The Democrats have made a political decision to use the Senate confirmation hearings on President Bush’s Cabinet appointments to re-fight the 2004 election campaign. First we had the bizarre spectacle of Alberto Gonzales being raked over the coals for Abu Graibh, with which he had nothing whatsoever to do, but which was a Democrat talking-point throughout 2004. Next we witnessed two days of “hearings” on the confirmation of Dr. Condoleezza Rice as Secretary of State, highlighted by the incoherent ramblings of the notoriously stupid Barbara Boxer. Senate Democrats apparently think they score a political coup when voters see them pontificating endlessly and self-righteously, while the nominee waits patiently for a chance to get a word in edge-wise. I doubt that this is correct; the more voters who witness these ridiculous proceedings the better, I believe.
The hearings on Dr. Rice’s confirmation centered mainly on the fact that Iraq didn’t have “large stockpiles” of unconventional weapons after all. Gosh, there’s a news flash. Unfortunately for the Dems, most Americans have figured out that 1) every intelligence agency in the world believed that Iraq had WMDs; 2) an American President who failed to act in the face of this consensus would have been irresponsible; and 3) Saddam had possessed and used WMDs in the past, and was making every effort to reconstitute those programs at the time he was deposed, so the absence of “large stockpiles” at that particular moment is not very relevant.
In any event, that battle was fought last November.
Beyond the WMD issue, the main focus of the Democrats’ speeches–they rarely got around to asking a question–was their insistence that Rice admit that the adminstration had made “mistakes” in Iraq. What mistakes? Makes no difference; any mistakes will do. Rice obligingly agreed that the administration had no doubt made mistakes. But somehow, that failed to satisfy the Dems, who were looking, I guess, for a lot more detail and some wailing and gnashing of teeth. But if they had any particular “mistake” in mind, they never said what it was.
But the Democrats’ real problem isn’t their incoherence. It’s the fact that President Bush has four years to complete the Iraq operation. There was one, and only one, opportunity for the Democrats to capitalize on the administration’s alleged failures there, and that opportunity is now gone. My guess is that four years from now, our troops will have been withdrawn, Iraq will be a functioning democracy, various benefits of Iraq’s transformation will be visible throughout the Persian Gulf region, and most people will regard the Iraq war as a reasonably successful and probably necessary part of our long-term effort to stamp out Islamic terrorism.
Moreover, even if I’m wrong and the situation in Iraq goes off the rails, no Republican will ever again have to run on the Bush administration’s record in Iraq. No amount of Democratic yapping about Abu Ghraib and the virtues of Saddam’s peaceful, armament-free regime will mean much by 2008. Which leaves me completely puzzled as to why the Democrats have decided to delay Dr. Rice’s confirmation until after the inaugural. They say they want to have a few hours of debate on her appointment, with Sen. Robert Byrd leading the opposition:
Underscoring the Democrats’ dissatisfaction, Senator Robert Byrd, an outspoken critic of the decision to go to war, announced late in the day that he would not allow the Senate to approve Ms. Rice without a few days of consideration of her lengthy testimony, and at least a token debate on the floor. His refusal to join in the unanimous consent of all Senators for a quick vote effectively torpedoed the administration’s hopes to have her nomination approved Thursday.
“Senator Byrd and others believe that the Senate’s advice-and-consent Constitutional responsibilities are not a rubber stamp,” Mr. Byrd’s spokesman said.
Yes, that’s just what the Democrats want: for the American public to see the old Ku Klux Klansman, who hasn’t articulated an intelligent thought in several decades, orating pompously on Condoleezza Rice’s lack of qualifications to be Secretary of State. Americans will have a really, really hard time figuring out whose side to be on in that one.
The transcript of the second day of hearings on Dr. Rice’s nomination is here.