On Voting Irregularities:
"For most of us in the House and in the Senate, we have spent our lives fighting for what we believe in, always fighting to make our Nation better. We may not agree from time to time, but we are always fighting to make our Nation better. We have fought for social justice. We have fought for economic justice. We have fought for environmental justice. We have fought for criminal justice. Now we must add a new fight: the fight for electoral justice.
Every citizen of this the greatest country in the world who is registered to vote should be guaranteed that their vote matters, that their vote is counted, and that in the voting booth in their community their vote has as much weight as any Senator, any Congressperson, any President, any Cabinet member, or any CEO of any Fortune 500 corporation. I am sure every one of my colleagues agrees with that statement, that in the voting booth everyone is equal. So now it seems to me that under our great Constitution of the United States of America, which we swear allegiance to uphold, which guarantees the right to vote, we must ask certain questions.
First, why did voters in Ohio wait hours in the rain to vote? Why were voters at Kenyan College, for example, made to wait in line until 4 a.m. to vote? It was because there were only 2 machines for 1,300 voters when they needed 13.
Why did voters in poor and predominantly African- American communities have disproportionately long waits?
Why in Franklin County did election officials use only 2,798 machines when they needed 5,000? Why did they hold back 68 machines in warehouses, 68 machines that were in working order? Why were 42 of those machines in predominantly African-American communities?
Why in the Columbus area alone did an estimated 5,000 to 10,000 voters leave polling places out of frustration without having voted? How many more never bothered to vote after they heard this because they had to take care of their families or they had a job or they were sick or their legs ached after waiting for hours?
Why is it when 638 people voted at a precinct in Franklin County, a voting machine awarded 4,258 extra votes to George Bush? Thankfully, they fixed it. Only 638 people had shown up, but George Bush got more than 4,000 votes. How could that happen?
Why did Franklin County officials reduce the number of electronic voting machines to downtown precincts while adding them in the suburbs? This also led to long lines.
In Cleveland, why were there thousands of provisional ballots disqualified when everyone knew that poll workers had given faulty instructions to the voters?
Because of this and voting irregularities in so many other places, I am joining today with Congresswoman Stephanie Tubbs Jones, a 10-year judge, an 8-year prosecutor, a 6-year Member of Congress, a woman inducted into the Women's Hall of Fame. Folks, she has great credibility, and she asked just one Senator to take a couple of hours. I hate inconveniencing my friends, but I believe it is worth a couple of hours to shine some light on these issues. We passed the Help America Vote Act, which was important to help American voters, but then we did nothing.
Senators Graham, Clinton, and I introduced a bill to ensure that a paper trail go along with electronic voting. We couldn't even get a hearing in the last Congress. In the House, it is the same problem. We need this kind of bill.
Let me simply say to my colleagues: I have great respect for all of you. But I think it is key, whether it is Republicans or Democrats, that we understand that the centerpiece of this country is democracy, and the centerpiece of democracy is ensuring the right to vote.
I ask you, my friends from both sides of the aisle, when we get busy working within the next few weeks, let us not turn away from the things that happened in Ohio. Our people are dying all over the world. A lot of them are from my State. For what reason? To bring democracy to the far corners of the globe. Let us fix it here, and let us do it the first thing out."
On Protecting America's Wilderness:
I am introducing a bill today that will protect hundreds of thousands of acres of wilderness in Northern California. The Northern California Coastal Wild Heritage Wilderness Act would designate over 300,000 acres in 14 areas as wilderness and would protect 21 miles of the Black Butte Creek as wild and scenic. The Senate passed this legislation during the 108th Congress, and I am hopeful this year that the bill will become law.
California's natural treasures have always been one of the things that make California unique, drawing millions of people to them over the years to revel in their wild beauty. But that beauty must not be taken for granted. It is important that we move now to designate these special places in California as wilderness to protect them for the enjoyment of future generations.
That is why I introduced the statewide California Wild Heritage Act during the 107th Congress and the 108th Congress, and I will soon be reintroducing it. The California Wild Heritage Act would protect more than 2.5 million acres of public land throughout the state of California, as well as the free-flowing portions of 23 rivers. Every acre of wild land is a treasure, but the areas protected in this bill are some of California's most precious.
I am pleased to join Representative Mike Thompson of California in introducing this legislation, which protect those portions of my statewide bill that are located in California's First Congressional District. The areas protected under this legislation are some of the most magnificent wild places in our state. For example, in southwestern Humboldt and northwestern Mendocino counties, over 42,000 acres of the King Range will be protected as wilderness. This is the wildest portion of the California coast, boasting the longest stretch of undeveloped coastline in the United States outside of Alaska.
This bill will protect watersheds that provide clean water to our cities and farms. This bill would also protect the precious plant and animal species that make their homes in these areas. Endangered and threatened species whose habitats will be protected by this bill include the bald eagle, California brown pelican, steelhead trout, coho salmon, bald eagle, peregrine falcon, northern spotted owl, and Roosevelt elk.
During the last 20 years, 675,000 acres of unprotected wilderness lost their wilderness character due to activities such as logging and mining. As our population increases, and California becomes home to almost 50 million people by the middle of the century, development pressures threaten our remaining wild places. We must protect our precious wild lands and wild rivers before they are lost forever.
Mr. President, those of us who live in the United States have a very special responsibility to protect our natural heritage. With this legislation, we are one step closer to protecting this legacy for our children's children, and their children.
On War, Torture, Evidence and Accountability:
I come to the Senate today to report and inform 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. It is as simple at that. 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 Federal 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. They wanted the President, and I will quote Alexander Hamilton again, to "submit the propriety of his choice to the discussion and determination of a different and independent body.'' And that body is the Senate.
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. It is very rare that I step forward to oppose one. I have opposed just a couple. I have approved hundreds.
Let me be clear. I will never be deterred--and 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. A very strong majority of Americans are worried about this war, and they are worried about what comes next.
So, yes, it matters, and it is our job to look at these nominees very seriously. I think it would be terribly condescending to have someone of the caliber of Dr. Rice, with all her intelligence and qualifications and her record of public service with this administration, and not ask the tough questions. That would be condescending. That would be wrong.
Now, I am so honored to serve on the Foreign Relations Committee with the Senator from Virginia, who just made a very eloquent talk. I know he would join me in saying that Richard Lugar is one of the fairest chairmen with whom we have ever served. He allowed members on both sides of the aisle to ask any questions they wanted. He supported our right to do so. To me, Richard Lugar is a model chairman. And I want to thank my colleagues on both sides of the aisle who asked very important questions of this nominee on everything from exit strategy in Iraq, to issues surrounding the torture question, to policies in Latin America, to tsunami relief. All of these colleagues from both sides of the aisle asked very important questions. As for me, I had five areas of questioning, and I want to lay them out briefly for the Senate.
Now, one more point as to why I believed it was so important to ask Dr. Rice these questions. I think everyone remembers when Dr. Rice went on television and talked about the mushroom cloud that we could get courtesy of Saddam Hussein--an evil tyrant, absolutely. In my opinion, as I said in the committee, he ought to rot. So let's not get confused on that point. I do not know any American who feels any differently. The question is, How many people had to die? That is an important question. How many people had to be wounded? That is an important question.
Let me tell you, 1,368 soldiers are dead, as of the latest numbers that we got this morning from the Department of Defense, and 10,502 wounded. My understanding is that about a third of them may well come home in tremendous need of mental health counseling to try to help them cope with the horrors they have seen, those brave, incredible soldiers. As I said in the committee, and I say it again on the floor of the Senate, not one of them died in vain. Not one of them got injured in vain because when your Commander in Chief sends you to fight in a war, it is the most noble of things to do that. And they have done that.
President Bush, in his inaugural address, talked about bringing freedom to countries that do not have it. He did not specify how. Now, the nongovernmental organization, Freedom House, estimates there are 49 countries in the world that are not free. The group believes there are another 54 countries that are considered only partly free. I worry about sending more troops on military missions based on hyped up rhetoric. That is why these questions are so important.
So the first set of questions that I posed to Dr. Rice had to do with her comments about Saddam's nuclear program. On July 30, 2003, Dr. Rice was asked by PBS NewsHour's Gwen Ifill if she continued to stand by the claims made about Saddam's nuclear program in the days and months leading up to the war.
In what appears to be an effort to downplay the nuclear weapons scare tactics, she said:
"It was a case that said he is trying to reconstitute. He's trying to acquire nuclear weapons."
And then she says:
"Nobody ever said that it was going to be the next year. ....."
Well, that was false, because 9 months before that, this is what the President said:
"If the Iraqi regime is able to produce, buy, or steal an amount of highly enriched uranium a little larger than a single softball, it could have a nuclear weapon in less than a year."
So she tells the American people nobody ever said he would have a weapon within a year, when in fact the President himself made that comment.
Then, later, a year after she said nobody has ever said this, she herself says it:
"..... the intelligence assessment was that he was reconstituting his nuclear programs; that, left unchecked, he would have a nuclear weapon by the end of the year." ..... That is what she says to Fox News.
So first she says nobody ever said it. We showed her the fact that the President did. And then she contradicts herself. She contradicts the President and then she contradicts herself.
Now, this is very troubling. I wanted to give her a chance to correct the record. Did Dr. Rice correct the record? Let me tell you what she said. She had two responses. First she said to this committee, my committee:
"The fact is that we did face a very difficult intelligence challenge in trying to understand what Saddam Hussein had in terms of weapons of mass destruction."
Notice she does not mention the word "nuclear weapons.'' And she says: We had a very difficult challenge. But that is a contradiction because on July 31, 2003, this is what she told a German TV station:
"Going into the war against Iraq, we had very strong intelligence. I've been in this business for 20 years. And some of the strongest intelligence cases that I've seen. ..... We had very strong intelligence going in."
"So she tells the committee: We faced a difficult intelligence challenge--when she had told a German TV station: It was the best intelligence we ever had. This is contradictory, plus she never ever addresses the issue that we asked her about. Why did you contradict the President and why did she contradict herself?"
Then she had a second response. She pointed to the Duelfer report and cited it but failed to tell the whole story where the Duelfer report said:
"Saddam Hussein ended the nuclear program in 1991 following the Gulf War."
There you go. She never said that. She never cited that. She cited other quotes from the Duelfer report.
So her answers to the questions I asked her, saying once that Saddam would not have a weapon within a year, and another to me saying he would, her answers are completely nonresponsive to the question and raise more credibility lapses.
Then we have another area of aluminum tubes. On September 8, 2002, Dr. Rice was on CNN's Late Edition with Wolf Blitzer and made this statement:
"We do know that there have been shipments going ..... into Iraq, for instance, of aluminum tubes that really are only suited to ..... nuclear weapons programs. ....."
And then President Bush repeated the same thing:
"Our intelligence sources tell us that (Saddam) has attempted to purchase high-strength aluminum tubes suitable for nuclear weapons production."
I pointed out to Dr. Rice that the Department of Energy thought otherwise as far back as April 11, 2001. They said the "specifications [for the tubes] are not consistent with a gas centrifuge end use. .....''
On May 9, 2001, they said:
"The Intelligence Community's original analysis of these tubes focused on their possible use in developing gas centrifuges for the enrichment of uranium. Further investigation reveals, however, Iraq has purchased similar aluminum tubes previously to manufacture chambers for a multiple rocket launcher."
In other words, not suitable for nuclear weapons.
Then in July 2002, Australian intelligence said tube evidence is ``patchy and inconclusive.'' And IAEA said they are "not directly suitable'' for uranium enrichment and are "consistent'' with making ordinary artillery rockets.
So we laid this all out there for Dr. Rice, and she refused again to correct the record. She had a chance.
This is what she said at the hearing after she saw all of this:
"We didn't go to war because of aluminum tubes."
That is what she said to the committee. Well, if that is the case, why did President Bush cite the aluminum tubes in his speech in which he made the case for the war? He said:
"Our intelligence sources tell us that he [Saddam] has attempted to purchase high strength aluminum tubes suitable for nuclear weapons production. "
So you can't say that the aluminum tubes were not a reason for going to war when the President used it in his speech where he was building support for the war. She doesn't answer the question. She doesn't correct the record. It is very troubling.
The third issue I raised was the matter of linking Saddam to al-Qaida which she did over and over again. I voted for the war against Osama bin Laden. I believed the President when he said we are going to get him dead or alive. I thought we wouldn't stop--we wouldn't turn away--and that we would not end until we broke the back of al-Qaida.
Well, unfortunately, when we went into Iraq--and this was sold to us in part by Dr. Rice; she viewed that as her job; I think the President gave that job to her--we took our eye off al-Qaida. We took our eye off bin Laden. And the consequences are being seen and felt.
Dr. Rice told the committee that the terrorists "are on the run.'' The truth is, they are now in 60 countries when before 9/11 they were in 45 countries.
I want to read to you a paragraph that best expresses my views on the impact of the Iraqi war on the war against terrorism. It was written by one of the world's experts on terror, Peter Bergen, 5 months ago:
"What we have done in Iraq is what bin Laden could not have hoped for in his wildest dreams: We invaded an oil-rich Muslim nation in the heart of the Middle East, the very type of imperial adventure that bin Laden has long predicted was the United States' long-term goal in the region. We deposed the secular socialist Saddam, whom bin Laden long despised, ignited Sunni and Shia fundamentalist fervor in Iraq, and have now provoked a ``defensive'' jihad that has galvanized jihad-minded Muslims around the world. It is hard to imagine a set of policies better designed to sabotage the war on terrorism."
This conclusion was supported by the CIA Director's think tank.
Here is the thing. Dr. Rice told the American people that there were strong ties between Saddam Hussein's Iraq and Osama bin Laden and al-Qaida. These are her words:
"We clearly know that there were in the past and have been contacts between senior Iraqi officials and members of al-Qaeda going back for actually quite a long time."
"And there are some al-Qaeda personnel who found refuge in Baghdad."
Now, I want to show a map that the State Department put out, and it was accompanied by a letter from President Bush, a month after 9/11. Here is the map. The red indicates where there are al-Qaida cells. Unfortunately, we notice the United States is red. That is why we have to win this war. This is the list where al-Qaida or affiliated groups have operated, and this is a month after 9/11, put out by this administration. No Iraq. So how do you then go on television, look the American people in the eye, and tell them that in fact--and I will go back to her quote again:
We clearly know that there were in the past and have been contacts between senior Iraqi officials and members of al-Qaeda going back for actually quite a long time.
And there are some al-Qaeda personnel who found refuge in Baghdad.
She did not tell the full story there, and I gave her a chance to do it.
It is really troubling to me. After all this time, these are the things she could have said: I never checked out that map. You are right, Senator, there were no al-Qaida there. But she didn't do that. She could have listened to what the experts were saying about how bin Laden loathed Saddam Hussein, two despicable tyrants who hated each other.
Peter Bergen said:
"I met bin Laden in '97 and ..... asked him at the end of the interview ..... his opinion of Saddam Hussein. And [bin Laden] said, "Well, Saddam is a bad Muslim and he took Kuwait for his own self-aggrandizement.''
In November 2001, the former head of the Saudi intelligence said:
"Iraq doesn't come very high in the estimation of Osama bin Laden. .....He thinks of [Saddam Hussein] as an apostate, an infidel, or someone who is not worthy of being a fellow Muslim."
Then the bipartisan 9/11 Commission says there is "no collaborative'' relationship between Iraq and al-Qaida, and Dr. Rice received that memo on September 18, 2001, and still she went before the American people. When I asked her about it, she said:
"As to the question of al Qaeda and its presence in Iraq, I think we did say that there was never an issue of operational control ..... that Saddam Hussein had nothing to do with 9/11 as far as we know or could tell."
It wasn't a question of operational alliance. It was a question of an attitude about terrorism that allowed Zarqawi to be in Baghdad and to operate out of Baghdad.
Well, those statements continued to mislead. There is no question about it. When she says there wasn't an operational alliance and she believed there never was, why was it that aboard the USS Abraham Lincoln, when President Bush had that famous sign "mission accomplished,'' he said:
"The liberation of Iraq is a crucial advance in the campaign against terror. We have removed an ally of al Qaeda. "
How do you tell the committee that this administration never thought there was an operational link, when the President, standing on the USS Abraham Lincoln, was saying mission accomplished, and the major fighting is behind us?
"In the war against Saddam, we have removed an ally of al Qaeda."
It isn't right to continue this kind of talk when you already know from the 9/11 Commission that it isn't true, and you know from looking at the State Department that it wasn't true. Yet it all continues.
In her point about allowing Zarqawi to be in Baghdad, she failed to mention a CIA document that was reportedly sent to the White House in September 2004 that states there is no conclusive evidence that Saddam harbored Zarqawi.
Last October, a senior U.S. official told ABC News there was, in fact, no evidence that Saddam even knew Zarqawi was in Baghdad. So we are not being told the whole truth. We are not being given all of the facts. I have to say that I think it is a disservice to the American people.
The fourth issue I raised with Dr. Rice concerns U.S. relations with Iran during the Iraq-Iran war. That sounds like, why would I raise that because that war was in the 1980s? It is important because, in making her case for the war in Iraq, Dr. Rice cited Saddam's deplorable use of chemical weapons during the Iran-Iraq war. It certainly was a sin against humanity. She failed to mention, however, that it was Special Envoy Donald Rumsfeld--here he is in this picture--in December 1983 who met with Saddam 1 month after the United States confirmed he was using chemical weapons almost daily against Iran. In an attempt to support Iraq during that war, Iraq was removed from the terrorism list in 1982. None other than Donald Rumsfeld was giving the good news to Saddam Hussein and tried to restore full diplomatic relations. As a matter of fact, during this whole Iran-Iraq war, we all know the story that American firms were selling materials to Saddam Hussein.
Now, this is what Dr. Rice said. She said: "I will say it right now. The U.S. Government has often, as the President said, supported regimes in the hope that they would bring stability. We have been in the Middle East sometimes blind to the freedom deficit. We are not going to do that anymore. What happened with Saddam is probably evidence that that policy was not a very wise policy."
That is an understatement. It was a horrific policy. It was a terrible policy. It was a policy of appeasing Saddam Hussein, making sure that he had the weapons, because we were essentially taking his side quietly in the Iran-Iraq war, and Donald Rumsfeld was super involved in it, and here is the picture to prove it.
Now, I do appreciate that Dr. Rice said it probably was not a very wise policy. I was glad to hear her say that. But you know what. She doesn't explain to us why. When she cited Iraq's use of chemical weapons against Iran as a justification for the U.S. attack on Iraq, she doesn't mention that the U.S. Government was working at that very same time to reestablish robust relations with Saddam. Indeed, our own Government took Saddam off the terror list, and the American people deserve to know that from her, when she advanced this issue as a reason for the war. Full disclosure. Give the whole story.
Mr. President, I raise the issue of Dr. Rice's opposition to a provision in the intelligence reform bill that would have outlawed the use of cruel, inhumane, or degrading treatment of foreign prisoners by intelligence officials. The section of this provision is here. It was passed unanimously by the Senate. The overall amendment was written by Senators McCain and Lieberman, but this particular provision was written by Senator Durbin:
"Prohibition on torture or cruel, inhumane, or degrading treatment or punishment: In general, no prisoner shall be subject to torture or cruel, inhumane, or degrading treatment or punishment that is prohibited by the Constitution, laws, or treaties of the United States."
That is very straightforward. When I asked Dr. Rice, why did you sign a letter with Mr. Bolton and object to this provision and ask that it be stricken, she had a couple of different responses. The first response she gave me was:
"This is duplicative of language that was in the Defense Department bill."
So I checked with the authors of this provision, and I said: Is it true that this is duplicative? They said the language is in the Department of Defense, but it does not apply to the CIA and intelligence officers who work outside of the DOD. So I explained it to her, and she argued with me and she said it is not true, it is duplicative. I said: Do you think Senators McCain, Lieberman, and Durbin don't know what they are doing when they added this to the intelligence bill? She didn't answer. The fact is, this is not duplicative. This is necessary so that we cover those intelligence officials who may not be part of the Department of Defense but are part of other agencies not covered by the Department of Defense.
And then she went on and said:
"We did not want to afford to people who did not--shouldn't enjoy certain protections those protections. And the Geneva Conventions should not apply to terrorists like al-Qaida. They can't or you will stretch the meaning of the Geneva Convention."
That was her second problem with it, which was that you are granting more rights than the Geneva Conventions. However, this explanation makes no sense because the following language was also part of this, which is:
"Nothing in this section shall affect the status of any person under the Geneva Conventions or whether any person is entitled to the protections of the Geneva Conventions."
So she gave two reasons as to why she wrote a letter and demanded this be removed from the intelligence bill, neither of which is true. It is not duplicative, and there is no problem with the Geneva Conventions because we make a special exception for them.
But that is not all. The next day, Dr. Rice came back and changed what she said the day before. She said she doesn't oppose the subsection that clearly prohibited torture and cruel, inhumane, or degrading treatment. She said she opposes other provisions in the section.
Well, Mr. President, this was the operative language of the section. That second day's excuse just doesn't hold up under scrutiny because she wrote in a letter--this is what Dr. Rice wrote to the committee:
"The administration also opposes the section which provides legal protections to foreign prisoners to which they are not now entitled under applicable law and policy."
And she says that section 1095 of the Defense Authorization Act already addresses this issue. So Dr. Rice's own words in the letter contradict what she told the committee.
Now, this issue of torture is one that matters. It matters to me for many reasons. The first is it is about our humanity. It is about our humanity. Second is that it is about our soldiers, who may find themselves in captivity and in a circumstance where they might well get treated the way we are treating people we capture. That is why the protective words here and living up to our treaties or obligations of our Constitution and international treaties are so important. It is not some vague academic discussion; it is very serious.
Now, I went and saw, as many colleagues did, the pictures from Abu Ghraib prison. As long as I live, they will be seared in my memory. There are a lot more pictures that the public didn't see. I can tell you--and I think I can say this of most of my colleagues I was sitting with from both sides of the aisle--I could barely watch what was shown.
I am sometimes torn to talk about what I saw. I have done it in small groups where my constituents have asked me what I saw, but I will not do it today. I do not want to do it, but let it be said that the kinds of pictures that I saw do not reflect our country or our values. We have to be united on this.
Senator Dodd asked Dr. Rice to please tell us her personal views on torture, and he laid out a couple of examples of torture. She demurred and would not respond to those specific questions. I thought that was a moment in time where she could have sent out a signal to the whole world about America. She said for sure that Abu Ghraib was terrible. She was eloquent on the point. In fact, I will read to my colleagues what she said right after Abu Ghraib:
"What took place at the Abu Ghraib prison does not represent America. Our nation is a compassionate country that believes in freedom. The U.S. government is deeply sorry for what has happened to some Abu Ghraib prisoners and people worldwide should be assured that President Bush is determined to learn the full truth of the prisoner reports in Iraq."
Those comments at that time were very important. They were the type of comments that I think pull us all together. It was a comment that reflected humanity.
Then we have this language that she writes a couple of months after she makes this beautiful speech in October saying she opposes this provision that says no prisoner shall be subject to torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment that is prohibited by the Constitution, laws, or treaties of the United States. She writes a letter opposing this section after she makes this beautiful speech.
When I asked her to explain it, she gives me reasons that just do not hold up, that it is duplicative, which it is not, that she really did not oppose it, which cannot possibly be true because we have her letter in writing where she did.
There is no doubt that Dr. Rice has the resume, the story, the intelligence, and the experience to be Secretary of State. She certainly is loyal to this President, we know that, and I think that is important. The President wants to have someone who is loyal. He should also want to have someone who will be independent such as Colin Powell was.
After 9 hours of grueling questions and answers before the committee, she proved her endurance for the job. In responding to me, she used a very clever tactic that we all learn in politics, which is to go after the questioner, why are you attacking me, and then do not answer the questions. It was OK that she did that. I did not mind that she did that. But she did not answer the questions. That is the point.
I believe the committee gave Dr. Rice the opportunity to speak candidly and set the record straight. It is not only my questions. Senator Biden asked her how many Iraqi security forces were trained, and without blinking an eye she said 120,000. And he said, wait a minute--and anyone who knows Senator Biden knows that he kind of roots for someone when they sit in the hot seat--let us really be candid here. He said: I went to Iraq and I was told by the military that there is nothing close to 120,000. He said he was told there were 4,000. She stuck by the 120,000.
Later, when others were asked in the administration, such as Ambassador Negroponte, he would not put out a number but he sure did not say 120,000.
Everyone with a heart and a pulse knows it is not 120,000 trained troops, because as Senator Biden said at that hearing, if there are 120,000 trained Iraqi troops to protect the Iraqi people, why in God's name are we there in the numbers we are and keeping people there, who are leaving their families, for extra tours of duty? She would not budge.
I am troubled because we gave Dr. Rice every opportunity to speak candidly, set the record straight, and she just did not do that.
In her role as National Security Adviser, she was not responsible for coming to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee or the House equivalent committee. Now she is going to be responsible for that. She could not have a friendlier chairman than Senator Lugar in terms of being given every opportunity to work with our committee. I know Senator Biden and Senator Lugar work together just like brothers. This is a very bipartisan committee. We are going to see Dr. Rice there very often because she will be confirmed. I hope when she comes back before the committee that she will be more candid with the committee.
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.
The cost of the policy in Iraq, a policy that she embraced wholeheartedly, a policy that she did, in fact, bring to the American people and she led them to certain conclusions that turned out not to be true, whether it was the aluminum tubes, the ties to al-Qaida, whether it was her half argument on the Iran-Iraq war, whether it was her obvious contradictory statements on we never said he would have a nuclear weapon in a year one day and then the next year she said we did not say that, it is too hard to overlook these things.
I will close with the Martin Luther King quote... I do agree that our lives begin to end when we stop caring about things that matter. Accountability matters. Truth telling matters. The whole truth matters. Responsibility matters. The advice and consent role of the Senate is one that is really very important. I hope my colleagues on both sides will recognize that this Senate is at its best when we have some of these tough debates.
It is not as if we are having a vote to confirm a Cabinet position that will not have as much reach. It is not as if we are voting to confirm a position where the individual is brand new and does not have a record. This is a very important position in a time of war where the nominee had a record of making many statements to the American people. I believe that out of respect for the American people, out of respect for the Senate, out of respect for the Foreign Relations Committee, and out of respect to Condoleezza Rice herself, we needed to ask these questions.
Pictures from her recent trip to the Middle East:
Boxer with Ariel Sharon, Prime Minister of Israel
Boxer with newly elected Ukraine president Victor Yushchenko
General Petraeus and Boxer
Boxer eats with Marines