Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Praise god and pass the rice

If I had the energy, I would go through the transcripts of yesterday's Rice hearing and cull the 847 times Birmingham and Dr. King were brought up. But I don't, so instead I give you an excerpt from Feinstein's opening remarks. You might want to make sure there's a trashcan or bucket handy to barf in before you read them:

. . . Dr. Rice's story began 50 years ago with her birth in Birmingham, Alabama. A precocious child, she began piano lessons at age 3, could read by 5, and skipped the 1st and 7th grades. She attended public schools before enrolling at Birmingham Southern Conservatory of Music in 1964. Her mother and father are here in spirit today. Her father, an educator and pastor, aptly nicknamed his only child Little Star. Today, she is, indeed, a big star. Dr. Rice's family moved to Denver, Colorado, in 1969, where she entered an integrated school for the first time as a tenth grader. Staying close to home, she opted for the University of Denver, and was awarded her B.A. degree with honors at the age of 19.

. . .

She returned to the White House as the first African-American woman to serve as national security adviser in January 2001. As a young girl, Condi stood at the gates of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue with her father, telling him, that, quote, Daddy, I'm barred out of there now because of the color of my skin, but one day I'll be in that house, end quote. She's delivered on that promise. Now she is the president's choice to be our country's next secretary of state. As both the chairman and the ranking member have so well stated, American foreign policy today is at a crossroads. In Iraq, across the Middle East, in North Korea, in our relations with China and in so many other places we face major challenges. I would submit that Dr. Rice has the skill, the judgment and the poise and the leadership to lead in these difficult times. If confirmed, she will have the deep personal trust and confidence of the president; a real asset. She's been by his side for every crucial national security decision in the last four years. My sense is that the president trusts her implicitly. When Dr. Rice meets with Hu Jintao or Ariel Sharon or Vladimir Putin, there will be no doubt that she speaks for and on behalf of the president of the United States. The problems we face abroad are complex and sizable. If Dr. Rice's past performance is any indication, though, we can rest easy. It's difficult to know ahead of time how anyone will perform as secretary of state. Time and events test vision, facile thinking and resolute problem solving. But indeed, this is a remarkable woman that I introduce to you today, and it is with great pride that I do so.
At least Boxer came out swinging as she'd promised to do. I really urge any of my fellow Californians to write her and thank her for remaining one of the few stand-up members of our government.

First she points out a moment of excessive candor:
And if you're going to become the voice of diplomacy, this is just a helpful point. When Senator Voinovich mentioned the issue of tsunami relief, you said -- your first words were The tsunami was a wonderful opportunity for us. Now, the tsunami was one of the worst tragedies of our lifetime, one of the worst, and it's going to have a 10-year impact on rebuilding that area. I was very disappointed in your statement. I think you blew the opportunity.
Then she, having done her homework, plays a game of "catch the weasel" by quoting Rice's own contradictory statements about the Iraq war:

BOXER: Well, you should you read what we voted on when we voted to support the war, which I did not, but most of my colleagues did. It was WMD, period. That was the reason and the causation for that particular vote. But again, I just feel, you quote President Bush when it suits you, but you contradicted him when he said, Yes, Saddam could have a nuclear weapon in less than a year. You go on television, nine months later, and said, Nobody ever said it was going to be.

RICE: Senator, that was just a question of pointing out to people that there was an uncertainty, that no one was saying that he would have to have a weapon within a year for it to be worth it to go to war.

BOXER: Well, if you can't admit to this mistake, I hope that you will rethink it.

RICE: Senator, we can have this discussion in any way that you would like. But I really hope that you will refrain from impugning my integrity. Thank you very much.

BOXER: I'm not. I'm just quoting what you said. You contradicted the president and you contradicted yourself.

RICE: Senator, I'm happy to continue the discussion. But I really hope that you will not imply that I take the truth lightly.
This last bit has been cited in the papers quite a lot, often with a disparaging tone. For example, my own LA Times runs an article today titled "Rose and Thorn" about Feinstein and Boxer. If you know me, you can imagine my teeth gritting when reading that. Could we please evolve to the point where we don't need to use floral metaphors to describe good girls and "thorns" to describe one of the only members of the Senate who hasn't been stricken by the mysterious spine-eating virus? For fuck's sake. Would it ever occur to anyone to call Biden or Kerry or Feingold a rose or a thorn? Aaargh.

And for that matter, what on earth is a hearing for if not to question the integrity of someone who feigns an ethical stance? Are they all gathered there to exchange Birmingham stories and thereby sully the memory of one of America's greats? I find it repulsive that Feinstein joined in the effort to hitch Condi's wagon to King's star. My only wish is that Boxer could have actually quoted some of King's speeches on non-violence or the war in Vietnam and asked Rice how she felt about that.

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