Senate Floor Debate on the Confirmation of Dr. Condoleezza Rice as Secretary of State

A speech given by Senator Barbara Boxer on January 26, 2005

I know that these votes usually go overwhelmingly for the nominee. I think the last time there was any vote against a nominee, i think the most votes were Kissinger: seven votes. So I know that what I'm doing is not about winning a vote. It's simply about telling the truth as I see it, and other members telling it as they see it. I think at the end of the day, when senators vote, some will be very enthusiastic about the nominee and feel very good about their vote. I think others will be a little anxious, and I sense with Senator Biden, he certainly has anxieties over it. But he is very hopeful, and knowing Joe Biden as I do, that definitely fits his character, because I think he gave Condoleezza Rice opportunity after opportunity after opportunity to set the record straight; to level with the committee

I quoted Senator Biden -- we weren't on the floor yesterday -- I sort of replayed your give-and-take with future Secretary Rice on the issue of how many troops were trained and you were literally begging her to please be candid with you. It's interesting because after that give-and-take which was
picked up by the news media, Ambassador Negroponte came into it and said, well, clearly there aren't 120,000, but there's more than 4,000. Well, you know, all this dancing around is not academic because, as Senator Biden clearly stated. And as we all know, our exit strategy in Iraq is based upon the ability of the Iraqis to defend themselves. Certainly -- and we all are working toward that day -- but you can't do it if you're not going to be honest about how it's going. And we can't help the administration if they don't level with us about how it is going.

Now, I found it very interesting -- and this has nothing to do with this particular nomination -- that the White House Chief of Staff called those of us who wanted to debate this "petty." I saw one clip of him saying that the two senators -- he didn't mention the names -- who were trying to get this nomination to the floor and have some time to talk about it were, quote, "small." And I don't think he was talking about my height. And that is showing to me such a disrespect to the American people, because as we go around the world trying to bring democracy -- and it's something we all want to do -- we may have different ways of going about it. But we want to do it. How do we stand tall, if you will, if we don't uphold our Constitution? And our founders believed it was crucial for the
Senate to play a strong role in the election of these very important and powerful positions. Well, thanks to Senators Lugar and Biden, we have done that. And I'm very glad.

Now, the reason I am going to be voting "no" is, I think, clear to anyone who's followed this debate. I asked Condoleezza Rice a series of questions on five different areas. I gave her every opportunity to correct the record. I asked her about her statements that the aluminum tubes Saddam was buying could only be used for nuclear weapons, and she talked about the mushroom cloud and frightened the American people at a time when we know she had the information that there was a very strong dispute going on in the intelligence community. And in fact -- in fact -- she had known in 2001 about this issue. She refused to budge.

I asked her about her continual statements that Al Qaeda and Saddam were, kind of like this, and they were close. It was not true at the time she made those comments. The State Department itself had put out a very important map -- this was one month after 9/11 -- saying that in fact there was no Al Qaeda whatsoever in Iraq. They were nowhere in Iraq. She refused to budge.

I would ask unanimous consent if I could have an additional four minutes.

[The presiding officer: Is there objection? Without objection.]

Thank you very much.

So, I asked Dr. Rice about my concerns in five areas. I don't fault the President for picking someone who believes in this war, who helped him in her position. That's not the issue. The issue has to do with the lack of candor that continues to come from Dr. Rice. The lack of candor.

As recently as a few months ago she wrote a memo which resulted in a very important amendment in the Intelligence Bill being stripped from that bill. A very important amendment. This was a bill by Senators McCain and Lieberman, and this provision -- written in part by Senator Durbin -- it was an anti-torture provision. She opposed it. She wrote that she opposed it. And guess what she did when I asked her about it? She denied that she opposed it, when she opposed it in writing. So I know there are other senators coming to the floor and saying that this argument doesn't hold because she actually just stated -- she made statements that came from faulty intelligence. If that were the case, I would have no problem with Dr. Rice because everybody knows there was faulty intelligence. But she continues to put out these misstatements. And, as a matter of fact, in front of the committee, if you listen closely, she muddies the waters even more.

So, I gave her the chance to clear it up and she didn't. And I think that's bad for the Senate. I think it's bad for the American people.

Now, Dr. King said -- and I often repeat -- "Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter." Well, I think this debate matters. I think responsibility matters. I think accountability matters. I think it matters when you give someone a chance to correct the record that is replete with half-truths and misstatements, and they don't take that opportunity.

Dr. Rice is a role model. She is smart. She is intelligent. She is qualified. She is loyal to this president. I don't question any of that. All of that makes everyone proud to see that. The fact of the matter is, it would have been very condescending and inappropriate to have someone as skilled as Dr. Rice before a committee -- someone as involved in setting the course of this war as Dr. Rice before the foreign relations committee -- and not ask her the kind of questions that we all did.

So I don't know whether we'll have two votes against this nominee or four or seven or eight. I really don't know because I haven't asked one colleague how they're going to vote. This isn't -- this hasn't been the point of what I have done. I have simply tried to say that holding people accountable is important, that this war matters, that we need to look at the mistakes of the past so we don't repeat them; so that we don't send our young people into another war based on hyped-up rhetoric and half-truths.

So, Mr. President, I thank my colleagues, all. I again say to my chairman how much I appreciate him, and I look forward to moving past this on to the other work of our committee and the other work of the Senate.

I thank you very much, Mr. President, and I yield the floor.