Hearing of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee: "Nominations"
SEN. JOSEPH BIDEN (D-DE): This hearing will please come to order. This is the hearing of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Today the committee will consider the nominations of Mr. Stanley Davis Phillips to serve as Ambassador to Estonia and the nomination of Mr. Sam Fox to serve as Ambassador to Belgium. I welcome both gentlemen and their families to our hearing.
Now I know we have a busy agenda. There are a number of witnesses who are wishing to present what I'm sure will be glowing testimony of both nominees. Because we've got a lot of people who wanted to speak, we're going to try to keep things moving, and I ask that everybody try to keep their comments as brief as possible. And I will try to lead by example.
The ambassadorial posts for which Mr. Phillips and Mr. Fox have been nominated are important ones. And there are significant U.S. interests at stake in both relationships. Estonia has been a leader in efforts to establish more democratic accountable governments in Eastern Europe. The country's troops have also served alongside U.S. forces in numerous international peacekeeping missions. Belgium is a founding member of NATO and the European Union, and the host country to both these institutions. Belgium's relationship with the United States provides the diplomatic backdrop for most high level discussions on transatlantic cooperation. So it's clearly critical that we have capable qualified individuals in these two positions.
I see that we have a number of members of the Senate, and former members of the Senate were interested in introducing the nominee. So in the interest of time, I will stop here and turn to my good friend, Senator DeMint, ranking member of the European Affairs Subcommittee, for his opening statement. And following that, we'll proceed to introductions and opening statements from the witnesses.
SEN. JIM DEMINT (R-SC): Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Out of deference to Senator Coleman since he was here first, if he would like to make an opening statement, I'll yield to him first.
SEN. NORM COLEMAN (R-MN): Mr. Chairman, I'll yield to the ranking member at this time. And I know a number of my colleagues -- I'm sure their schedules are full. So I would hold my statement of comments until after the ranking member and my colleagues have a chance to give their introductions.
SEN. DEMINT: Well thank you. Mr. Chairman, I'll try to be brief and thanks for holding this hearing and moving the process forward. Good afternoon, Mr. Fox and Mr. Phillips. I appreciate you being here today and your willingness to serve our nation as ambassadors.
Today, the role of an ambassador is daunting. Without a doubt, there are many challenges and opportunities in Europe, and you will both be in very crucial positions to help foster the transatlantic relationships between the United States and Europe. Your willingness to be good listeners and advocates are vital to U.S. foreign policy.
Often we hear European leaders express how the United States and Europe share a common set of values. I agree with them. We have a long history of shared values that include the ideals of freedom and economic opportunity. We're committed to the idea of free markets and free societies. However, if we truly share these values, we all must believe they contain the answers to the challenges that confront us.
European societies and their economies currently face many of the demographic problems that we will face in the near future. There are lessons we can learn from them, but there are also ideas that we can share. The ideas of free markets and free societies can unleash creative solutions. I believe European nations have incredible capability and potential to grow and to be more productive. However, it requires a willingness on the part of Europe's leaders to draft policies that unleash their people and trust what they're capable of.
As ambassadors, it's important you share and advocate the values that serve as a foundation to our prosperity. With your influence, Europe can be an even larger driving force in the world economically and socially, and that would benefit everyone.
I also hope you will spend more of your time outside the embassy and government offices. The American culture is loved in Europe, but the same is not always true of American policy. However, the two cannot be conveniently separated as many Europeans believe. And successful diplomacy is no longer an activity just between heads of state, but between the people of each nation. But much of this can be accomplished through trade and economic ties.
If you're committed to changing perceptions and wish to be successful American advocates, you will need to deliver your messages to the people directly. The best days of Europe are still ahead, and you both can play a role in making this reality. I thank you both again for being willing to serve.
And thank you, Mr. Chairman, and I yield back.
SEN. BIDEN: Thank you, Senator. At this point, what I'd like to do is welcome my colleagues from North Carolina, who are here to introduce Mr. Phillips. We're going to go in order of both seniority and attractiveness (audience laughs) with Senator Dole, and then we'll proceed to Senator Burr.
SEN. ELIZABETH DOLE (R-NC): Thank you, Mr. Chairman, Senator DeMint, Senator Coleman, it's a great privilege to introduce Dave Phillips, who has been nominated by the president to serve as the sixth United States Ambassador to the Republic of Estonia. I'm honored to come before this committee to enthusiastically express my support for this nomination.
Dave and his wife, Kay, have been dear friends through many years. Dave is one of the finest government and business leaders that North Carolina has known, and is more than qualified to join the ranks of our diplomatic corps. Our country is blessed indeed to have such talented and experienced people who are willing to serve in our embassies overseas. I'm confident that Dave will serve with great distinction as the primary liaison between the United States and Estonia.
If confirmed, Dave Phillips will be responsible for promoting and protecting United States interests in Estonia, evermore important to the region as a whole since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. Since then, the country has been able to develop economic and political ties with Western Europe, and in just the past few years, has joined NATO, the European Union, and the World Trade Organization. Estonia is a success story how a former Soviet bloc country can transition to a democracy and modern market economy. Just last September, President Bush visited Estonia to underscore the importance of free market democracies and what they demonstrate to countries pursuing the same goals.
Without question, Dave Phillips is the right person to serve as our chief representative to this country at this time. He's been involved in international commerce his entire professional life. As an international businessman, he promoted American furniture in textile businesses abroad. As Secretary of Commerce for North Carolina, he built relationships with other countries and is responsible for North Carolina's offices in Hong Kong, Tokyo, Mexico City, Frankfurt, and London. He led trade missions around the world and interfaced with business and government leaders alike.
For all of Dave's international achievements, his most stellar accomplishment may have been here at home. He served as chair of the World Games of the Special Olympics in 1999, which I'm proud to say were held in North Carolina. At those games, he was able to bring together representatives from 150 countries for a spectacular event. Mr. Chairman, with his vast business and government expertise, Dave Phillips possesses the critical diplomatic and leadership skills needed to succeed in this important position. He will make a first- rate United States Ambassador.
Before I conclude, let me commend Aldona Wos for her service as United States Ambassador to the Republic of Estonia these past two years. Our country's relationship with Estonia economically, politically, socially, and militarily is better off because of Ambassador Wos's efforts.
I'd also like to acknowledge Sam Fox, who has been nominated by the president to serve as United States Ambassador to Belgium. Sam has been a close personal friend of Bob and Elizabeth Dole for many years, and I have known him to be unparalleled in his commitment to philanthropy and education. He and his wife, Marilyn, do so much to better communities here at home and abroad. He will make an excellent United States Ambassador.
Mr. Chairman, you have two outstanding nominees before you today. Thank you very much.
SEN. BIDEN: Thank you very much.
SEN. RICHARD BURR (R-NC): Mr. President -- I mean Mr. Chairman --(audience laughs)
SEN. BIDEN: That's okay. (audience laughs)
SEN. BURR: That was a good Carolina suck up there. (audience laughs)
Mr. Chairman, thank you. To my colleagues, thank you for the opportunity for Senator Dole and I to come in and talk about one, a dear friend, but two, somebody who is eminently qualified. He's an extraordinary individual. He brings the qualifications that the United States needs in our embassies abroad. And I know he will do an outstanding job as the Ambassador to the Republic of Estonia.
The United States and Estonia have had relations since 1922. That relationship grew into a deep friendship when the United States continued to recognize Estonia's mission to the U.S. even while their homeland suffered 51 years of Soviet occupation. Indeed, this formed a solid foundation in which the U.S. and Estonia relations have flourished ever since, and Dave Phillips is the right man at the right time to continue and to enhance those already strong ties. As an accomplished businessman, philanthropist, and father, Dave has in fact been performing the duties of an ambassador for many years. And we from North Carolina are so proud to call him our own.
If you heard my colleague, Dave represented the United States as the chair of the Special Olympics World Games here in Washington, and abroad as a member of the board of the Smithsonian Institute, meeting and carrying America's message to leaders all over the world. The United States relations in Europe are more important today than they've been since the fall of the Berlin Wall. Once again, we see a familiar Russia seeking to exert its influence throughout Eastern Europe and the Baltics. This crucial time is why we need a man like Dave Phillips with his deep understanding of business and commerce to submit the U.S.-Estonia relationship and to reassert the United States support for free and democratic Europe. I urge my colleagues strongly to support Dave Phillips's nomination.
I, as my colleague Senator Dole has done, am also here to highlight the great nomination of Sam Fox. I know there are others here to speak for him, but I believe that when you know somebody well, there are not enough people that can stand up and speak to your character and your ability. Today I am convinced we have two of the finest nominees in front of us. The nominations could be made to serve this country and our embassies abroad.
I thank the chair.
SEN. BIDEN: Thank you very much, Senator Burr. We next are going to get introductions for Mr. Fox. The senior senator from Missouri is Senator Bond, but I understand that Senator McCaskill is supposed to be presiding in 15 minutes. Senator Bond, would you be willing to let Senator McCaskill go first?
SEN. KIT BOND (R-MO): It's a pleasure to be here with my current colleague and former colleague.
SEN. BIDEN: Absolutely.
SEN. BOND: And I will pass the microphone delicately over to --
SEN. CLAIRE MCCASKILL (D-MO): Thank you, Senator Bond. Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and it is an honor to be here today with also Senator Danforth. He was an incredible leader for our state and embodies so much of what we should be about in the U.S. Senate, and that is working across party lines to try to find that elusive middle ground that is good for all America.
I am here today to embrace and endorse Sam Fox as the nominee of the president to Ambassador to Belgium. I think many people would maybe want to dwell on the fact that he is at his essence a self-made man, the sixth child of immigrant parents grew up in very modest surroundings with no indoor plumbing, and the fact that he has made a wildly successful business. And I think for many in America, that is the American dream.
I would like to just briefly credit Sam Fox for the part of the American dream that we don't spend enough time talking about, and that's the way he has grown his family of five children, and his grandchildren, and the way he has taught them all to look beyond self to the community. Through his foundation, he and his family give to over 150 different charities. St. Louis has been very lucky to receive the generosity of the Fox family in many different ways whether it's Washington University, the Boy Scouts, the art museum -- he really is somebody that understands that we need to give tribute to the country that gives us so much by giving back to other people. And that I think is really the essence of the American dream.
It is who he is as a man. He is a good man. He would be a great ambassador. I think he would make our country very proud.
I think it is important right now that we send ambassadors around the world that make our country proud. I think Sam Fox would do that. And I would like permission to put my written statement in the record on his behalf. And I thank you for allowing me to speak briefly so that I may go do my freshman duty of presiding over the Senate.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
SEN. BIDEN: Thank you very much, Senator.
SEN. BOND: Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman, Senator DeMint, Senator Coleman, Senator Voinovich, it's an honor to join with fellow Missourians in supporting the nomination of the president of Sam Fox to be Ambassador to Belgium. Sam is a wonderful man as you've heard already. We're delighted that he's accompanied by his marvelous family, his wife, Marilyn, and children, Cheryl, Pamela, Jeffrey, Greg, and Steven, whom I trust you'll introduce.
It's already been said he has a distinguished record of service to the American people at the national, state, and community level. And I've had the pleasure of knowing Sam for many years, and know as my colleague said that he is a dedicated man who spent his life pursuing projects that are rich for communities and their families. Professionally and morally, Sam is eminently qualified to hold the post for which he's been nominated.
He does exemplify the American dream, born in Desloge, Missouri, a small town. He earned a bachelors degree from Washington University and proudly served in the U.S. Navy. In 1976, he founded the Harbour Group, a privately owned operating company specializing in the acquisition and development of manufacturing companies. His dedication and hard work has made Harbour Group one of the most successful companies of its kind in America. He is often frank and candid with his colleagues and his friends, but Sam's optimism and enthusiasm have made him a leader in the business community and will make him a valuable addition to the U.S. diplomatic corps in Europe.
Sam is best known for his tireless advocacy of those in need. The son of Jewish immigrants, Sam remembers his parents were not wealthy, but they always sought to give back to the community that had given them hope for a new beginning. Following in this tradition, Sam and his wife, Marilyn, created the Fox Family Foundation over 20 years ago. Each year, the Fox Foundation supports up to 150 different organizations in the St. Louis area including providing basic human needs such as food and shelter of those in need.
However, Sam's efforts don't stop there. He's an exemplary citizen who has been extremely active in a wide variety of civic affairs. He served in key leadership roles with the United Way, the Boy Scouts, the St. Louis Science Center, Civic Progress, and Barnes- Jewish Hospital. The community Sam supports has recognized his contributions to the common good as evidenced by the numerous awards he has received including Woodrow Wilson Award for Corporate Citizenship and the St. Louis Citizen of the Year. Sam Fox's business achievement and philanthropic work leave no doubt in my mind that he has the ability to represent effectively.
The best interests of the United States is understanding of complex issues that impact our national and international interests -- will stand him and the administration in good stead as we face the endless array of emerging challenges bound to emerge in today's months and years ahead. Sam's a good man dedicated to his family, his community, and his country. As I stated previously, it's an honor to recognize his many contributions to our common good. Most of all, I'm proud to call him a friend. I know he'll serve the best interests of the United States ably and faithfully.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
SEN. BIDEN: Thank you, Senator Bond. We will proceed then with Senator Lieberman, Senator Specter, and we will end with the distinguished Senator Danforth from Missouri.
SEN. JOSEPH LIEBERMAN (I-CT): Senator Danforth can offer not only an endorsement but a benediction. (audience laughs)
Mr. Chairman, I'm honored to be here to join with Senator McCaskill, Senator Bond, Senator Specter, and our dear friend and former colleague, Senator Danforth, in urging this committee to report favorably on the nomination of Sam Fox to be Ambassador to Belgium. I suppose that the array of what I can add to this distinguished group of colleagues is to prove that Sam not only has bipartisan, but tripartisan support (audience laughs) for his nomination. Just to echo and really speak briefly, Sam Fox represents what America is all about, and that's why he will be, when confirmed, an extraordinary ambassador.
It's been said, but these are wonderful stories. A child of immigrants born in very modest means just had the dream that in America, if you work hard and play by the rules, you can make it. And that's what he did and he made it. And what he did, he gave back to the community and the country in 1,000 different ways. Sam is an extraordinary philanthropic person.
If I may be more colloquial, he's one of the softest touches in America. This guy doesn't say no to somebody who comes and asks for help, and he has made an enormous amount of good things happen for people. I'd say just a word, but I don't mean to be colloquial, but I say as a Jewish American that I'm proud to be supporting Sam Fox. As a proud Jewish American himself, he will bring back experience to Belgium, to the center of Europe at a time when there is some division, and suggestions of bias rising again, and Sam from his own experience about the openness and mutual respect that he found in America -- he has given to his fellow Americans -- I think can have an extraordinarily positive effect.
I'm honored to call Sam Fox my friend. I appreciate his friendship. And I'm honored to ask you to send him to Brussels as our next ambassador.
Thank you very much.
SEN. BIDEN: Thank you, Senator Lieberman.
SEN. ARLEN SPECTER (R-PA): Mr. Chairman, other distinguished members of this panel, I am proud to join this very distinguished array of introducers. I would ask unanimous consent that my full statement be made a part of the record because I'm going to have to return to the Appropriations Committee --
SEN. BIDEN: Without objection.
SEN. SPECTER: -- which is hearing Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Secretary of Defense Bob Gates. I've known Sam for the better part of 20 years, and I associate myself with the remarks which have been made here. In conclusion, Mr. Chairman, if you had this much support, you'd be a shoe-in. (audience laughs)
SEN. BIDEN: Thank you.
And finally, Senator Danforth, who we thank not only for his service to the state of Missouri, but also for his service as U.S. Ambassador to the U.N., and particularly timely, his outstanding work as a special envoy in Sudan. We very much appreciate your efforts on behalf of the country and the world. Please proceed.
SEN. JOHN DANFORTH: Mr. Chairman, thank you very much for the opportunity of speaking on behalf of my friend, Sam Fox. I am not going to dwell on his biographical information. That's about as now well known to the committee. I'm simply going to speak about a person I know and I know well.
I have been in Sam's home, he has been in mine. My daughter, Mary, is a very close friend of two of Sam's sons and their families. My grandchildren go to school with Sam's children. This is a long family connection, and I can say if there is any way, Mr. Chairman, that you can wrangle an invitation to go fishing from Sam Fox, accept that invitation. (audience laughs)
He, as has been said, grew up in Jefferson County, Missouri. It's the same county that gave us Bill Bradley as a matter of fact. He is a self-made man. I did not know him in Jefferson County and I do not know him in the world of business, I simply know Sam Fox as a human being. And I know what he means to me as a person, and I know what he means to my hometown of St. Louis.
As a person, he is very bright, he is very energetic and warm. I would call him ebullient. And above all, if you heard particularly from Senator Lieberman, he is generous.
As I think Senator Lieberman said, he is a soft touch. The other side of that is that after you touch him, he touches you. And you learn after a while, when you get an envelope in the mail from the Harbour Group, your heart sinks because you can't say no to Sam Fox. He has been involved in so many good causes in St. Louis: Washington University, which is such a stellar academic institution, the St. Louis Art Museum, the Boy Scouts, the United Way, and the list goes on and on.
And as Senator Bond pointed out, he's been recognized for what he means to our town by being named Citizen of the Year. After the announcement was made that Sam had been nominated for Ambassador to Belgium, I was speaking to my brother Bill about the nomination. And my brother said, you know, this is a huge loss for St. Louis. And I said well, it will probably only last a few years. And he said it's a huge loss for St. Louis. I think it's a gain for our government and our country and our relationships with Europe. But Sam really means a lot to St. Louis, and there's no doubt about that.
I'd just like to add one other point, Mr. Chairman. Sam is the nominee of a Republican president, and the Senate is no longer Republican. So I thought that I'd just meet head on, you know, why the Democratic Senate would want to confirm Sam Fox other than to get him out of the way. (laughs)
But I think that the reason is just the kind of person he is and what he would bring to the job of ambassador. He would bring the same energy, he would bring the same personal qualities, the same spirit of generosity, the same kindness, the same decency that are right of the heart of Sam Fox. And so he would make an outstanding ambassador.
But when I was preparing my thoughts for today's meeting, I thought well, I just won't speak for myself. So last Friday, I spoke on the phone with the leading Democrat in our state, my former colleague, and my good friend, Tom Eagleton, and he started to dictate to me exactly what he wanted me to say about Sam. And then with absolutely no confidence in my stenographic skill, he put it in writing and he sent me this following quote which he asked me to read to the committee. Tom Eagleton said, "I am enthusiastically for Sam Fox to be Ambassador. He is a generous concerned citizen of St. Louis. He is the epitome of a humanitarian." And as usual, Senator Eagleton puts it more eloquently than I can.
So Mr. Chairman, thank you very much for the opportunity to support my friend before this committee.
SEN. BIDEN: Thank you, Senator. We'd like to now proceed to opening statements. Mr. Phillips, we'd like you to begin.
You can proceed with the opening statement if you'd like to introduce the members of your family. Please feel free to do so. I've had the opportunity to meet them. They seem like a wonderful family.
In the interest of time, if it's possible to summarize your opening testimony, that would be wonderful. Because what we can then do is include your full testimony in the record. But obviously, if you feel more comfortable reading the entirety of the testimony, you can certainly do so.
MR. STANLEY PHILLIPS: Mr. Chairman, thank you very much. Members of the committee, Senator Cardin, Senator DeMint, Senator Coleman, Senator Voinovich, I'm honored to appear before you today as President Bush's nominee to be the next Ambassador of the United States to Estonia. I would like to express my gratitude to the president and to Secretary Rice for the confidence and trust they have placed in me. I would also like to thank Senator Dole and Senator Burr for introducing me, and I very much appreciate their help and guidance. It would be a great privilege for me to be aware of the opportunity to serve the United States.
Throughout my life, I have traveled internationally and think there is nothing more important than to learn about the world and mankind. I began traveling internationally when I was in high school. In 1961, as a member of one of the first student exchange programs between America and the Soviet Union, I attended the University of Moscow and then for two months traveled by plane, train, and boat to some regions that have since taken their place as independent countries such as Georgia, and the Ukraine.
It was an incredible experience. I have been involved for my entire professional life in international commerce. For more 30 years, I promoted American business by financing accounts receivable foreign companies by building showrooms for foreign exhibitors in High Point, North Carolina for the international furniture market and by manufacturing textiles in North America that were exported globally. During the 1990s, I served as Secretary of Commerce for North Carolina for Governor Jim Hunt and had the opportunity to establish trade and business recruitment offices and led many trade missions to diverse nations in Europe, Asia, and the Middle East.
I also had the unique experience to met with many different heads of state and government including Prime Minster Rabin, of Israel, Prime Minister Moriyama, of Japan, President Mandela, of South Africa, President Zedillo, of Mexico, and even President Mugabe, of Zimbabwe. However, the most exciting international involvement of my life was chairing the World Games of the Special Olympics in 1999. 150 countries participated with 10,000 athletes and coaches visiting North Carolina and more than 36,000 citizens volunteering their services over ten days of the games.
Most recently, I was responsible for organizing and leading a troop to India with the Smithsonian National Board. We experienced a incredible country visiting many different cities and meeting with fascinating people such as the Dalai Llama. These cross cultural exchanges have taught me the vital importance of people to people contacts to improve mutual understanding and build trust and friendship.
Now let me turn now to our bilateral relationship with Estonia. The United States and Estonia are already true partners and close allies. President Bush's visit last November is the first seating American president to visit Estonia highlighted the strength of relationship. He and his Estonian host discussed how our nations are cooperating around the world to achieve common objections and promote common values.
A small country of only 1.3 million people, Estonia is non the less a world actor with a large foot print. In just 15 years since reestablishing its independence, Estonia made a very successful transition to democracy and its economy was the second fastest growing in Europe in 2006. It became a NATO member and a member of the European Union in 2004 and is now sharing its democratic experience in free market principles with countries still in transition. For example Estonia is helping to train leaders government officials and law enforcement officers in the Ukraine, Georgia, Moldova, Armenia. Estonia has an amazing E-governance program allowing citizens and leaders to communicate and do business easily and quickly. Estonia's cabinet room has gone paperless. Ministers review documents on computers and can even vote and send comments remotely. Estonia has helped many countries understand and implement E-governance projects to improve government efficiency and transparency.
Estonia's vital contributions to peace and stability are not limited to countries in Europe. We stand side by side in Iraq and Afghanistan. In Afghanistan, Estonians are serving part of NATO's International Security Assistance Force in Helmand Province. A dangerous province in the South where the Taliban is very active. Estonia has made a long term commitment to Afghanistan both by contributing troops and by prioritizing development assistance including poppy eradication. The Estonian troops in Afghanistan are serving with no national caveats. Meaning that NATO commanders have full freedom to use them when and how they see fit. Estonian troops are also serving bravely in Iraq having suffered two combat deaths and several wounded since deploying in 2003. Estonia is committed to the effort and recently extended it troop mandate for another year.
If confirmed I would do my best to maintain and develop our close relationship with Estonia. In closing, I would like to acknowledge my wife Kay is going to be my partner in this endeavor and thank her for her love and dedication. I would also like to thank our four daughters. Three of whom are with us today Lille (ph), Bo, and Lucy, and Kate who now lives in London. We are filled pride for their accomplishments and want to thank all of them for their love and support. Thank you for granting me this opportunity to appear before you- before this distinguished committee. And Mr. Chairman, I would be glad to answer any questions.
SEN. BIDEN: Thank you. Mr. Fox. You can proceed with your opening statement. Again if you would like to introduce your family feel free to do so and if you would like to summarize you testimony that would be terrific. But, otherwise please proceed.
MR. FOX: Thank you, Mr. Chairman and members of this committee. At the outset I'd like to express my personal appreciation to Senators Kit Bond, Claire McCaskill, Joe Lieberman, Arlen Specter, and Jack Danforth for coming here today to speak in my behalf. I am truly honored by their remarks. I am also grateful to you Senator Obama for chairing this session today. I will make my full statement available for the committee record and I will summarize as short of a period as I can.
Mr. Chairmen and distinguished members of this committee it is a tremendous honor to appear here before you today as President Bush's nominee to serve as the United States Ambassador to the Kingdom of Belgium. I am grateful to the President and to the Secretary of State, Rice for their confidence in me and to this committee for its consideration. If confirmed it would be a privilege to serve as our country's representative to a valued ally in Europe.
Before I go any further please permit me if you will to introduce a special team my family that are here with me today. First and foremost that beautiful young lady sitting here behind me Maryland. My partner for more than 53 years. I might say my managing partner at that. And we have here as I call their names if you would please acknowledge yourself. I have my daughter Sheri (ph), my daughter Furmala (ph). I have my son-in-law Alan Claymond. I have my son Jeff. His wife Loda. Three children Elizabeth, Katherine, and CeeCee. My son Greg his wife Merl sons Matthew, Peter. Megan. Son Stephen, his wife Nancy and their daughter Sofia. Now I am a little short here. We don't have the team completed because I am missing one son-in-law and I am missing at least six grandchildren.
SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL): I noticed that you did that with out notes though. (Laughter) I was very impressed.
MR. FOX: But, don't ask me for birthdays. So, Mr. Chairman as this committee knows our country's relations with Belgium are a vital part of our dealings with all of Europe and increasingly with the rest of the world. Belgium is important not only in it own right but also as the seat of the European Union and of the NATO Alliance. If Europe were to have a capital city, I am convinced that it would most likely be Brussels. Today, relations between Belgium and our country are robust and highly effective. And it's a tribute to the tremendous work of our most recent Ambassador Tom Korologos and the talents of our fine diplomatic staff there.
The first responsibility of any American Ambassador in Brussels is to maintain that relationship. And if confirmed, I would take up this assignment in the only way I know how by working tirelessly to build on the successes of those who have come before me. Mr. Chairman, if confirmed high on my list of goals as Ambassador to Belgium will be first to ensure the safety and welfare of all American citizens including the employees under my care, and those working and visiting in Belgium. Second, to seek Belgium's closer partnership and our fight against international terrorism. Third, to strengthen our partnership with the Belgium government. Fourth, to increase Belgium's support of U.S. positions in NATO and the European Union. Fifth, to expand U.S. exports and to expand business investment by both nations. And sixth, to be a good and faithful steward of the taxpayers dollars.
I hope that the committee will find my own life and career have prepared me for these responsibilities. I bring to this position the management skills that have served me well all of my life. I feel that I have been in training for this ambassadorship for a long time. My background has taught me how to emphasize common interest of both points of disagreement. How to assert one's own interest while respecting the views and the interests of the others. And if confirmed these are some of the skills that I would put to use as Ambassador to Belgium.
Mr. Chairman, I've also learned a few things about hard work, about teamwork, about running businesses, about managing organizations, and about meeting new challenges. And I regard this chance to serve my country as one of the greatest challenges in a life full of challenges. The assignment requires hard work and complete commitment on part of the American Ambassador in Brussels. You have my pledge sir- with the confidence of this committee, with the consent of the Senate- I will give it my very best.
I want to thank all the members of this committee for your very, very kind of attention. And now Mr. Chairman, I welcome your questions.
SEN. OBAMA: Thank you very much, Mr. Fox. I will start off with for some questions for you, Mr. Phillips. Some of the issues were raised by your testimony. By the way we are going -- if it is acceptable to the members of committee we will do ten minute rounds? If people have additional questions after that then we will be willing to extend the time somewhat. So, let me start with you, Mr. Phillips.
Estonia faces a number of challenges with its- with respect to its relationship to Russia. You know the two countries are on different sides of whether the Soviet occupation of Estonia was illegal. The Kremlin has objected to NATO planes patrolling Baltic Airspace. Recently, Estonia has expressed concerns about Russian plans to construct an undersea gas pipeline. That would give Moscow greater control over Estonia's energy supplies. So, I am wondering if you have giving thought to the relationship between Russia and Estonia? If confirmed, what actions would you take to address some of the issues that maybe arising between those two countries?
MR. PHILLIPS: Mr. Chairman, the relationship between Russia and Estonia is very sensitive and very difficult. It goes back to WWII where the Soviet troops came in and occupied Estonia. Their version is that they liberated Estonia from Nazism. So this contentious discussion has taken place since that time. With the fall of the Soviet Union in '91, Estonia declared their independence and since that time this debate has continued as to the terminology. It has found its way into all kinds of situations even the symbolism of the bronze statue.
The debate over the border but the energy issue seems to be the one that everybody is most concerned about. And that is can Estonia evolve and deal with their energy requirements. It's interesting to note that in imported oil and gas is only 30 percent of their energy requirements. Estonia has enormous resources of oil shale, therefore they are able to have approximately 95 percent of their electrical needs are self produced. It is intriguing that they export electricity. They had originally put a line to Finland. So, they are in very good shape from an electrical standpoint. Oil and gas, they have the strategy of building a nuclear plant in the future with the other Baltic states and Poland. They have the opportunity going into liquefied natural gas terminal where they could receive that type of supply. So, they are well aware we are well aware that energy is a major concern in the future of Estonia. But it seems right now with 30 percent of the energy needs only coming from Russia itself, that they understand the necessity of diversity but their in pretty good shape.
SEN. OBAMA: Okay good. Just a quick follow up on that if we can answer this briefly. Obviously, Estonia's Government has played an important role in consolidating democracy in Eastern Europe, the transition from the Cold War, and you mentioned the work that was done on E-government. Do you see the potential for you to support Estonia initiatives at establishing more transparency and greater accountability in their government? Do you see that as having an influence in what other countries in the region do?
MR. PHILLIPS: Well it is a remarkable country. It is ranked seventh in the Heritage Foundation of Freedom on the freedom index higher than the United States of America. Their transparency is incredible. They are truly a beacon in Europe and maybe around the world. They have done an incredible job formulating E-Governance. The technology that has come out of that country is truly remarkable. It's interesting to note that Hotmail, a major part of Microsoft's initiative, was created in Estonia. Skype- that was originally bought by EBAY here in America for $2.5 billion dollars- was created in Estonia. So, their technology is truly remarkable and that they have permeated their government with this type of openness and transparency. And they are talking to other emerging countries in the world especially in Central Europe to do the same thing.
SEN. OBAMA: Thank you. Mr. Fox, you mentioned your managerial skills. I think those will certainly come to play in part because Belgium is the seat of not only your ambassadorship but also missions to NATO and the European Union.
So, I am wondering were you to be confirmed how would you ensure that all the U.S. missions in the country coordinated their efforts maximize their impact on foreign policy? And is this something that you have giving some thought too?
MR. FOX: Yes, thank you, Mr. Chairman. As you know we have a U.S. mission to European Union and we also have U.S. mission to NATO. And both of those have ambassadors, Ambassador Newland, to NATO, and Ambassador Grey, to the European Union. Both of those missions have the primary responsibly for the respective relationships.
However, I do believe that it is the responsibly of the U.S. mission to Belgium and the ambassador to help promote and to persuade the Belgian Government toward United States views with respect to both the European Union and to NATO. And if I am fortunate enough to be confirmed it is my intention to have regular meetings with both of those ambassadors because their doing very, very important work. I go beyond that, sir. I would want to make sure that the staff of our Embassy, at all of their levels, and in all of their departments establish and maintain good relationships with their counterparts in those two missions.
SEN. OBAMA: Now Belgium was one of the leading critics of U.S. policy during the run up to the war in Iraq. I am wondering what your assessment is of the current status of U.S.-Belgium cooperation on security issues? Belgium doesn't spend a lot of money on defense. It is suspicious at times of U.S. military actions abroad. How would you approach those conversations with the Belgium Government?
MR. FOX: Well to- after the last question how? I have had a lot of experience Mr. Chairman in negations and diplomacy. And we've built plants all around the world. We've maintained operations all around the world as a matter of fact all across Europe. So I've had a little bit of experience of that. One of the first things you learn is there is very little that you can do until you build relationships. And it would be very important for the U.S. Ambassador to, first understand the players in Belgium. And then go about systematically getting to understand those players. And making sure that there is mutual respect that is created between the U.S. Ambassador and his counterpart in the Belgium Government. So, that I think is step one.
You ask about terrorism. I think that the Belgium Government has done a lot in counter-terrorism. First of all if you go to Antwerp the mega port initiative and also the container initiative they are number one in the world. They spent something like $50 million dollars to install the kind of equipment that will pickup weapons of mass destruction or nuclear materials. They've passed a number of laws recently that have got some real teeth in them. And they've arrested a number of people. They've convicted a number of people. I think they are doing a good job. And I think countering terrorism is high on their agenda. There was a meeting here in Washington in November on that very subject. In so far as defense is concerned as you know they were one of the founding members of NATO.
And during the Cold War, they were right there with us tremendously. They had an arms force of something like a 130,000 troops. One thing that is a little disappointing today is the amount of money that they are spending on defense. NATO's guidelines would be two percent of gross domestic product. They presently are at 1.1 to 1.3 percent. So, I think one of our goals should be to try to get them to get that budget up a bit.
SEN. OBAMA: Thank you very much. Senator DeMint.
SEN. JIM DEMINT (R-SC): I want to thank you two gentleman and from what we hear you both very qualified to represent our country. And I look forward to assisting you anyway we can hear. I would like to hear both of you just talk briefly about trade and the ability of you as ambassadors of encouraging business relationships between our country and those countries that you will be working with. And I know both of you have extensive business experience but as you know as Mr. Fox here just mentioned building relationships is key.
Doing business is one way. Sports like Special Olympics another way bring countries together so that we can work together beyond what governments do. And that helps us get through government to government crisis. So we have certainly found that in South Carolina doing business with BMW and Michelin. It doesn't matter how much Washington fights with France and Germany. We are doing business them and it doesn't bother us that much. But I would love to hear you both talk about how you as ambassadors can extend trade relations in this country? And Mr. Fox, I'll start with you.
MR. FOX: Well your question has to deal with as I understand it about the ability of the Ambassador to assist in trade. I'll tell you this that Belgium is an excellent trading partner. There are only 10 million in population but yet their our 12th largest market- 12th largest trading partner. They're very business orientated. We've 900 American companies in Belgium and our exports to Belgium are $20 billion dollars. We import $15 billion dollars from them. We have a five billion dollar trade surplus.
And as a businessman I would do everything that I could to try to develop trade more by working with the United States Government- United States companies in Belgium as well as those in America who have products that they are exporting or could be exported to Belgium. They- the Belgium people are very orientated towards business. And they're situated in such a place that 70 percent of the population of the European Union is within 300 miles of Belgium. And they have got great waterways, roads, and so forth. So in addition to what we can do with Belgium there is a lot that we can send through the port of Antwerp to other parts of Europe.
SEN. DEMINT: Excellent. Mr. Phillips.
MR. PHILLIPS: Presently there are approximately 100 America companies with a presence in Estonia. I made reference a few minutes ago to one that is very high profile but the impact on Estonia was enormous but their creativity of Skype and $2.5 billion dollars of purchase power going into Estonia. It shows you what is going on in Estonia. They still have manufacturing. They still have agricultural. In their manufacturing there are furniture companies being from North Carolina and furniture capital of the world is High Point. There are companies that do import furniture from Estonia. They are still in the textile business. We are aware of certain companies in North Carolina that are dealing with them in the textile business. This is happening all over America. So these relationships are ones that exists but I would like very much to nurture and bring in more relationships. I think that it is very important. This is what I did for years for the state of North Carolina all over the world trying to bring companies but also to export products to these countries. And that I would like to do the same thing for Estonia.
SEN. DEMINT: Excellent.
SEN. OBAMA: Senator Coleman.
SEN. NORM COLEMAN (R-MN): Thank you, Mr. Chairman. We have two extraordinary nominees here I was actually hoping that I could participate in the introduction of Sam Fox but I couldn't find a seat at the table. Glad to be up here but these are two extraordinary individuals. So I want to thank you for your willingness to serve. I had a meeting this morning with Tim Shriver from Special Olympics. We did Special Olympics in Saint Paul, Minnesota where I was a mayor for eight years. It is extraordinary the things by the way that they are doing.
But your service your business success is done what- actually Mr. Fox I think in he quote was that my life and career has prepared me well for this experience. I believe that to true of both of you. I have a full statement Mr. Chairman I would like to have that entered into the record about Mr. Fox. Senator Lieberman said that Sam Fox represents what America is all about. I would say that I change that a little bit amend it to say Sam Fox represents the best of what America is all about. Father came to Ellis Island from a shadowing Ukraine with the clothes on his back and talk about the American success story Horatio Alger's story. That is really what we have in front of us and I know Mr. Fox better but that's what he's all about.
Senator McCaskill talked about family. I had a chance to be in Jerusalem to have dinner with his daughter, not just his daughter, this was Sabbath dinner. Mr. Chairman, there were a number of American students, young Jewish Americans who where kind of tapping into their culture into their heritage.
And it was extraordinary to be a part of that. I think the daughter's reflection of the father and of the mother and of family that really understand what it is to give back. What it is to nurture and to grow. I think Mr. Fox adheres to what call the manure theory of money. If you just pile it up it just doesn't smell to good, but if you spread it around it fertilizes and it grows. And Sam has been growing a lot of things in his community and this country. And so I believe the president has made some extraordinary choices --individuals whose life experience has prepared them for this moment, individuals who have learned and understand this global economy in which we participate. So I look forward to supporting this nomination Mr. President. Mr. Chairman.
SEN. OBAMA: Thank you very much, Senator Kerry just joined us. Senator Kerry.
SEN. KERRY (D-MA): Sorry, I'm just getting organized here. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I would like to welcome both our nominees and thank you very much appearing here with us today. And I apologize for not being here the whole time but I did hear part of the testimony back in my office.
Mr. Fox, you come here with an extraordinary number of distinguished introducers and some of them good friends of mine and people for whom I have great respect. And I have received a number of phone calls from people who vouch for your tremendous civic engagement, which is obvious for all to see. And I certainly respect the career that you have -- that brings you to this position.
You have really -- I think I saw you at won Horatio Alger award at some point. And as one of the introducers said you really are the quintessential American Horatio Alger story. So I tip my hat to the life you have led and to the contributions you have made back to the community which are really significant. And I can understand why St. Louis, Missouri are proud of you and why those who have come here are proud of you.
I think you know that I have some concerns, which I will touch on a little bit, but I want to just explore a few things if I can with you sort of initially, if I may. Let me ask you sort of a generic question if I can at the outset, about sort of America's position in Europe and Europe's view of us that you will be walking into if you were to go into this job.
What is your sense of where American foreign policy overall is with respect to the European community? And do you face any particular challenges at this point in time that might be unique to this moment as an ambassador?
MR. FOX: Thank you, Senator, for giving me the opportunity to address that subject. I have several thoughts.
Well, first of all, as an ambassador, you know, I represent -- I would if confirmed -- I would represent the United States government. And it's the United States government agenda that I would be expected to carry out. Having said that, I think we have a lot of work cut out for us, particularly in Europe, and because I think -- I think that there's a lot that can be done and should be done to improve the image of America in Europe, and I would hope that I would be able to contribute to that.
SEN. KERRY: What do you think's happened to the image of America in Europe?
MR. FOX: Well, I don't know any more than what I read in the papers, but I think that there's a lot of concern about America. And I think the war in Iraq is not well received in Europe particularly. And I think that has affected opinion about Americans.
SEN. KERRY: Are there other issues? I mean, what would you say has been the Belgian level of concern about the war on terror itself, the way it's been prosecuted?
MR. FOX: Well, I don't have any first-hand information of that. The only information that I have is what I have been provided by the State Department, and from what I have received from the State Department, it seems as if their war on terrorism has been very good, very cooperative.
I mentioned before you came in -- earlier, Senator -- that there was a very high-level meeting here, that you probably know about, in November on counterterrorism. They've passed a number of laws internally and there's more coming. They have really taken a very strong position in being able to find terrorist groups and prosecuting them and putting them in jail.
I mentioned also the wonderful job that they did in Antwerp, the Megaport Initiative and the Container Initiative, which is designed to identify weapons of mass destruction and also nuclear materials and so forth.
So everything I've learned from the State Department is that they're doing a very good job. But having said that, you know, it's never enough, because we do face a real threat. Terrorism is not just a problem for America; it's a problem for the entire world.
SEN. KERRY: So you have no knowledge outside of what the State Department's told you about any concerns or issues that Belgians may have about the way we've prosecuted the war on terror?
MR. FOX: Other than the newspapers, I haven't, no. I don't believe so.
SEN. KERRY: Are you familiar with the SWIFT consortium, the bank consortium?
MR. FOX: Yes.
SEN. KERRY: Didn't they express concerns about privacy issues?
MR. FOX: Yes. As you know, Senator, SWIFT is a private organization that is involved with the financial telecommunication of information. And they're quite large. They're extensive. They represent some 8,000 banks in 200 countries.
And with counterintelligence, one of the most important things is to follow the money. And in trying to follow the money, there's a very thin line to follow. And that is following the money without overstepping it and violating the privacy laws of European individuals or individuals anywhere.
And that has been a concern, and my understanding is that there's a number of high-level meetings taking place at this time in order to really tighten up those controls.
SEN. KERRY: Is it also fair to say that there's a tension between the Belgians and us with respect to that flow of information?
MR. FOX: I have no personal knowledge of that, sir.
SEN. KERRY: Do you know of any efforts that are being made to try to harmonize United States and European data protection standards?
MR. FOX: I'm sorry?
SEN. KERRY: Do you know of any efforts that are being made to try to harmonize European and U.S. data protection standards?
MR. FOX: None other than the information that I received concerning the SWIFT organization and the negotiations that are taking place in that respect.
SEN. KERRY: But they specifically made a judgment that -- the commission made a judgment faulting the government for in fact sharing information with us. Correct?
MR. FOX: I'm not sure -- I'm not sure what the allegations were. I just know what the issue is. And the issue, sir, has to do with what I said before; that is, on the one hand trying to track the money, trying to get the information that's necessary, and yet do so without violating --
SEN. KERRY: Do you know what the state of relationship is between us and Belgium on this? Does the Bush administration dispute the assessment of the commission?
MR. FOX: I don't know, sir. I'd be happy to get that information and provide it to the committee.
SEN. KERRY: Do you know when the elections are going to be held in Belgium?
MR. FOX: Well, they must be held before October of '06, and there's speculation they may be as early as June.
SEN. KERRY: And what would the likely outcome -- what do you see as potential outcome of that election? And what is the impact of that on our relationship?
MR. FOX: Well, it's very difficult to say. I think from what I've heard, most people believe that the Socialist Party in Flanders and the Liberal Party in Flanders, together with the Socialist Party in Wallonia and the Liberal Party in Wallonia, will continue to form the government.
By the same token, the Christian Democracy in Flanders has become more popular. They're middle of the road, as you know. The Liberal Party is more to the right and the Socialist is more to the left. The Christian Democracy, the Democratic Party, is more in the middle.
And so they could have a little bit of an impact, insofar as the far-right political party, the Vlaams Belang -- it doesn't appear as if they're going to have much traction. And even if they do, it is my understanding that the other political parties there would not be interested in forming a government with them.
SEN. KERRY: Do you believe that one outcome or another has an impact on our current ability to cooperate with respect to NATO and EU issues?
MR. FOX: I'm sorry, I missed your -- I'm sorry, sir.
SEN. KERRY: That's okay. I'm sorry, I'll speak up.
Do you believe that the outcome of that election would have an impact on our ability to pursue our interests with respect to either EU defense issues or NATO?
MR. FOX: I've not heard anyone express that. No, sir.
SEN. KERRY: What about -- I'm sorry, my time is up.
SEN. OBAMA: Your time is up, so what I'd like to do is --
SEN. KERRY: I'll come back.
SEN. OBAMA: -- give the opportunity for Senator Coleman if he has a second round of questions. I do not. Senator Coleman?
SEN. COLEMAN: I'll yield to Senator Kerry. Let him finish his questions.
SEN. OBAMA: Okay.
SEN. KERRY: I'm happy if you want to --
SEN. COLEMAN: I have no questions at this time.
SEN. OBAMA: Good. Why don't we start a new round? Senator Kerry, you can have another --
SEN. KERRY: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I appreciate that.
In your view, is there a role that Belgium's royal family might be able to play in managing relations between Flemings and Walloons?
MR. FOX: You know, you have a constitutional monarchy there with King Alfred II, but that's mostly ceremonial. And to the best of my knowledge they're really not involved politically and with governmental matters other than that.
SEN. KERRY: So you would say no role with respect to --
MR. FOX: Well, I would not be aware of any role.
SEN. KERRY: What about the prospect of a split between the two communities? I understand recently there was -- I think it was a radio show or something that was meant to be a joke and turned out to send serious alarm bells through the community. What is your readout on that?
MR. FOX: Right, it certainly did. Well, I think everyone's kind of amazed as to how Wallonia and Flanders can make up a country when they're so different. They've different languages, they have their own parliaments, but yet it somehow seems to work. And Belgium -- or Brussels is right in the middle of all of that.
From everything I've heard, the consensus of what I've heard is that there is not going to be a breakup. Now, could there be? You know, certainly. But I haven't heard anything that would make it appear that that sort of a breakup was on the horizon.
SEN. KERRY: Overall, what is your judgment about where we are today in our leverage in Europe relative to where we were six years ago? Would you say it's improved or diminished?
MR. FOX: I don't -- that's difficult to say. I would say that, as earlier the question about the feeling in Belgium toward Americans, about America, I think that that's probably true across -- all across Europe. And I think we've got a lot of work to do. As a matter of fact, Karen Hughes, who is now, I think, assistant -- is that the title, assistant secretary of State? That's her whole job, to try to develop that, and she's come up with a number of ways to help those relationships. One is to --
SEN. : (Off mike.)
SEN. KERRY: I think he wants you to pull the mike a little closer, Mr. Fox.
MR. FOX: Closer?
SEN. KERRY: Yeah. Just pull the whole thing. There you go. You can even pull it closer if you want, if it doesn't get in the way.
MR. FOX: Even closer than that?
SEN. KERRY: Sure. I think it helps him out here.
MR. FOX: Okay.
SEN. KERRY: Thanks.
MR. FOX: And I think Karen Hughes' position is that we need to be able to more clearly articulate American views and why, the background. She also feels that we need to try to make other countries know that terrorism is a world-wide matter and we're all subject to it and we're really partners. It's a problem for all of us. And she feels, I believe -- and I don't want to speak for her, this is just what I've read -- that we need to do a better job of articulating that.
SEN. KERRY: Mm-hmm.
Have you ever been to Belgium?
MR. FOX: Oh, yes, sir.
SEN. KERRY: For business or --
MR. FOX: Business and pleasure. As a matter of fact I -- in the middle '70s I built an operation in Ireland, the north of Ireland, and in the south of Ireland we brought a new industry there, and one of our large markets was Belgium.
SEN. KERRY: This was under which banner -- of which company?
MR. FOX: That was Synthetic Industries.
SEN. KERRY: Okay. Fair enough.
And what do you think, I mean, looking at these challenges that we've just articulated in terms of where we stand in Europe today and sort of the problems of Iraq and the other issues that are extant? You obviously have a lot of community skills -- and I don't question your business acumen -- but you don't have government experience. Do you believe -- or foreign policy experience. So help the committee to understand what special skills you believe you bring to the table at this point with respect to the needs of this relationship?
MR. FOX: Yeah. Well, first of all, as I said before, I've been a businessman all of my life and it's kind of in my blood. And I think managing relationships is not much different in the government than it is managing relationships in business, because human beings are involved and you have to build mutual trust and understanding between individuals so that you can then communicate.
I've had a lot of experience teaching organizations, you know, how to think as one, how to work as a team. I've had a lot of experience in teaching organizations and people how to think strategically, how to set objectives, how to measure results. And I think I know what it takes to build character and integrity into organizations and to create a reputation for fair dealing. And I think it's the latter that is so very, very important in building a relationship with counterparts in a government.
I've had -- because our businesses are located all around the world and have been for a long time, I've had a fair amount of experience of dealing with foreign governments and their agencies. So -- well, Europe, for instance. I've made more than a hundred business trips to Europe. And so I think that that experience will help me. I certainly hope it will.
SEN. KERRY: Well, it's impressive. It's a lot more than some people bring to this table. So, I think it is important.
The Belgian prime minister has called for the transformation of the EU's security and defense policy into a real military force that could cooperate independently of NATO. What do you see as the principal strategic tensions between the ESDP and NATO?
MR. FOX: Well, again, as the United States ambassador I would be looking for this government to come to their conclusions on that, and it would be up to me then to push that agenda.
SEN. KERRY: So you don't want to put forward any independent views on that at this point?
MR. FOX: I don't think my independent views are that important in the role of ambassador.
SEN. KERRY: What about the charge -- have you've been specifically charged with respect to that effort? Have you been briefed with respect to it? Do you have (an opinion ?)?
MR. FOX: No, sir, I have not.
SEN. KERRY: Let me ask a few questions that go to something that I think is important, which is sort of a question of both the combination of citizenship and judgment, if you will, is the way I might phrase it. And I want to try to ask these questions as fairly as possible. I'm not, you know, trying to, you know, play some kind of "gotcha" game here, I assure you. But it's important to me in thinking through this issue of judgment to explore this a little bit.
I assume that you believe that the truth in public life is important.
MR. FOX: Yes, sir.
SEN. KERRY: And might I ask you what your opinion is with respect to the state of American politics as regards the politics of personal destruction?
MR. FOX: Senator, I am on record more than one time -- several times -- being interviewed by the press, and particularly the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, and I am very concerned with the amount of money that's going into politics. And I'm more concerned about the fact that politics has become mean and destructive.
And when I was interviewed in 2000, I said that I was for campaign finance reform because I felt that if less money was going into politics, it would turn the whole volume down, and when it turned the volume down, I would hope there'd be less meanness and destructiveness. When 527s came along, I had the very same thing to say about them.
So I -- that's the way I feel. And Senator, let me just say this. I'm against 527s. I've always been against 527s. I think, again, they're mean and destructive. I think they've hurt a lot of good, decent people.
And Senator Kerry, I very much respect your dedicated service to this country. I know that you were not drafted, you volunteered. You went to Vietnam. You were wounded, highly decorated. Senator, you're a hero, and there isn't anybody or anything that's going to take that away from you. But yet 527s tried to. And by the same token, on the other side of aisle 527s -- one 527 went so far as to compare the president of the United States with Adolph Hitler.
So I am on public record as being against 527s because of all the meanness. And I'm against the amount of money that goes into political campaigns, for that reason, same reason. Not once or twice, but three or four times. And I would just -- I wish that Congress could find a way to either ban 527s or at least regulate them.
SEN. OBAMA: Senator Kerry, I just want to point out we've gone through another 10-minute round.
SEN. KERRY: Yeah.
SEN. OBAMA: I'm sure that you want to continue this line of questioning. I don't have any more questions. I feel obliged to make sure that Senator Coleman --
SEN. COLEMAN: No questions. Let Senator Kerry --
SEN. OBAMA: Okay.
SEN. KERRY: Thanks. I apologize to my colleagues.
SEN. OBAMA: Go ahead.
SEN. KERRY: I just want to explore this a little bit.
I certainly appreciate the comments you just made, Mr. Fox. And I -- you know, am not looking for anybody to call me a hero. I think most of the heroes died, and do die. And those of us who are lucky enough to get out of there are lucky.
But notwithstanding the comments you made, you did see fit to contribute a very significant amount of money in October to a group called Swift Boat Veterans for Truth. Correct?
MR. FOX: Correct.
SEN. KERRY: Why would you do that, given what you just said about how bad they are?
MR. FOX: Well, Senator, I have to put it into the proper context. And bear with me.
Marilyn and I have lived the American dream.
There is no question about it. My father came here with the clothes on his back, and the Fox family and the Widman family have truly lived the American dream, and it's been very, very good to us.
I heard a couple of -- mentioned here that we gave to 150 charities. I actually went back and had my staff count. In '05-'06, we made more than 1,000 contributions; more than 100 of those were political; 900-and-some-odd were charitable and to institutions of learning and so forth. A great deal of those had to do with basic human needs.
I think it was Senator Danforth mentioned every time they got a letter that had Harbour Group on it, that he shuddered because it was going to cost him money. Marilyn and I both raise a lot of money from a lot of people.
The point I'm making is this: We ask a lot of people for money and people ask us for money. And very fortunately, we've been blessed with being successfully (sic) financially, and when we're ask we generally give, particularly, you know, if we know who gave it.
SEN. KERRY: So -- well, who asked you to give to the SBVT?
MR. FOX: I can't tell you specifically who did because, you know, I don't remember. As a matter of fact, if I --
SEN. KERRY: You have no recollection of why you gave away $50,000?
MR. FOX: I gave away $50,000 because I was asked to.
SEN. KERRY: But you have no recollection of who asked you to give away $50,000?
MR. FOX: No, sir. I've given away sums much larger than that to a lot of other places and I can't tell you specifically who asked me, no.
SEN. KERRY: Well, you don't think that it's important as a citizen who doesn't like 527s to know where your money is going and how it's going to be spent?
MR. FOX: Well, I think with most contributors, and as a matter of fact, you know, if you go to the other side of the political campaign and we give to individual candidates, we don't know how they're going to use that money and how it's -- you know.
SEN. KERRY: Well, at least it's accountable to an individual candidate for whom people have to vote or not vote. A 527, as you said, is mean and ugly and not accountable.
MR. FOX: I agree with that. I absolutely agree with that, and accountability would --
SEN. KERRY: So why would you give $50,000 to a group that you have no sense of accountability for?
MR. FOX: Well, because if 527s were banned, then it's banned for both parties. And so long as they're not banned --
SEN. KERRY: So two wrongs make a right?
MR. FOX: Well, I don't know. But if one side is contributing, the other side --
SEN. KERRY: But is that your judgment? Is that your judgment that you would bring to the ambassadorship, that two wrongs make a right?
MR. FOX: No, I didn't say that two wrongs made a right, sir.
SEN. KERRY: Well, why would you do it, then?
MR. FOX: Well, I did it because politically it's necessary if the other side's doing it.
SEN. KERRY: Well, let me ask, did you ever see on August 20th, 2004, St. Louis Dispatch editorial wrote the following: "The smear campaign was funded and orchestrated by a coterie of Texans with strong ties to the Bush family and the president's political director Karl Rove. The president should disown the ads and tell his friends that he wants them to stop. Mr. Bush can't wash his hands of the Swift Boat Veterans smear because of his close personal connections with the principals. The Swift Boat veterans in Mr. Kerry's boat, including the man he pulled from the river, support Mr. Kerry's version of events. So do the records documenting the medals Mr. Kerry received. The attack ads, by contrast, are riddled with inconsistencies. For example" -- and it goes on.
That was in your own newspaper in your hometown. But a month later, you nevertheless contribute to that very group that is smearing and spreading lies.
MR. FOX: Yes, sir, all of the 527s were smearing lies and --
SEN. KERRY: So you see no responsibility as an individual citizen to try to guarantee that you're not going to support that kind of politics of personal destruction?
MR. FOX: I think if one side is giving to, the other side almost have to. And I think that the real responsibility should rest with the Congress to either ban 527s or to certainly curtail and regulate them. That's the problem.
SEN. KERRY: So you do believe anything goes in a political campaign?
MR. FOX: I'm sorry?
SEN. KERRY: You do believe that anything goes in a political campaign?
MR. FOX: No, sir, I don't. In fact, I do not --
SEN. KERRY: If you don't believe it, why would you not not fund it?
MR. FOX: I'm sorry, sir. I have never gotten involved in the campaign side. I've raised money. I contribute money. I've never gotten involved in the campaign side and I've never gotten involved in the 527 side of looking at script or any of that.
SEN. KERRY: Well, let me ask you as a matter of judgment as a citizen. Don't you think individuals ought to take some responsibility for making sure they know what they're giving money to?
MR. FOX: Mr. Senator, when we ask lots of people for lots of money and we're asked by people for lots of money, we just generally give. I mean, we know generally what it's used for, but that's it.
SEN. KERRY: And you don't know who asked you.
MR. FOX: No, sir, I really don't. I do not know who asked me. I couldn't -- if you were to take our thousand contributions and go right down the list, I bet you I couldn't give you five 5 percent of them, of who asked me.
SEN. KERRY: Do you recall whether it was somebody in Missouri or somebody -- was it in person? Was it by telephone?
MR. FOX: I have no recollection.
SEN. KERRY: No recollection of how that came about.
MR. FOX: No, sir.
SEN. KERRY: Do you recall thinking about it at all?
MR. FOX: No more than somebody must have asked and I gave.
SEN. KERRY: Boy, no wonder so many people are here to embrace your -- (pause).
Well, what about now? How do you feel about it now, knowing what you know today?
MR. FOX: Mr. Senator, let me say this. Be it 527 or anything else, if I thought what they were printing was not true, I would not contribute to it. But I personally have no way of knowing, generally, when I give.
SEN. KERRY: Well, let me ask you about that. On August 5th, 2004, John McCain called the SBVT, quote: "completely nauseating, dishonest, and dishonorable." McCain pointed out, "It was the same kind of deal that was pulled on me" when he ran against Bush in 2000.
On August 15th, John Warner, Republican chairman of the Armed Services Committee and former Navy secretary, said, quote: "I can speak to the process, that we did extraordinary careful checking on that type of medal, a very high one, when it goes through the secretary. So I'd stand by the process that awarded Kerry that medal, and I think that we best acknowledge that his heroism did gain that recognition. I feel he deserved it." He was then, incidentally, in the Navy. He signed my award.
August 8th, 2004, General Tommy Franks called the smear boat attacks, quote, "vitriolic and hyperbole." On August 7th, 2004, Mike Johanns, the Republican governor of Nebraska, says the ads were trash.
Now, these are Republican leaders. These are the leaders of your own party. President Bush said that he thought that my service was honorable and they shouldn't be questioning it.
Yet, even when your own candidate does that, you saw fit to put $50,000 on the line to continue to smear. My question to you is, why? When you say you couldn't have known, these were people very publicly condemning it.
How could you not have known?
MR. FOX: I just -- Mr. Senator, when I'm asked, I just generally give.
SEN. KERRY: So again I ask you the question: Do you think now that you and others bear responsibility for thinking about where we put money in American politics and what we're saying, what we present to the American people? Is truth important or isn't it?
MR. FOX: Senator, if I had reason to believe and if I were convinced that the money was going to be used to -- in any untruthful or false way, knowingly, I would not give.
SEN. KERRY: Well, sir, let me ask you this question. Did you or did you not -- in any of the public comments being made at the time, which I assume you're following -- hear or read of any of the public statements at that point in time with respect to the legitimacy of these charges and these smears?
MR. FOX: Mr. Senator, I can say this.
SEN. KERRY: I mean, did you miss this? In September of 2004, the Vice Admiral Route, the Navy inspector general, wrote a memo to the secretary of the Navy that was made public, New York Times, Washington Post, every major newspaper in the country carried, saying their examination found the existing documentation regarding my medals was legitimate. Did you miss that, too?
MR. FOX: I don't remember those, but I'm certain at the time I must have read them.
SEN. KERRY: Do you think this should matter to me?
MR. FOX: I'm sorry?
SEN. KERRY: Do you think this should matter to me?
MR. FOX: Yes, I do. I do.
SEN. KERRY: Do you think it should matter to everybody here as a senator?
MR. FOX: Absolutely. And as a matter of fact, going back to the time that when I said I was on record when I was interviewed a number of times about campaign finance reform and about less money going in, I said one of the reasons -- one of the big reasons -- was not just the nastiness and so forth associated with it, but the abuse that candidates had to take to run for public office I think is disgraceful, I think is terrible.
But that's the world we live in. That's what it's come to. It's unfortunate. I don't know of a campaign, a political campaign or a 527 that's ever had anything but that as part of it. And I think it's terrible. I do. I wish there's some way it could be changed. And I think the best way to change it is to restrict the amount of money that can go into campaigns and to restrict the amount of money that can go into 527s, and regulate both of them even more.
SEN. KERRY: Well, we've been trying to that for the 22 years I've been here. And one of the most effective ways to do it would be for people like yourself and others who write the checks to know what they're giving to, and to care about it.
So, you know, there's a question here, obviously, of judgment. I'm not going to try and be unreasonable about it. I'm not trying to -- you know, sometimes you go to these hearings, and senators rant and rave and scream. And I'm not a screamer. But I do think this is important. And I hate to -- I know your family's here. I'm sure they're sitting there saying, "Why are they giving my dad a hard time?" right now. And I understand that. I'm sympathetic to it.
But I hope -- you know, it's not going to make a difference in the outcome where I am, but it's important to the future. I think it is robbing this country of legitimate dialogue, of real discussion of important issues that we face. And, you know, it's a tragedy that the American people have to put up with that. The last week alone in the state of Ohio, $4 million was spent on those ads. Four million dollars.
So it has profound impact, sir. And I think it's a question of judgment. It's a question of, you know, sort of whether we are fighting the status quo or whether we're part of the status quo.
So I'm not sure, you know, where this goes with respect to this, but I certainly thought it deserved to be properly vetted.
And Mr. Chairman, I appreciate your indulgence and that of my colleague.
SEN. OBAMA: Senator Coleman, you'd like a couple minutes?
SEN. COLEMAN: Just a couple minutes, Mr. Chairman. I just want to (note ?) my colleague from Massachusetts, this should matter to all of us. And it's not just the personal thing with Senator Kerry, but it's ugly out there and I would hope we'd figure out a way to deal with it, because it's hurtful and it's destructive. So I think it should matter to us.
My concern as we sit here today is that I think it would be a terrible shame if we were to disqualify folks from service because they contributed. I presume at some point in time there will be a Democrat president, and unless we change this, we'll have folks of also great generosity and great accomplishment and great experience who can add much in their service to their country who probably have contributed to similar 527s on the other side.
And I hope that -- first, I hope that we fix it; if we can't fix it, then we look at those individuals and their life experience and what they've done and what they've built, and that we judge them on that. But clearly, this should matter to all of us.
I just have one question for you, Mr. Fox. Did you have anything to do with the messaging, any involvement in the messaging of the Swift Boat ads?
MR. FOX: No, absolutely none. As a matter of fact, and on the other side, political campaigns, no, I've never gotten involved in the campaign part at all, only giving money or raising money.
SEN. COLEMAN: Again, I could imagine a time when we have nominees from the other party who also have been very generous and contributed a range of things, and I would hope that we'd be able to judge them on their life experience, on what they've built and what they've contributed. And I do think we have before us two outstanding nominees here.
So thank you, Mr. Chairman.
SEN. OBAMA: Thank you, Mr. Coleman.
Let me just take my prerogative as chairman of this subcommittee to just make a comment. I think Senator Coleman is right that we get a lot of ambassadorial nominees before us who have made political contributions. And political campaigns are ugly, and we don't expect every single person who's made a contribution to be held accountable for everything that's said in the course of a campaign.
I have to note that the Swift Boat ads were of a different degree even in the ugly arena of politics. They were extraordinarily well publicized. That there was essentially a fraud being perpetrated on the American people. It had a profound impact on the election.
And I have to say, you know, sitting here, Mr. Fox, I found your statement somewhat unsatisfying to say that you gave because it's ugly out there and people -- somebody asked you to give. I mean, it sounds to me like you were aware that this was not the best of political practices and you thought it was okay to go ahead and contribute to that.
And, you know, I just would like to make a personal note of the fact that, yeah, politics is a rough business and I think we understand that, and no side is pure in this process; there was something particularly insidious and destructive about these ads. By the time you contributed, it was pretty widely noted. It would have been hard for you to miss the fact that there was something particularly nasty and insidious about these ads. It had been well publicized at this point.
It strikes me that -- I don't think you necessarily crafted the message, but you certainly knew at that point what the message was. And, you know, I think it's important for all of us in public life to take note of it and to examine our hearts and to think about what lessons we draw from that.
I would have preferred you saying, you know, "In retrospect looking back, contributing to the Swift Boat campaign was a mistake and I wish I hadn't done it." That would have been, I guess, the message I would have preferred to hear. Obviously, I'm not responsible for your statements.
But I think it's worthwhile to reflect on that, particularly should you get confirmed to an ambassadorship, because part of our task is, I hope, in the war on terrorism and in our efforts to secure this nation, part of that task is to project our ideals and our values. And I can say, knowing a lot of people overseas, that those Swift Boat ads did nothing to enhance the world's view of American politics. And I think it's important for all of us to be mindful that when we're given these positions of responsibility, that we're carrying forward not just our own reputations but also the reputations of the people that we hope to serve.
So I'd like to thank the witnesses for testifying today. I thank them for their patience. I thank the families' forbearance. You know, these are always fun sometimes, but also can be lengthy. I appreciate both of you gentlemen's willingness to serve this country and to present yourselves for these positions.
The record will remain open for one day so that the committee members may submit additional questions to the nominees. I ask that the nominees respond expeditiously if any questions are presented to you. I'm sure that the State Department would provide you assistance in responding to those questions.
If nobody has any additional comments, the hearing is adjourned.