The Senate confirmation hearing of Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton was sure to be a donnybrook.
Powerful Republicans, still miffed about the drubbing they took in the November election, would attack the nominee for secretary of state on several fronts: Foreign contributions to her husband’s charity, her flip-flop on the Iraq war (like the chairman of the Committee on Foreign Relations, Sen. John Kerry, she was for it before she was against it), her boss’s plan to meet with leaders of rogue nations such as Iran and Cuba.
Mincing no words, Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski got right to it.
“I’d like your comments here this morning on the evolving role of the Arctic,” the Alaska senator said softly.
“Senator,” the soon-to-be secretary of state said, “as I have said to you before, even when you and your husband hosted Senator [John] McCain’s [congressional delegation] when we were in Alaska, and saw for ourselves some of the changes that are going on in the Arctic - both on land and in the sea - you have been a leader on this issue and I hope your time has come.”
Sen. Richard G. Lugar, a Republican who voted in 1999 to oust Mrs. Clinton’s husband from office as the first step in the “cleansing of the presidency,” pulled out the big artillery during his interrogation of President-elect Barack Obama’s nominee.
“Nearly 1 billion people are presently food insecure,” the Republican pit bull said. “There is no reason why people should be hungry when we have the knowledge, technology and resources to make everyone food secure.”
Mrs. Clinton, secure in her chair, said nothing.
Just like that, Tuesday’s touted slug fest turned into a love fest.
While Democrats were expected to go easy on her, certainly they would grill her about Iran’s nuclear ambitions, the Obama administration’s stance on Gaza, and Russia’s aggression against its neighbors.
But Sen. Russ Feingold of Wisconsin decided to ask the nominee if she would “consider ways to address the challenges faced by the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender employees” of the State Department.
Mrs. Clinton said she would.
While the post of secretary of state is a president’s most important Cabinet appointment, many senators just couldn’t make it to the confirmation hearing. At one point in the afternoon session, 11 of the 12 chairs for the committee’s Republicans sat empty (the senators may have been busy seeking their own food security).