- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Condoleezza Rice is all but assured of Senate confirmation as secretary of state today, but Democrats used yesterday’s debate over her nomination to make her a surrogate for President Bush’s Iraq policy, and even began using her as a target in a new fund-raising campaign.

The Senate’s two longest-serving Democrats, Sen. Robert C. Byrd of West Virginia and Sen. Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts, led a group of party members announcing that they will oppose her nomination as a way of rejecting Mr. Bush’s prosecution of the war on terror.

“Dr. Rice was a key member of the national security team that developed and justified the rationale for war, and it’s been a catastrophic failure, a continuing quagmire,” Mr. Kennedy said. “In these circumstances, she should not be promoted to secretary of state.”

In addition to the debate on the floor of the Senate, Sen. Barbara Boxer, the California Democrat who was the most pointed interrogator of Miss Rice at her hearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee last week, wrote a fund-raising e-mail about Miss Rice for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.

“I will continue to make my voice heard on the Senate Foreign Relations committee, but in order to put the brakes on four more years of misdirection in Iraq and reckless policies at home, we need to elect more Democrats to the Senate during the 2006 midterm elections,” Mrs. Boxer said in her plea for money.

Sen. John Cornyn, Texas Republican, said Miss Rice deserves an apology for the letter, which he said “does offend the American people.” Republicans said the letter exposed Democrats’ arguments as pure politics.

“It cheapens her arguments on the floor,” said Bob Stevenson, spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, Tennessee Republican. “It suggests that her opposition to the nomination is motivated by partisan politics rather than reason. This should be about who is going to serve our nation as secretary of state, not red state, blue state.”

Mrs. Boxer’s letter was a surprise to some of her fellow Democrats, including Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada, who said he didn’t know about it.

“I’d have to see the letter to see how it’s used,” he told reporters yesterday afternoon.

Mr. Kennedy and Mr. Byrd were joined by about a half-dozen other Democrats who spoke against Miss Rice.

“She misled me about the situation in Iraq,” Sen. Mark Dayton, Minnesota Democrat, said on the floor.

Minority Whip Richard J. Durbin, Illinois Democrat, told reporters outside the chamber, “What you have on the floor reflects the misgivings the American people have about our policy in Iraq.”

Miss Rice, currently the national security adviser, is the first high-profile nominee to be debated in the Senate in Mr. Bush’s second term.

Her confirmation vote and that of Alberto Gonzales, whom Mr. Bush has tapped to be attorney general, present a test for Democrats. Mr. Reid, the top Democrat in the Senate, appears likely to support Miss Rice, while Mr. Durbin, the second-ranking Democrat, appears ready to oppose her.

But some of Miss Rice’s strongest defenders yesterday were Democrats.

“She can be a strong and effective voice for America’s interests abroad,” said Sen. Dianne Feinstein, California Democrat.

Sen. Joe Lieberman, Connecticut Democrat, said Miss Rice’s nomination should be a chance for the Senate to speak with unity.

“The nomination of a secretary of state in a second term of a president naturally is an opportunity, appropriately, for people to raise questions about the foreign policy of that administration,” he said. “I hope it is also an opportunity around this very qualified nominee for us to come together and say to one another and to the world — both our enemies and our allies — that in the final analysis Americans will stand together, shoulder to shoulder, against terrorism — against the enemy — in pursuit of the freedom and liberty and opportunity.”

Mr. Reid said he expects Miss Rice to receive “a fairly big vote” with strong support from both sides.

National Security Council spokesman Sean McCormack said Miss Rice spent her day in briefings over the transition to the State Department, attended a town-hall meeting, and met with some senators, including Mr. Durbin.

Mr. McCormack said she had not watched the debate, but received updates throughout the day.

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