Moderate Republicans Finally Grill Rice
With all eyes on Cheney and his gun, lots of stories are falling thru the cracks. Condoleeza Rice is testifying on Capitol Hill for the first time in months. Cheney hasn't given a press conference since 2002. Truly pathetic:
"I don't see, Madame Secretary, how things are getting better. I think things are getting worse. I think they're getting worse in Iraq. I think they're getting worse in Iran," Sen. Chuck Hagel, R-Neb., told Rice as she appeared before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.So we're giving $75 million to "build democracy" in Iran as Katrina victims struggle to eat and find shelter.
Rice also had a tense exchange with moderate Republican Sen. Lincoln Chafee, R-R.I., over the pace of progress toward Israeli-Palestinian peace and the implications of the Hamas victory in Palestinian legislative elections last month.
Typically soft-spoken, Chafee tersely questioned whether the United States could have prevented Hamas from coming to power. "Opportunities missed," Chafee lamented after rattling off a list. "Now we have a very, very disastrous situation of a terrorist organization winning elections."
Though the moderate Chafee and Hagel, a frequent GOP maverick, are less conservative than many of their Republican colleagues, their criticism underscored a widespread frustration in Congress with the difficult problems the United States is facing across the Middle East.
Rice tried to take the offensive by announcing an administration request for $75 million this year to build democracy in Iran, saying the U.S. must support Iranians who are seeking freedoms under what she called a radical regime.
Sen. Barbara Boxer, one of the few senators who actually questioned Rice during her confirmation hearings, was also at today's testimony:
The money Rice wants for Iran, to be included in an emergency 2006 budget request the White House is expected to send to Congress as early as this week, would be used for radio and satellite television broadcasting and for programs to help Iranians study abroad.These so-called leaders should be required to answer questions and criticism on a regular basis, especially during wartime.
At one point, Rice and Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., interrupted one another as they argued about U.S. policy in the Middle East, where the Democrat accused the Bush administration of having a "tin ear" to Arab views.
Boxer, who was one of Rice's most persistent critics during a contentious confirmation process last year, also recalled Rice's warning before the 2003 Iraq invasion that the world could not afford to let the "smoking gun" of Iraq's supposed weapons of mass destruction become a "mushroom cloud."
"That was a farce and the truth is coming out," Boxer said.