Sunday, January 23, 2005

Sen. Barbara Boxer says she is the real victim of last week’s confirmation hearing for Secretary of State-designate Condoleezza Rice, yet continued yesterday to question the national security adviser’s honesty.

“She turned and attacked me,” the California Democrat told CNN’s “Late Edition” in describing the confrontation during the Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing.

“I gave Dr. Rice many opportunities to address specific issues. Instead, she said I was impugning her integrity,” Mrs. Boxer said.

The heated exchange between the two women during the two-day hearing began Tuesday during Mrs. Boxer’s question-and-answer period with Miss Rice.

“I personally believe — this is my personal view — that your loyalty to the mission you were given, to sell this war, overwhelmed your respect for the truth,” Mrs. Boxer told Miss Rice, who has been President Bush’s national security adviser since 2001.

Miss Rice responded that she “never, ever lost respect for the truth in the service of anything. It is not my nature. It is not my character.”

“And I would hope that we can have this conversation and discuss what happened before and what went on before and what I said without impugning my credibility or my integrity,” Miss Rice said.

Mrs. Boxer yesterday called that response a “good debating technique.”

“When you really don’t know what to say about a specific, you just attack the person who is asking the questions,” Mrs. Boxer told CNN.

The final Senate vote on Miss Rice’s confirmation to head the State Department was delayed because of objections by Sen. Robert C. Byrd, West Virginia Democrat. The Senate begins nine hours of debate tomorrow on Miss Rice’s confirmation, with a vote expected Wednesday.

Mrs. Boxer accused Miss Rice and the Bush administration of misleading the nation before going to war with Iraq, and along with former Democratic presidential nominee Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts, voted against Miss Rice’s confirmation in committee.

On CNN, Mrs. Boxer accused Miss Rice of intentionally “frightening every American, and that was the point.”

“She didn’t hesitate to go out and sell this war to the American people,” Mrs. Boxer said. “She said things that were flat-out not true.”

California’s other Democratic senator, Dianne Feinstein, declined on “Fox News Sunday” to comment on Mrs. Boxer’s questioning, but said her colleague “was within her rights” to question a presidential nominee.

“I don’t happen to agree; I happen to strongly support Condoleezza Rice,” Mrs. Feinstein said. “I don’t want to see her diminished in the eyes of the world. I want to see her confirmed. She will be.”

Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr., Delaware Democrat and ranking Foreign Relations Committee member, said he will support Miss Rice but is leaning toward voting against Mr. Bush’s pick to head the Justice Department, Alberto Gonzales.

“The president gets a chance to pick the person who he thinks will implement his policies,” Mr. Biden said. “He got elected. She’s an honorable person.

“The Gonzales nomination may be a different thing,” Mr. Biden said of the attorney general nominee. “The Gonzales nomination may very well do us more harm internationally because of his relationship with the terror memo, and that is a different story.”

The Senate Judiciary Committee is expected to vote on Mr. Gonzales’ nomination this week.

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