- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 20, 2005

Condoleezza Rice’s nomination as secretary of state easily cleared the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on a 16-2 vote yesterday but Democrats stepped in to delay confirmation by the full Senate, which had been expected today.

On the eve of President Bush’s second inauguration, Democratic Sens. Robert C. Byrd of West Virginia and Barbara Boxer of California moved to postpone the vote, possibly until next week.

Mr. Byrd said he and other Democrats will demand more time to review the transcript of Miss Rice’s testimony.

“Rushing the nomination through the Senate would undermine the constitutional responsibility that the framers placed on senators,” Mr. Byrd’s office said.

A spokesman for Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada said the Democrats would not try to block Miss Rice’s confirmation, and he predicted the vote would come Wednesday.

Sen. George Allen, Virginia Republican, called the move “absurd, petty obstructionism” and said it sets the wrong tone for the beginning of a new administration.

He and other Republicans, however, said they have little choice but to acquiesce.

“Obviously, it’s their right,” said Amy Call, a spokeswoman for Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, Tennessee Republican.

But she questioned the decision, noting that outgoing Secretary of State Colin L. Powell was confirmed unanimously on the day of President Bush’s first inauguration four years ago.

In 1997, Madeleine K. Albright’s nomination as President Clinton’s secretary of state was approved by the Foreign Relations Committee on Inauguration Day, then confirmed 99-0 two days later by the full Senate.

During the hearing yesterday, Miss Rice said the administration had made some “bad decisions” during its first term, including on Iraq and particularly on postwar reconstruction.

“We have made a lot of decisions in this period of time. Some of them have been good, some of them have not been good, some of them have been bad decisions, I’m sure. We didn’t have the right skills, the right capacity to deal with a reconstruction effort of this kind,” she said.

Miss Rice did not specify the mistakes.

She said: “I know enough about history to stand back and to recognize that you judge decisions not at the moment, but in how it all adds up. It’s how Iraq turns out that really ultimately matters.”

For the second day, Mrs. Boxer, one of the two committee members who voted against the nomination, used the hearings to accuse the Bush administration, and Miss Rice personally, of having misled the nation in the run-up to the war in Iraq.

“I find it so troubling that the Bush administration used the fear of terror to make the war against Iraq appear to be part of the response to 9/11. You were involved in that effort,” Mrs. Boxer told Miss Rice.

“It’s about candor,” Mrs. Boxer said. “It’s about telling the full story.”

Sen. John Kerry, Massachusetts Democrat and Mr. Bush’s opponent in the election last year, also voted against Miss Rice.

“Regrettably, I did not see in Dr. Rice’s testimony any acknowledgment of the need to change course or of a new vision for America’s role in the world,” Mr. Kerry said.

Other Democrats, such as Sens. Joseph R. Biden Jr. of Delaware, the committee’s ranking member, and Christopher J. Dodd of Connecticut, voted for Miss Rice with reservations.

Both said they were “troubled” and “disturbed” by her reluctance to admit mistakes and assure the nation and the world that lessons have been learned.

But after 10 hours of testimony over two days, they said the president has the right to choose his Cabinet and that Miss Rice has the necessary qualifications to be the top U.S. diplomat.

Miss Rice, a former provost at Stanford University in Palo Alto, Calif., has served as Mr. Bush’s national security adviser for the past four years.

“I do think she has the president’s ear,” Mr. Biden said. “And I hope she’s willing to take on some of the neoconservative notions in this administration.”

Miss Rice said she has “no difficulty telling the president exactly” what she thinks, even though “sometimes he agrees, and sometimes he doesn’t.”

“I will be a strong voice for what I believe, and for what the State Department believes, is the best course going forward,” Miss Rice said.

Mr. Bush will always have the last word, she said. “I want it to be clearly understood that I still believe that we are one administration with the president in the lead.”

Some senators urged her to consider more conciliatory policies toward countries hostile to the United States.

Sen. Lincoln Chafee, Rhode Island Republican, suggested a less belligerent approach to Iran, whose ruling clerics he said are about as repressive as China’s Communist government was when President Nixon re-established diplomatic relations with Beijing in the early 1970s.

Miss Rice replied: “It is really hard to find common ground with a government that thinks Israel should be extinguished.”

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