Just Say No
Well, the Senate confirmed Condoleezza Rice as Secretary of State. No surprise there, the Senate is, after all, dominated by Republicans. We are told that we are supposed to be stunned at the historic level of opposition to confirming Ms. Rice, evidenced by the Senate's vote tally of 85 for and 13 against. I think we should be stunned that she received such an overwhelming level of support.
Perhaps I missed something, but isn't Ms. Rice one of those primarily responsible for landing us in this mess of a war in Iraq? Did she not loudly beat the drum to convince the Congress and the American people to support going to war in Iraq using facts that have since been shown to be utterly false? Wasn't Ms. Rice, in her role as National Security Advisor to the president, the person who failed take seriously the now infamous Presidential Daily Brief entitled "Bin Laden Determined To Attack Inside The United States", which preceeded the September 11th attacks by several months? Finally, shouldn't Ms Rice, as the person designated to read things to the president when too many big words are used in a briefing paper, have placed some emphasis on the title of that PDB or on the doubts expressed by the intelligence community regarding bin Laden's ties to Saddam or Saddam's possession of weapons of mass destruction (for example, by reading those parts to him slowly or loudly, or by using illustrations)?
If all of the above are true, then Ms. Rice should not have been confirmed to represent this nation as its Secretary of State. She should have been held accountable for her dismal job performance just as everyone else responsible for the debacle in Iraq has been: By awarding her the Medal of Freedom. Her many failures make her richly deserving of the ignominy of standing on the same stage with Paul Bremer and George Tenet and receiving what has become our national equivalent of the scarlet letter.
I am not, however, as irritated by Ms. Rice being confirmed as Secretary of State as I am by the fact that all but 13 of the Democrats in the Senate joined the Republicans in voting for her confirmation. Why? What has Ms. Rice done to deserve this massive vote of confidence from Democrats? It has been said that Democrats felt that they didn't want to be labeled as "obstructionists" and that presidents deserve some deference to their choices for cabinet positions. But, when called upon to vote on the confirmation of an individual who has misled you repeatedly and who has exhibited a history of incompetence in her previous position, it is not the time to obstruct a little bit? When the president sending this individual to you for confirmation has shown you none of the deference that customarily is shown to the Senate by the Chief Executive, should he not reap what he has sown?
As noted above, Ms. Rice's confirmation was a forgone conclusion given that the Republicans control the Senate. The Democrats could have taken a principled, indeed rational, stand and said, "Ms. Rice is not fit to be the Secretary of State of the United States in light of her dismal performance as National Security Advisor, especially as it relates to the war in Iraq. Were we to vote in favor of her confirmation, we would implicitly be voicing our approval of a war and a foreign policy with which we vehemently disagree. For that reason, we shall vote to oppose Ms. Rice's confirmation on principle, though we recognize that our opposition cannot prevent her from becoming President Bush's next Secretary of State".
Taking such a position would not have been mere petulance or obstructionism. It would have been the right thing to do. It would have shown that the Democratic Party stands for something. It would have shown that the Democrats are not just "Softer Republicans", but a party of clear and unwavering convictions.
Is that too much to ask?