice and Bush and the other creeps did was take false claims about WMD and present them as if they were true. This is just repeating a lie. They knew, as we all did, that there was no evidence for such claims, so they used one false claim after another as evidence for other false claims. Rice was right in the middle of this. She turned her back on the truth in order to sell a policy.

    Sadly, while the entire world plus half of America, knew the truth, the American press and politicians were bullied into not publicaly repudiating the Bush lies. And conservatives? Well they just swallowed the bs without blinking an eye. That is how well trained they are.

  8. anjin-san says:

    Boxer does tend to grandstand, and she is not one of the brighter minds in the Senate. Rice was in the thick of the lies to America and the world that led us into the Iraq disaster.

    Which is worse?

    I dislike Boxer, and my experience with her goes back to when she was my county supervisor in Marin and before. On the other hand. someone has to hold Rice accountable for her actions, since in the Bush admin the only thing you are held accountable for is your blind loyalty.

  9. bryan says:

    Must we go back over the WMD issue?

  10. Steve Talbert says:

    It seems we have to keep going over the WMD issue. There were none, there never seemed to be any, there never seemed to be the risk of any… in Iraq. Only half the people in the US seem to understand that. (I guess that half was not home schooled in creation science or intelligent design)

    They can kill as many people as they want, but there won’t be any found. Bush and Cheney can say the same things over and over, but that won’t make them true.

    The real threat was and continues to be in Afganistan.

  11. anjin-san says:

    Bryan,

    Cities across America face budget cuts because of the expense of the Iraq war. Health care for seniors declines. Education declines (no child left behind is massivly underfunded) Our infrastructure (which is crucial to homeland security) crumbles. Brave Americans die in Iraq almost every day.

    Yes, we must go back over the WMD issue.

  12. Cybrludite says:

    Awfully clever of W. to have gotten President Clinton in on the WMD conspiracy waaay back while Smirky McChimpler was still Governor of Texas. There’s a world of difference between being wrong & lying. For example, if you are unaware that:

    Iraqi nuclear researchers hid their notes & buried a prototype centerfuge for weapons grade plutonium refinement

    and that:

    Stocks of chemicals used in nerve gas production were found stockpiled in Iraq after our invasion in quantities far too large for the sundry civilian uses for those chemicals.

    And that:

    Saddam had a long history of using chemical weapons against the Iranians & the Kurds.

    And that:

    After the 1991 Gulf War we discovered that instead of being years away from being able to build nukes, Saddam had been only months away and that mainly due to a lack of suitable fissile materials.

    And that:

    Even after the 1991 Gulf War, we’d overlooked his bioweapons program until his son-in-laws defected & spilled the beans.

    then you’d be wrong for saying that “There were none, there never seemed to be any, there never seemed to be the risk of any… in Iraq.” If you were aware of these facts and them made such a statement, then you would be lying.