What Is Barbara Boxer Talking About?

I’ve already discussed the Rice hearing below, but I think that the following issue deserves its own post.

Before Senator Boxer criticized the Iraq War, she lectured the nominee (emphasis added):

Transcript: Confirmation Hearing of Condoleeza Rice (NYT)

And if you’re going to become the voice of diplomacy, this is just a helpful point. When Senator Voinovich mentioned the issue of tsunami relief, you said — your first words were The tsunami was a wonderful opportunity for us. Now, the tsunami was one of the worst tragedies of our lifetime, one of the worst, and it’s going to have a 10-year impact on rebuilding that area. I was very disappointed in your statement. I think you blew the opportunity. You mentioned it as part of one sentence. And I would hope to work with you on this, because children are suffering; we’re worried they’re going to get in the sex trade. This thing is a disaster — a true natural disaster and a human disaster of great proportions. And I hope that the State Department will take a huge lead under your leadership in helping those folks in the long range.

I might be overlooking something here, but I sure can’t find the statement to which Boxer referred. Here’s the Voinovich exchange in full (emphasis added):

LUGAR: Thank you very much, Senator Feingold. Senator Voinovich?

VOINOVICH: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. First of all, I’d like to publicly thank Secretary Powell and Secretary Armitage for the outstanding — and their team for the outstanding job that they’ve done for this country during the last four years. I’d like to thank you, also, for being willing to come before us to seek confirmation as secretary of state of the United States of America. I couldn’t help but think, as I have heard my colleagues ask questions here today, the enormous responsibilities that you’re taking on in terms of the world. There’s no country in the world where a foreign minister is being asked questions about the whole world. And you’re being asked questions about the whole world. And what are you going to do? And I’d like to share with my colleagues that one of the things that we all ought to be concerned about is whether or not the new secretary of state is going to have the budget and the human capital that she is going to need to get the job done.

VOINOVICH: Are we going to prioritize, in terms of this nation, the money necessary so that many of the questions that have been asked here at this table about, What are you going to do about this, and what are you going to be doing about that? are going to be — we’re going to be able to do something about it, and at the same time, maybe look at our own tax policy, and give consideration to what Senator Sarbanes has been talking about, the trade deficit that’s looming and the account deficit.

And I’m very happy to hear that Bob Zoellick is interested in coming over, because Bob’s got tremendous background in the area of trade, which I think is essential to almost everything that you’ll be doing.

I was glad also, in your testimony you said that, More than ever, America’s diplomats will need to be active in spreading democracy, fighting terror, reducing poverty and doing our part to protect the American homeland. I will personally work to ensure that America’s diplomats have the tools they need to do their jobs, from training to budgets to mentoring to embassy security.

We expect you to come here before this committee and give us what you think you need to get the job done. And I think it’s your job to advocate to the administration about what it is you need to get the job done. We’ve got to be real.

You’ve dealt with a lot of the major issues that are on everyone’s mind. But I think you know I have a particular interest in Southeast Europe, where I spent probably more time than any member of the Foreign Relations Committee. And we’ve made some progress there.

We’ve gotten rid of Milosevic. We’ve gotten rid of Tudjman. Stjepan Mesic just got reelected president of Croatia. Slovenia has joined NATO and the E.U. And there’s some real progress being made.

But I am very concerned about what’s going on in Serbia- Montenegro today. I’m very concerned about what’s happening in Kosovo. Because I really believe that, unless things are stabilized in Serbia-Montenegro and we stabilize things in Kosovo, that we could very well have another crisis on your hands this year, particularly because we’re discussing the final status of Kosovo, what’s going to be happening there.

I’d like to say that Mark Grossman has done a good job. I’d like to know, where is that on your priority list? And are you familiar with it? And what do you — you know, we’ve got our NATO forces over there.

RICE: And so I think we have to have a new, renewed effort on that piece of it, getting our message out. We also have to have a new, renewed effort on getting our people back and forth. Because people, when they come to the United States and see who we are and can get past some of the filter of perhaps some of the sides of America that are not well-liked or respected, I think do come away with a different view of us. And so I will have a strong emphasis on getting our message out, on getting the truth to people, on diminishing the — on doing something to mitigate against the propaganda that’s out there against us, but also on going to our long-time partners and friends, and saying, We have a common purpose here, a great cause ahead of us. And the trans-Atlantic alliance, you know, sometimes it’s a little bit like whatever it was that Mark Twain said about Wagner’s music. I think he said it’s better than it sounds. Well, in fact, our trans-Atlantic alliances are really better than people give us credit for. We’re cooperating in a lot of places. We’re working hard together in a lot of places. We’ve had a lot of successes. But we can do more in this period of tremendous opportunity to unify the great democracies, the great alliances for a push to spread freedom and liberty. I think it’s an agenda that is inspiring. And I think we’ve done a lot already, but there is much more that we can do.

VOINOVICH: Thank you.

LUGAR: Thank you very much, Senator Voinovich. Senator Boxer?

Contrary to Boxer, Voinovich never brought up the tsunami. Indeed, he devoted his question to Southeast Europe, and Rice’s discussion of the “tremendous opportunity” related to democracy promotion and trans-Atlantic ties.

I scanned the transcript for every reference to “tsunami,” “disaster,” “Asia,” “India,” and “opportunity.” I found nothing incriminating. The only time that Rice opened her statement by invoking “opportunity” was here (emphasis added):

RICE: We all believe, and most especially the president, that we have a really good opportunity here, given the election of a new Palestinian leader, and given the Israeli Gaza withdrawal plan, which is linked to the West Bank through the four settlements that would be dismantled in the West Bank as well. We think this is a moment of opportunity. That means that there is going to have to be engagement at all levels. I expect, myself, to spend an enormous amount of effort on this activity. I can’t substitute for the parties and their willingness to take on their responsibilities, and that’s the message that we have to keep sending. We’ve had to note that how hard this road is going to be was in evidence during this last few days. And we’ve pressed very hard for the Palestinians to take on terrorism because we’re not going to get very far if there is terrorism from the Palestinian militants. But you can be sure that we will have very active engagement because we think this is a time of responsibility. I think I need to, for the time being, demure on the question of a special envoy. No one has objections in principle to the idea of an envoy, but it is a question of whether that is appropriate to a particular point in time in the process that we’re involved in.

The only time that Rice mentioned “tsunami” was here (emphasis added):

RICE: Yet when judging a course of action, I will never forget that the true measure of its worth is its effectiveness. Our second great task is to strengthen the community of democracy so that all free nations are equal to the work before us. Free peoples everywhere are heartened by the success of democracy around the globe. Together, we must build on that success. We face many challenges. In some parts of the world, an extremist view threatens the very existence of political liberty. Disease and poverty have the potential to destabilize whole nations and whole regions. Corruption can sap the foundations of democracy. And some elected leaders have taken illiberal steps that if not corrected could undermine hard-won progress for democracy. We must do all that we can to ensure that nations which make the hard choices and do the hard work to join the free world deliver on the high hopes of those citizens for better lives. From the Philippines to Colombia to the nations of Africa, we are strengthening counterterrorism cooperation with nations that have a will to fight terror, but need help with the means. We’re spending billions to fight AIDS and tuberculosis and malaria and other diseases, to alleviate suffering for millions and help end public health crises. America has always been generous in helping countries recover from natural disasters and today we are providing money and personnel to ease the suffering of the millions afflicted by the tsunami and to help rebuild those nations’ infrastructure. We are joining with developing nations to fight corruption, instill the rule of law and create a culture of transparency. In much of Latin America and Africa, we face the twin challenges of helping to bolster democratic change while alleviating poverty and hopelessness. We will work with reformers in those regions who are committed to the increasing opportunity for their peoples and we will insist that leaders who are elected democratically have an obligation to govern democratically. Our third great task is to spread democracy and freedom throughout the world. I spoke earlier of the grave setbacks to democracy in the first half of the 20th century. The second half of the century saw an advance of democracy that was far more dramatic.

Again, there didn’t seem to be anything about the natural disaster worth blasting.

Perhaps the transcript is off; we should always keep this possibility in mind, since transcribers are imperfect. Perhaps I’m missing an important part: if you find Boxer’s reference, please inform me, and I’ll post an update.

But if there is, in fact, no such statement, then I can understand why Rice said: “I would hope that we can have this conversation and discuss what happened before and what went on before and what I said, without impugning my credibility or my integrity.”

Update: Commenter Bill K provides a link to this Agence France Presse dispatch, which quotes Rice:

Tsunami Relief Provided “Wonderful Opportunity” for US: Rice

“I do agree that the tsunami was a wonderful opportunity to show not just the US government, but the heart of the American people, and I think it has paid great dividends for us,” she said.

Scripps Howard News Service has the same quotation.

But, as of 7:12 p.m. eastern, it’s nowhere in the FDCH e-Media transcript used by the NYT. Both the NYT [RSS] and the Washington Post stories mention the Boxer exchange, though they have nothing on the tsunami statement.

At this point, I’m as confused as you probably are. My inclination is to side with the transcript, since it’s attempted to capture the entire hearing in full — not simply pick quotations — but, again, it could be wrong.

Update: Like the NYT and WaPo, the LA Times covers the Boxer exchange but has nothing on the tsunami. The AP’s collection of quotations doesn’t have it, either, though it isn’t meant to be exhaustive.

Final Update: See the comments below for articles that have the quotation. As of 1:15 a.m. eastern, January 19, the transcript still doesn’t have it. I’m resigned to confusion.

FILED UNDER: Africa, Congress, Democracy, Terrorism, Uncategorized, World Politics, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
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.


  1. Bill K says:

    This article quotes Rice as saying: “I do agree that the tsunami was a wonderful opportunity to show not just the US government, but the heart of the American people, and I think it has paid great dividends for us”

  2. McGehee says:

    How much more credible is ChannelNewsAsia than the Senate’s own transcript?

  3. Bill K says:

    Not making a judgement on credibility, just that someone heard it.

  4. lt bell says:

    as the Bush Lie grows so do the lies of his minions

  5. McGehee says:

    Well Bill, then your comment was really useful, wasn’t it?

  6. Attila Girl says:

    I heard the Tsunami exchange played today on the radio, and remember it as being exactly as you quote it. But the person questioning Dr. Rice also used the word “wonderful” to describe the circumstances of our response to the tsunami, and in that context it’s perfectly clear that Dr. Rice was alluding to our response, rather than to the disaster itself.

  7. Bill K says:

    Here is an AP one that mentions it at the end.

  8. Davod says:

    I did hear Dr. Rice make this comment. It was in response to someone who implied the same thing. Taken out of context it seems a terrible thing to say.

    Dr. Rice needs to remember that everything she says will be taken out of context.

  9. Paul says:

    Robert, I stayed up half the night Tivoing/watching the cspan replay. THEY CUT VOINOVICH! I was a tad annoyed.

    I have Boxer on the tivo but no Voinovich. Sorry. Cspan does have a web stream if you want to sit thru it. I have no idea if he is on it.

    Paul from Wizbangblog

  10. lt bell says:

    Well McGehee-
    rice is spinning-
    to spin the truth into something else-
    is to lie
    the ever important context and semantic argument you make is
    irrelavant in the face of that is’ent it?
    useful to those more interested in the truth than the game being played by the conservative/religionist party

  11. LJD says:

    …Useful to those more interested in the game being played by the hysterical/moonbat party than the truth.

  12. lt bell says:

    Excellent point LJD ( and moobat ! thats a good one as well)
    very useful.

    This is the problem with Rice’s statements – she is in that same fantasy world of spin that bush lives in-
    with a back door draft instead of a real one people like you ,
    your children, rice ,bush,and even cheny, will never know the truth.
    I defy you or anyone else to show me the difference /or evidence thereof/ that what is called terrorism in Irag is not simple patriotism – we invaded their country and they want to force us out of it. Calling the lie spin? It’s still a lie

  13. Red Five says:

    lt bell, most of the terrorsts fighting in Iraq right now ARE NOT native Iraqis; they are from Syria, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, even Jordan. The Iraqi people, by-and-large, appreciate that we are there trying to knock out these terrorist freaks, though they are eager to be left alone as soon as possible. If you actually READ about the current terrorism leader, Zarqawi, you would find that he is not from Iraq, but from Jordan!

    This “insurgency” is not by any stretch a kind of Revolutionary War or patriotism, and the US is not the British, rather quite the opposite. Iraq has its freedom now, thanks to the US, and Zarqawi is trying to take it away again. For the first time ever, Iraq will have truly free elections, and this jack-off is trying to return to a Taliban style of rule!

    There is no back-door draft. There will not be a “front-door” draft. There have never been plans by Bush or Rumsfeld to reinstitute the draft. The legislation that could have reopened it was written and sponsored by 2 Democrats, with signatures from up to 14 other Democrats (no Republicans here!). The Republicans forced a vote on the legislation so that it would not be hanging over the elections like a dark cloud, and it was soundly defeated; even the Democrats who wrote it voted against it!

    Iraq may not have had direct ties to the 9/11 attacks, but they had proven links to al-Qaeda, and WMDs were not the only or even primary reason for going to war. And oil wasn’t ever mentioned once (BTW, if it’s “war for oil”, why the hell am I paying so much for gasoline?!?). We knew Saddam had WMDs (he killed hundreds of thousands of his own people with them and was trying to get more), and he certainly had plenty of time to shipp them out to Syria in the 14 months we dicked around with diplomats and the UN.

    This “insurgent patriotism” crap is full of lies and deceit, and should go back into the sewage-filled cespool from whence it came.

  14. Gumbi Dammit says:

    Why is it
    always write
    like fourth graders on lythium
    crafting haikus?

  15. Hal says:

    Hmmm. Every authoritative source says that the number of foreigners are very small in number compared to the number of native Iraqis in in the insurgency. So, Red Five, unless you have some mystical knowledge you should share with us, your statement is completely innacurate.

    This is not to say that the insurgency are patriots. Just that your refutation of this assertion is, itself, pure bullshit according to our millitary’s own estimates of the make up of the insurgency.

  16. Marcus says:

    I’m going to address Lt Bell first and then my thoughts on Dr. Rice.

    Bell: I really hope that the Lt is your initials and not military rank. If you are in the military, it sure doesn’t show through the way you write or think. If you are not military and those are not your initials, you really shouldn’t be using a military rank abbreviation. Not only are you impersonating an officer, you reflect horribly upon the armed forces.

    Now about Dr. Rice. I have yet to see a good transcript that had the tsunami exchange. The most reliable source to see and hear what was actually said would be video tape of the exchange, but as Paul said, it was cut from CSPAN. Any one look at the webcast?

  17. TomB says:

    Marcus, CSPAN does have all 3 1/2 hours of testimony, and I actually sat down earlier to watch, but I only lasted 5 minutes before I started to get nauseous and felt suicidal.

  18. Red Five says:

    Hal, what authoritative sources are you referring to? Many reports I’ve heard or read indicate (with some possible inferrence on my part) that there is a smaller percentage of Iraqi terrorists compared to external agitators, like Zarqawi. If it’s CBS, NBC, ABC, or CNN, then I’m gonna have to call BS on your “authoritative sources”. Otherwise, I’ll grant that the reports I’ve read may have been exaggerating things somewhat.

  19. Alec Rawls says:

    There is nothing wrong with valuing the goodwill that might be generated by our goodwill in delivering tsunami aid, however impolitic it may be to say so. In trying to cast American goodwill in a bad light, Boxer is just being her usual anti-American self.

  20. McGehee says:

    Red Five, having learned our lesson the hard way with Ken, we ignore “lt bell.”

  21. tiby5 says:

    See the update on this blog:

    VOINOVICH: … I think what we’re doing in the tsunami right now is wonderful. I think it’s — but we have got to show people that we love them, that we are for democracy, that we want them to enjoy the same thing but we haven’t any hidden motives. What are you planning on doing in that area to respond to that?

    RICE: Senator, first of all, I do agree that the tsunami was a wonderful opportunity to show not just the U.S. government, but the heart of the American people. And I think it has paid great dividends for us.

  22. leelu says:

    …perhaps our junior senatah is confusing Ms. Rice’s use of the phrase ‘tremendous opportunity’ in the hearing with the quote about tsunami relief.

    Flip a coin – Alzheimers or senility.

    Or too much time spent drinking with Teddy.

  23. I have included the URL . It is an audio archive file from KPFA, of the Pacifica Foundation. Pacifica’s reporters broadcast the entire morning portion of the hearings. Because we truly serve the public interest, we broadcast and archive with no commercials and no censorship of any side. You can browse the special broadcasts in the past at http://www.kpfa.org/archives and see that this is so. We broadcast the senatorial challenge session to certification of the elections, and while our station is left-dominated, they did not censor the comments by various Republican senators as to “sour grapes”, the “Michael Moore Wing”, or the allegation that an ACORN member registered 25 times in Ohio.

    With that said, the above URL is a Realaudio file of the part of the hearing which contains the exchange between Voinovich and Rice. I have noted the times in the file to make it more convenient.

    Voinovich begins at 22:50 in the file. I will note, though a less important point, that the transcript you show above has Voinovich saying “from training to budgets to mentoring to embassy security”, when it seems to me he actually said “monitoring” in that sentence.

    But to the meat of the matter. Voinovich’s opening part did not end where this transcript ends it. At 26:13, He continued on the Balkans, speaking of 4000 refugees, 900 homes burned, the money invested for repair. Rice and Voinovich talked back and forth about this region for another few minutes, and also on the subject of anti-semitism and what money was to be allocated to the OSCE for monitoring of this.

    Here is the part you claim never happened:

    31:30 Voinovich: “I feel our best offense is intelligence, diplomacy…..”

    31:45 “…in England, and at the NATO meeting in Venice… I was just shocked at what I got back from our friends at how badly we’re thought of today in that part of the world. I just wonder what you are going to do to try to change that? I think what we’re doing in the tsunami is wonderful, but we have got to show people that we love ’em, that we are for democracy, that we want them to enjoy the same thing, that we don’t have any hidden motives. What do you plan to do in that area to respond to that?”

    32:31 – Rice: “Senator, first of all I do agree that the tsunami was a wonderful opportunity to show not just the U.S. government but the heart of the American people, and I think it has paid great dividends for us. Sometimes we’ve had to ask people to do very difficult things and we’ve had policies that some people don’t like….. support for Israel…”

    33:05 – “But we somehow have to get the message out that this is also the first president who has called as a matter of policy for a Palestinian state, and somehow we’re not getting that message out.”

    She talks of embassies and ambassadors.

    33:45 – “And so I think we have to have a new……”

    This is where the transcript above picks up, and Boxer is called at 35:20 in the file.

    So you can, a full 7.5 minutes out of a 12.5 minute exchange is missing from that transcript.

    Now you may continue by saying that Boxer is making too big of a deal with it, but the words were said, and everyone who listened to Pacifica Radio primary or affiliate stations on Tuesday morning heard them all quite plainly.

  24. Paul says:

    FYI Robert, thank to a commenter on Wizbang and a little common sense, I figured out how the whole thing went down.

    Long story short, C-Span did not show it and the NYT apparently transcribed CSPAN.


  25. TLR says:

    In December 1998, after Clinton launched four days of air strikes on Iraq’s suspected WMD targets, Boxer enthusiastically backed President Clinton’s decision to attack Iraq after he argued that Saddam Hussein was prepared to use chemical, biological and nuclear weapons against the world.

    “The president had no choice but to act today,” Boxer said in a statement issued by her office. “Anyone who questions the timing of his decision ignores the fact that we committed a month ago to act if [chief U.N. weapons inspector] Richard Butler reported that Saddam was not cooperating. These critics are blinded by political considerations.”

    Boxer was also quoted: “Iraq made commitments after the Gulf War to completely dismantle all weapons of mass destruction, and unfortunately, Iraq has not lived up to its agreement.”

    WHO is “blinded by political considerations” now and WHO has a problem stating “FALSEHOODS”?

    Barbara Boxer … you are NOT the “victim” here, the California voters are.