Senate Panel Approves Rice For Secretary Of State - - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News


Senate Panel Approves Rice For Secretary Of State

WASHINGTON -- The Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Wednesday voted 16-2 in favor of confirming Condoleezza Rice as secretary of state.

The nomination goes to the full Senate, which is expected to approve the nomination.

Democratic Sens. Barbara Boxer of California and John Kerry of Massachusetts were the two dissenting votes on the committee.

The final round of hearings concluded Wednesday with Sen. Joseph Biden chiding Rice for sticking "to the party line" and not admitting mistakes on Iraq.

"Instead of seizing the opportunity," Biden said, "it seems to me, Dr. Rice, you have danced around it and, sort of, stuck to the party line, which seems pretty consistent: You're always right. You never made any mistakes. You're never wrong."

In response, Rice said that while there were "bad decisions," the end result is the appropriate measuring stick to use against the administration's decisions.

"I know enough about history to stand back and recognize that you judge decisions not in the moment, but how it all adds up," she said. "It's how Iraq turns out that ultimately matters."

But she did say there were "lessons learned" in the Iraq reconstruction effort: "We didn't have the right skills, the right capacity to deal with a reconstruction effort of this kind."

Rice faced nine hours of questioning Tuesday from members of the committee, mostly on the U.S. led-war in Iraq, but also on Iran's nuclear program, the threat North Korea poses and Latin America, among others.

The questioning lasted nearly two hours on Wednesday. Although she faced pointed questions from several Democrats, she is expected to win the support of the Republican-led full Senate by the end of the week.

After the hearing, the committee began a meeting about Rice, planning to take a vote on her nomination.

Biden also criticized Rice for saying there were 120,000 trained Iraqi security officers but, he said, failing to acknowledge how many are fully trained. "We are months, probably years away from reaching our target goal," he said. "'Don't Worry, Be Happy,' that calypso song, should be the theme of the Defense Department."

Rice acknowledged "problems with the training," but said the administration is working diligently to address those problems.

And Boxer denounced Rice for what she said was making Americans believe that the war in Iraq was part of the United States' response to the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

But Rice insisted the administration made clear that Saddam Hussein had nothing to do with 9-11. "It was a question of an attitude about terrorism" that justified the war in Iraq, she said.

Rice had faced heated questioning before. In April, she appeared before the 9/11 commission after former White House counterterrorism adviser Richard Clarke went public with claims that the Bush administration botched warnings of the al Qaeda hijacking plot.

Allies say the 50-year-old Rice's background will help her on the world stage. Born a minister's daughter in segregated Alabama in 1954, Rice entered college at 15 and by 26 had earned a doctorate in international affairs. She was a Soviet expert in the first Bush administration and tutored the current president on international policy during the 2000 campaign before becoming his national security adviser.

If confirmed, she would replace current Secretary of State Colin Powell.

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