Historic Senate Debate Invokes Constitution vs. Bush Dictatorship
On Jan. 26, 13 Senators (12 Democrats and one Independent) voted against the confirmation of Condoleezza Rice as Secretary of Statethe most votes against a Secretary of State nominee in 180 years. The vote followed nine hours of an debate that began one day earlier, on Jan. 25. EIR provides here selections of the Senators' statements in that historic debate from the Congressional Recorda debate which has been all but covered up by the U.S. media.
Senator Edward Kennedy, Democrat of Massachusetts
I intend to oppose Condoleezza Rice's nomination. There is no doubt that Dr. Rice has impressive credentials. Her life story is very moving, and she has extensive experience in foreign policy. In general, I believe the President should be able to choose his Cabinet officials, but this nomination is different because of the war in Iraq.
Dr. Rice was a key member of the national security team that developed and justified the rationale for war, and it has been a catastrophic failure, a continuing quagmire. In these circumstances, she should not be promoted to Secretary of State. There is a critical question about accountability. Dr. Rice was a principal architect and advocate of the decision to go to war in Iraq at a time when our mission in Afghanistan was not complete and Osama bin Laden was a continuing threat because of our failure to track him down. In the Armed Services Committee before the war, generals advised against the rush to war, but Dr. Rice and others in the administration pressed forward anyway despite the clear warnings.
Dr. Rice was the first in the administration to invoke the terrifying image of a nuclear holocaust to justify the need to go to war in Iraq.... In fact, as we now know, there was significant disagreement in the intelligence community that Iraq had a nuclear weapons program, but Dr. Rice spoke instead about a consensus in the intelligence community that the infamous aluminum tubes were for the development of nuclear weapons....
America is in deep trouble in Iraq today because of our misguided policy, and the quagmire is very real. Nearly 1,400 of our finest men and women in uniform have been killed and more than 10,000 have been wounded. We now know that Saddam had no nuclear weapons, had no weapons of mass destruction of any kind, and that the war has not made America safer from the threat of al-Qaida. Instead, as the National Intelligence Council recently stated, the war has made Iraq a breeding ground for terrorism that previously did not exist.
...Before we can repair our broken policy, the administration needs to admit it is broken. Yet in two days of confirmation hearings, Dr. Rice categorically defended the President's decision to invade Iraq, saying the strategic decision to overthrow Saddam Hussein was the right one. She defended the President's decision to ignore the advice of Gen. Eric Shinseki, the Army Chief of Staff, who thought that a large number of troops would be necessary if we went to war. She said: "I do believe that the plan and forces that we went in with were appropriate to the task."
She refused to disavow the shameful acts of torture that have undermined America's credibility in Iraq and the world. When Senator Dodd asked her whether in her personal view, as a matter of basic humanity, the interrogation techniques amounted to torture, she said: "I'm not going to speak to any specific interrogation techniques ..... The determination of whether interrogation techniques are consistent with our international obligations and American law are made by the Justice Department. I don't want to comment on any specific interrogation techniques." This is after Senator Dodd asked about water-boarding and other interrogation techniques....
Yet, as Secretary of State, Dr. Rice will be the chief human rights official for our Government....
The stakes are very high and the challenge is vast. Dr. Rice's failed record on Iraq makes her unqualified for promotion to Secretary of State, and I urge the Senate to oppose her nomination.
Senator Mark Dayton, Democrat of Minnesota
...I rise today to oppose the nomination of National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice for Secretary of State. I do so because she misled me about the situation in Iraq before and after the congressional resolution in October of 2002 authorizing that war, a resolution that I opposed. She misled other Members of Congress about the situation in Iraq, Members who have said they would have opposed that resolution if they had been told the truth, and she misled the people of Minnesota and Americans everywhere about the situation in Iraq before and after that war began.
It is a war in which 1,372 American soldiers have lost their lives, and over 10,000 have been woundedmany of them maimed for life....
I read in today's Washington Post that the Army is planning to keep its current troop strength in Iraq at 120,000 for at least two more years. I did not learn that information as a Member of Congress. I did not learn it as a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee where I regularly attend public hearings, classified meetings, and top secret briefings. I did not learn it from the U.S. military command in Iraq with whom I met in Baghdad last month....
I also learned of official reports documenting horrible abuses of prisoners, innocent civilians as well as enemy combatants, at numerous locations in countries besides the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, which directly contradicts assurances we have been given repeatedly by administration officials in the Senate Armed Services Committee....
I might as well skip all the Senate Armed Services Committee hearings and meetings and top secret briefings and just read the papers....
Sadly, the attitude of too many of my colleagues across the aisle is: Our President, regardless whether he is wrong, wrong, or wrong, they defend him, they protect him, and they allow his top administration officials to get away with lying. Lying to Congress, lying to our committees, and lying to the American people. It is wrong. It is immoral. It is un-American. And it has to stop.
This Congress, this Senate must demand that it stop now....
Senator Carl Levin, Democrat of Michigan
I approach this issue as the ranking member of the Armed Services Committee and as a member of the Intelligence Committee. Both committees have devoted a great deal of time over the last two years to issues concerning Iraq, including the Intelligence Committee inquiry into prewar intelligence. These inquiries indicated major problems with the intelligence on Iraq and how it was exaggerated or misused to make the case to the American people of the need to initiate an attack against Iraq. Dr. Rice is a major player in that efforta frequent and highly visible public voice.
Dr. Rice is not directly responsible for the intelligence failures prior to the Iraq war. The intelligence community's many failures are catalogued in the 500-page report of the Senate Intelligence Committee. But Dr. Rice is responsible for her own distortions and exaggerations of the intelligence which was provided to her.
Here are a few of those exaggerations and distortions. [Elaborates repeated false claims by Administration about Iraq seeking uranium from Africa]
What was the role of Dr. Rice in all of this? I asked her in my questions for the record whether she was aware the intelligence community had doubts about the credibility of the reports, and if not, how she could not know, given all of the activity prior to the President's October 7  Cincinnati speech, including the memo to her.
In response, Dr. Rice said, "I do not recall reading or receiving the CIA memo," and "I do not recall Intelligence Community concerns about the credibility of reports about Iraq's attempts to obtain uranium from Africa either at the time of the Cincinnati speech or the State of the Union speech."
Frankly, I am surprised and disappointed that the National Security Adviser would not remember an issue of this magnitude. However, it was not only the President who made that allegation, Dr. Rice made it herself in an op-ed in the New York Times on January 23, 2003, five days before the State of the Union speech, and three and-a-half 1/2 months after the same allegation had been removed from the Cincinnati speech at the CIA's request. She wrote that Iraq's declaration to the U.N. "fails to account for or explain Iraq's efforts to get uranium from abroad."
Dr. Rice again engaged in revisionist history about the Iraq military campaign during her nomination hearings before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on January 18, 2005. Dr. Rice claimed: "This was never going to be easy; it was always going to have ups and downs." Dr. Rice's statement is striking, not because of its substance, but because of how it stands in contrast to what the administration was telling Congress and the American people in the months before the invasion of Iraq....
Voting to confirm Dr. Rice as Secretary of State would be a stamp of approval for her participation in the distortions and exaggerations of intelligence that the administration used before it initiated the war in Iraq, and the hubris which led to the administration's inexcusable failure to plan and prepare for the aftermath of the overthrow of Saddam Hussein, with tragic ongoing consequences.
[Levin appended eight items of documentation to his testimony.]
Senator Evan Bayh, Democrat Of Indiana
I rise to express my opposition to the nomination of Condoleezza Rice and her proposed promotion to that of the position of Secretary of State...
The list of errors is lengthy and profound, and, unfortunately, many could have been avoided if Dr. Rice and others had only listened to the counsel offered from both sides of the aisle. From the beginning of this undertaking, we have had inadequate troop strength to accomplish the mission.... The advice to have greater troop strength was not partisan. Our colleagues, Senator McCain, Senator Hagel, and others, virtually pleaded with the administration to provide for greater security through troop strength on the ground. Those pleas fell on deaf ears.
We have never had a realistic plan for the aftermath of this conflict. The State Department made plans. They were disregarded. The CIA warned of the potential for a growing insurgency. Their concerns were dismissed. Senator Lugar held hearings that were prescient in this regard, pointing out the importance of planning for the aftermath and the inadequacy of the preparation for the aftermath before the war. The results of those hearings were ignored. This is no ordinary incompetence. Men and women are dying as a result of these mistakes. Accountability must be had. We dismissed the Iraqi Army....
Likewise, we disqualified all former Baathists from serving even in lower levels of the bureaucracy in that country. They could have helped us run the nation. They could have helped us to reassure the Sunni community that we wanted to reincorporate them in the future of Iraq. Instead, many of them are fighting us today in Iraq as well.
All of these mistakes have substantially undermined our prospects for success, and tragically so. The chaos that has arisen from the lack of security and stability has fed this insurgency.
... I could not help but recall the words of a member of the Iraqi Electoral Commission, a Turkoman from Kirkuk, who finally looked at me in Baghdad and said: Senator, you do not understand. For too many of my people, when they hear the word "democracy," they think violence, they think disorder, they think death and economic disintegration.
It does not get much sadder than that. It is heartbreaking that the sacrifices that have been made, the idealism of our troops, America's prospects for success in Iraq, our very standing in the world, have too often been undercut by ineptitude at the highest levels of our own Government.
Senator Robert Byrd, Democrat of West Virginia
Mr. President, in Federalist No. 77, Alexander Hamilton wrote: "It will readily be comprehended, that a man who had himself the sole disposition of offices, would be governed much more by his private inclinations and interests, than when he was bound to submit the propriety of his choice to the discussion and determination of a different and independent body, and that body an entire branch of the legislature. The possibility of rejection would be a strong motive to care in proposing."
Although Hamilton explains the importance of the role of the Senate in the appointment of officers of the United States, neither he nor the Constitution is specific about what criteria Senators must use to judge the qualifications of a nominee. The Constitution only requires that the Senate give its advice and consent. It is therefore left to Senators to use their own judgment in considering their vote. The factors involved in such judgments may vary among Senators, among nominees, and may even change in response to the needs of the times.
The position of Secretary of State is among the most important offices for which the Constitution requires the advice and the consent of the Senate. It is the Secretary of State who sits at the right hand of the President during meetings of the President's Cabinet. The Secretary of State is all the more important today, considering the enormous diplomatic challenges our country will face in the next four years....
I have stood in the Senate more times than I can count to defend the prerogatives of this institution and the separate but equal with emphasis on the word "equal"powers of the three branches of Government.
A unique power of the legislative branch is the Senate's role in providing advice and consent on the matter of nominations. That power is not vested in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, it is not vested in any other committee, nor does it repose in a handful of Senate leaders. It is not a function of pomp and circumstance, and it was never intended by the Framers to be used to burnish the image of a President on Inauguration Day. Yet that is exactly what Senators were being pressured to do last week, to acquiesce mutely to the nomination of one of the most important members on the President's Cabinet without the slightest hiccup of debate or the smallest inconvenience of a rollcall vote....
I have carefully considered Dr. Rice's record as National Security Adviser in the two months that have passed since the President announced her nomination to be Secretary of State, and that record, I am afraid, is one of intimateintimate involvement in a number of administration foreign policies which I strongly oppose. These policies have fostered enormous opposition, both at home and abroad, to the White House's view of America's place in the world.
That view of America is one which encourages our Nation to flex its muscles without being bound by any calls for restraint. The most forceful explanation of this idea can be found in the "National Security Strategy of the United States," a report which was issued by the White House in September 2002. Under this strategy, the President lays claim to an expansive power to use our military to strike other nations first, even if we have not been threatened or provoked to do so.
There is no question, of course, that the President of the United States has the inherent authority to repel attacks against our country, but this National Security Strategy is unconstitutional on its face. It takes the checks and balances established in the Constitution that limit the President's ability to use our military at his pleasure and throws them out the window. This doctrine of preemptive strikes places the sole decision of war and peace in the hands of a Presidentone man or womanand undermines the constitutional power of Congress to declare war. The Founding Fathers required that such an important issue of war be debated by the elected representatives of the people, the people out there, in the legislative branch precisely, because no single man could be trusted with such an awesome power as bringing a nation to war by his decision alone. And yet that is exactly what the National Security Strategy proposes. Not only does this pernicious doctrine of preemptive war contradict the Constitution, it barely acknowledges the Constitution's existence. The National Security Strategy makes only one passing reference, one small passing reference, to the Constitution. It states that "America's constitution"that is "constitution" with a small "c""has served us well"as if the Constitution does not still serve this country well. One might ask if that reference to the Constitution is intended to be a compliment or an obituary.
As National Security Adviser, Dr. Rice was in charge of developing the National Security Strategy. She also spoke out forcefully in favor of the dangerous doctrine of preemptive war....
And what has been the effect of the first use of this reckless doctrine of preemptive war? In a most ironic and deadly twist, the false situation described by the administration before the war, namely, that Iraq was a training ground for terrorists poised to attack the United States, is exactly the situation that our war in Iraq has created.
But it was this unjustified war that created the situation that the President claimed he was trying to prevent. Violent extremists have flooded into Iraq from all corners of the world. Iraqis have taken up arms themselves to fight against the continuing U.S. occupation of their country....
Before Senators cast their votes, we must wonder whether we are casting our lot for more diplomacy or more belligerence, reconciliation, or more confrontation. Which face of this Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde foreign policy will be revealed in the next four years?
....To confirm Dr. Rice to be the next Secretary of State is to say to the American people and to the world that the answers to those questions are no longer important. Her confirmation will almost certainly be viewed as another endorsement of the administration's unconstitutional doctrine of preemptive strikes, its bullying policies of unilateralism, and its callous rejection of our longstanding allies.
Senator Barbara Boxer, Democrat of California
I come to the Senate today to report and in form my colleagues on the Secretary of State confirmation hearings held in the Foreign Relations Committee last week.
By now, everyone knows I posed some very direct questions to Dr. Rice about her statements leading up to the Iraqi war and beyond. As National Security Adviser, Dr. Rice gave confidential advice to the President regarding the war in Iraq. She also made the case for the war in Iraq to the American people through hours of television appearances and commentary.
My questions, every one of them, revolved around her own words. As a result of my questions and comments at the hearing, I have been hailed as both a hero and a petty person. I have been called both courageous and partisan. I have been very surprised at this response. Tens of thousands of people signed a petition asking me to hold Dr. Rice accountable for her past statements. The reason I am so surprised at this reaction is that I believe I am doing my job.... I am on the Foreign Relations Committee. This is a very high profile nominee. This is a Secretary of State nomination in a time of war. My constituents want me to be thorough. They want me to exercise the appropriate role of a Senator.
Let's look for a moment at what that role is, how it was defined by our Founding Fathers. Article II, section 2, clause 2, of the Constitution, which I have sworn to uphold, says "The President: shall nominate, and by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, shall appoint Ambassadors, other public Ministers and Consuls, Judges of the Supreme Court, and all other officers of the United States, whose appointments are not herein otherwise provided for." The Cabinet is covered in Article II, section 2, clause 2, of the U.S. Constitution.
Now, if you read this, it does not say anywhere in here that the President shall nominate and the Senate shall confirm. It says the President "shall nominate, and by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate" shall make the appointments. Why is it our Founders believed it was crucial for the Senate to play such a strong role in the selection of these very important and powerful members of the administration and members of the bench? It is because our Founders believed that the executive branch must never be too powerful or too overbearing. In Federalist No. 76, Alexander Hamilton wrote: "It will readily be comprehended that a man who had himself the sole disposition of offices would be governed much more by his private inclinations and interests than when he was bound to submit the propriety of his choice to the discussion and determination of a different and independent body."...
In today's vernacular, any President needs a check and balance. That certainly applies today, and it would apply to a Democratic President as much as to a Republican President. Our Founders are clear, and the Constitution is clear. Again, it does not say anywhere in the Constitution that a President, Democratic or Republican, has free rein in the selection of his or her Cabinet. That is exactly what the Founders did not want....
It also doesn't say anywhere in the Constitution that the only reason for a Senator to vote no on a Presidential nominee is because of some personal or legal impediment of that nominee. It leaves the door open. Senators have to ponder each and every one of these nominations....
Let me be clear. I will never be deterredand I know my colleagues feel the same, I believe, on both sides of the aisle I will never be deterred from doing a job the Constitution requires of me, or it would be wrong to have taken the oath and raise my right hand to God and swear to uphold the Constitution if I did not take this role seriously.
I make a special comment to the White House Chief of Staff, who called Members of the Senate "petty" for seeking time to speak out on this particular nomination. It is important to know that the White House Chief of Staff does a great job for the President, but he does not run the Senate. I know he finds the constitutional requirement of advice and consent perhaps a nuisance, and others have as well in the White House, be they Republicans or Democrats. It is the system of government we have inherited from our Founders. As we go around the world, hoping to bring freedom and liberty to people, we better make sure we get it right here.
This is very important, whether it is fair and free elections that really work so people do not stand in line for 10 hours and wait until 4 in the morning to vote, that we fix that, and that we, in fact, act as a check and balance in these nominations.
I have been motivated by a lot of people in my life. One of them is Martin Luther King. I wish to share something he said which is not as widely quoted as other things. He said that our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter. That is important for everyone to take to heart. Sometimes it is easier to be silent, to just go along, even if in your heart you know there are certain issues that have to be put out on the table. But the fact is, our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.
Why does this nomination matter so much to me and to my constituents and to the tens of thousands who signed a petition that they sent to me? It is because we are looking at a Secretary of State nomination in a time of war, someone who is very loyal to this President. And, of course, the President picked someone loyal to him. I do not fault him for that in any way, shape, or form. But what matters is this war....
[long elaboration of Boxer's questions and Rice's evasions during committee hearings the previous week.]
At this time I am judging her on her answers to these questions. She dodged so many of them and again resorted to half the story and even got herself in deeper water in some of her responses. So I cannot support this nomination.
Senator Richard Durbin, Democrat of Illinois
...I will tell you that I am also troubled. I am troubled because I followed closely the exchange between Dr. Rice and Senator Boxer during the confirmation hearing before the Foreign Relations Committee. The reason I followed this closely was not only because it was important and it related to the issue of torture but because it involved an amendment which I had drafted. As every American I have met, I was shocked by the information and photographs that came out of Abu Ghraib; troubled by reports from Guantanamo.
As a result, I joined in a bipartisan effort in both the Department of Defense authorization bill, as well as later in the intelligence reform bill, to put a clear restatement of American law to a vote, that the United States is prohibited from engaging in torture, or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment. It is important to restate this principle and value so there would be no questions asked as to whether the United States had deviated from the legal standard which we had held for over 50 yearsa standard first embodied in the Geneva Conventions and then in the Convention on Torture, and in other places in our laws. My anti-torture amendment passed in the Senate, went to conference on the Department of Defense authorization bill, but it was changed slightly from a prohibition to a statement of policy. I didn't care much for the change, but I accepted it because I thought it still preserved the basic goal, which was to restate our country's policy against torture. The part that did not change was my amendment's requirement that the Department of Defense report regularly on any violations of this policy against torture. That was what happened in the Department of Defense bill.
Then came the intelligence reform bill, and I felt it was important that we try again to restate our law of prohibition against torture. It was equally important that the reporting requirements for violations apply not only to the military agencies as we did in the Defense bill, but also apply to the variety of different intelligence agencies covered by the intelligence bill.
I tried with both bipartisan amendments to cover the circumstances of those who would take into detention someone during the course of war in Iraq or Afghanistan or some other place.
This amendment passed and it was sent to conference. I followed the conference closely as a Senate conferee and a member of the Governmental Affairs Committee.
I was surprised and disappointed to learn as I went to conference that a message had come down from the White Housespecifically from Dr. Rice and OMB Director Joshua Bolten- -which said they objected to my amendment which condemned torture by any American, including members of the American intelligence community.
I couldn't believe itthey first accepted the underlying policy goals and the reporting requirements of this same amendment for the Department of Defense, and now they were making an exception when it came to intelligence agencies.
I have to tell you that I am very troubled by that. When Senator Boxer asked repeated questions of Dr. Rice on the issue, she received conflicting answers. So I returned to the same question this morning. I asked Dr. Rice point blank: Why did you object to that amendment? She said incorrectly: We had already taken care of that. Your Department of Defense amendment took care of intelligence agencies.
That is not the case. The Department of Defense amendment which I offered, which she should have read and apparently did not read, had reporting requirements for the Department of Defense but not for the intelligence agencies. My intelligence reform bill amendment would have extended these requirements for the intelligence agencies.
I am disappointed by that. It is not just another amendment being offered on the floor....
Secretary-designate Rice steps into her position at a critical juncture. Well over 1,300 American soldiers, marines, sailors, and airmen have died in Iraq. Nearly 150,000 are still over there.
Mr. President, 70,000 people have died in Darfur. Thousands more are still at risk every day. In South Africa, one in three adults are HIV positive. In Botswana the numbers are even higher. Over a billion people live on less than a dollar a day. A billion people in the world cannot write their own names or read a single sentence. We simply cannot afford to get this wrong. We cannot afford to repeat mistakes or to fall short in our commitments. These are matters of profound moral obligation and deepest national security and interest.
Senator Jack Reed, Democrat of Rhode Island
I must confess, after careful deliberation I intend to oppose this nomination....
One of the aspects that is troubling to me is the fact that Dr. Rice has maintained that Iraq is the central arena in the war on terror, when, in fact, this is a global, international threat to the United States and that, in fact, it appears that Iraq was not the global center, the central arena in this war on terror. She applied a doctrine of preemption which is applicable to terrorist cells, but I believe she applied it incorrectly in the case of Iraqat least the administration did, and she was the principal architect or one of the principal architects of that policy....
The President, in my view, is basically replicating his inner circle now in the broader context of the Cabinet. This raises an issue that was identified by John Prados, a senior fellow at the National Security Archive at George Washington University. What he said is: The administration is setting itself up for a very closed process of creating foreign policy. It's going to eliminate consideration of wider points of view.
In effect, we are in danger of creating an echo chamber of foreign policy in which one loud voice carries because it reverberates without check. That, I think, would be a very dangerous situation.