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Senate Democrats speak out against Rice, war
by Lawrence M. O'Rourke
McClatchy Newspapers


January 26, 2005

Washington - A small group of Senate Democrats said Tuesday they would vote against President Bush's nomination of Condoleezza Rice as secretary of state as a sign of their dissatisfaction with the Iraq war.

Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, D-Mass., said that Rice, as Bush's first-term national security adviser, had given Congress and the country "false reasons" for going to war through her argument that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction and posed an imminent threat to U.S. security.

Had Rice not advocated going to war, Kennedy said, "it might have changed the course of history."

Under a Senate agreement, Democratic opponents were guaranteed several hours to lambaste Rice. But her confirmation as secretary of state appears certain, with the Senate scheduled to vote Wednesday morning.

Rice would replace Colin Powell as the nation's chief diplomat.

Sen. Robert Byrd, D-W.Va., said Rice was responsible for "some of the most overblown rhetoric that the administration used to scare the American people into believing that there was an imminent threat from Iraq."

Rice, however, drew strong support from two Democratic senators, Joe Lieberman of Connecticut and Dianne Feinstein of California.

Lieberman said that Rice has the president's "trust and confidence" as the United States is "at war with Islamic terrorism."

Feinstein said that Rice "should not be blamed for wrong and bad" intelligence that influenced the administration in deciding to go to war and convinced 78 senators to vote in favor of military action.

Rice is a "remarkable woman," said Feinstein, asserting that "she can be a strong and effective voice" for the United States as it addresses a host of world problems, including the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

But a number of Democrats assailed Rice as they described Bush's Iraq policy as failed and without a positive outcome in sight.

Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., accused Rice of arguing that Saddam Hussein was trying to secure uranium for a nuclear bomb even as she concealed a dissenting perspective from the CIA.

All the Republicans who spoke on the Senate floor supported Rice, signaling that she will get a solid vote of support from the Senate majority.

Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., said that while the administration made mistakes in waging the Iraq war, the upcoming election in Iraq should be seen as evidence that a positive outcome remains possible.

Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., hailed Rice's personal history as a black woman who emerged from a racially segregated community in Alabama to the highest echelon of American government and world diplomacy.

Along the way, Rice served as provost at Stanford University before becoming Bush's foreign policy adviser.

But Boxer said that Rice had given public arguments for going to war against Iraq that were inconsistent with the facts as she knew them.

Boxer levied the same charges last week when Rice appeared before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Rice responded that Boxer was impugning her integrity.

Most of the Democratic senators who declared their opposition to Rice on Tuesday made clear in advance that they would speak against her, even though they knew they could not block her confirmation.

However, Sen. Evan Bayh of Indiana, one of the more conservative Senate Democrats and generally a supporter of the administration's conduct of the Iraq war, spoke out against Rice, asserting that "those in charge must be held accountable for mistakes." Mistakes were made, acknowledged Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchinson, R-Texas, but it would be wrong to go over them at this point.

"Condoleezza Rice is the most qualified person for the job," Hutchinson said.


Distributed by Scripps Howard News Service.

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