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Senator McConnell On The Nomination Of Dr. Condoleezza Rice To Be Secretary Of State

Location: Washington, DC

Floor Speech By Senator McConnell On The Nomination Of Dr. Condoleezza Rice To Be Secretary Of State
from the Office of Senator Mitch McConnell

U.S. Senator Mitch McConnell delivered the following statement on the Senate floor today in support of Dr. Condoleezza Rice's nomination to be Secretary of State:

"Mr. President, I rise today to declare my unqualified support for the president's nominee to be America's 66th Secretary of State, Dr. Condoleezza Rice.

"Dr. Rice's fitness for the job is abundantly clear to every member of this chamber. She has excelled in the foreign policy arena for 25 years and served three presidents. She has built lasting, personal relationships with world leaders and foreign policy makers worldwide. She has been one of the main authors of America's new approach to foreign policy in the aftermath of September 11. Most importantly, she has the complete trust and confidence of the president, and is perfectly poised to follow his leadership as America promotes freedom and democracy across the globe.

"Dr. Rice is the ideal person to lead the State Department at this time. The department's mission will be to shatter the barriers to liberty and human dignity overseas, and Dr. Rice has already broken many barriers in her relatively short lifetime.

"This remarkable woman was born in Birmingham, Alabama, in the same year that the Supreme Court of the United States handed down its Brown v. Board of Education decision. Few then would have believed that a young African-American girl, born under the heavy hand of Jim Crow, could one day become this nation's chief diplomat. But Dr. Rice's mother, a music teacher named Angelina, and her father, the Reverend John Rice, knew their Condi was meant for great things, and Reverend Rice nicknamed his daughter "Little Star."

"Dr. Rice may not have inherited great financial wealth from her parents, but she did inherit a love of learning. Her parents were both educators, and made sure their only child could read prodigiously by age five. At age three, she had begun the piano lessons that would one day lead to her accompanying world-renowned cellist Yo-Yo Ma. She excelled in school and received her bachelor's degree with honors at the age of 19. She went on to earn her master's and Ph.D. in international studies, and later became, at age 38, the youngest provost in the history of Stanford University.

"Her accomplished career led to her appointment as Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs in 2001. In that role, Dr. Rice has been at the center of some of the most important foreign policy decisions since President Harry Truman, George Marshall and Dean Acheson navigated the beginning of the Cold War.

"In the past four years, she has helped formulate a national security strategy to protect the United States by draining the swamps that permit terrorism to flourish. She has been a key architect of the president's two-state solution in the Middle East—a policy that led to the first free and democratic Palestinian elections ever.

"She has helped develop a more secure relationship between the United States and Russia, leading to record reductions in that country's amount of nuclear warheads. She has helped craft the important six-party talks designed to end North Korea's nuclear program.

"She was at the center of the President's successful operation to remove the Taliban from Afghanistan and enable the Afghan people to practice democracy for the first time ever.

"And she led the effort to remove Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq, eliminate the possibility of his ever unleashing weapons of mass destruction, and liberate over 25 million Iraqis from his reign of terror.

"Mr. President, we need Dr. Rice's leadership at this crucial time in America's history. As President Bush so eloquently stated last week in his second Inaugural Address, our country's safety is inextricably tied to the progress of freedom in faraway lands. Those lands are not so far away anymore. Two vast oceans are no defense against a small band of terrorists with a dirty bomb, a vial of ricin, or boxcutters.

"In the post-September 11 world, our national security depends heavily on our foreign policy, and our foreign policy will be determined largely by our national security needs. Because the light of liberty chases away the shadows of resentment, intolerance, and violence that lead to attacks on America, it is in America's interests to promote freedom and democracy in every corner of the globe.

"Democracy and economic development are crucial components to winning the Global War on Terror. Soon, if we finish our mission, Iraq will be a beacon of economic and political freedom in the Middle East, and the rogue despots of the region will watch helplessly as their citizens demand the freedoms and economic prosperity enjoyed by their Iraqi neighbors. That day will be very uncomfortable for them—and a victory for the free world.

"The Department of State must be a primary actor in this mission, because American diplomacy will be the primary force to create a world more favored toward freedom. The Global War on Terror requires us to cooperate with other nations more than any other global conflict before. It requires focus in parts of the world that were unfamiliar to many Americans three years ago. We will need to argue the virtues of liberty and democracy to an audience that may be hearing such arguments for the first time.

"America will need to rely on the multinational institutions that have served her so well in the past to succeed in this new era. Our relations with NATO, the European Union, and other partners must be reassured and reaffirmed. And, just as we formed coalitions of the willing to liberate Afghanistan and Iraq, we should continue to cultivate alliances of democracies when the need arises, to serve as an example to the world that the best method of governing is to seek the consent of the governed.

"For all of these hard tasks before us, Mr. President, I can think of no better person to ensure success than Dr. Rice. Her personal courage is eclipsed only by her professional pre-eminence. Her parents aptly named her "Condoleezza" after the Italian musical term "con dolcezza," which is a direction to play "with sweetness." But she is also brilliant, compassionate, and determined to advance the president's vision of a world free from despotism.

"The State Department will play the lead in American foreign policy. Its foreign-service officers are the face of America to millions worldwide. What better way to empower them than by confirming the President's most-trusted advisor as Secretary of State?

"Mr. President, I wish to address briefly the criticisms that some of my colleagues have directed at Dr. Rice. As far as I can tell, no one has impugned her ability or moral integrity. Most of the criticisms seem to rest on the concern that she will not make it her primary mission as Secretary of State to disagree with the president.

"Think about that. Some would suggest that the secretary of state's job is to oppose the president's policies. The Senate has not attempted to so micromanage the relationship between the president and a cabinet officer since passing the Tenure of Office Act.

"Let me be clear to my colleagues: It is the role of the president to set foreign policy. It is the role of the secretary of state to execute it.

"Of course, as America's top diplomat, Dr. Rice will be expected to bring her expertise on a wide variety of issues to the table. The president has chosen her because he values her opinion. But all foreign policy decisions ultimately rest with the president. For some to suggest that a secretary of state should be some kind of agitator-in-residence, constantly complicating the implementation of policy, is irresponsible.

"Furthermore, Dr. Rice enthusiastically subscribes to President Bush's doctrine of spreading liberty. She was in the White House on September 11 when it was feared the building would come under attack. From a bunker beneath the White House, she watched the footage of those two planes striking the Twin Towers over and over. She was with the president that night, when he first formulated the policy that America would make no distinction between the terrorists who committed those evil acts and those who harbored them.

"Dr. Rice was with the president during Operation Enduring Freedom. She was with him when he made the case to the United Nations that Saddam Hussein must face serious consequences. And she was with the president when he decided to liberate Iraq and the world from Saddam Hussein's evil intent.

"After sharing so many searing experiences, President Bush and Dr. Rice now share a vision for responding to them. This should be no surprise.

"Like the president, Dr. Rice realizes that the challenges we face today are daunting and will take generations to overcome. Winning the Global War on Terror and spreading peace and freedom will not be easy. But few things worth doing are. This Administration has taken the long view, and is committed to a long-term strategy, the reward for which is years in the future. Posterity will thank them, and this Congress, for seeing the fight through.

"The liberation of Iraq was the right thing to do. We removed a tyrant who had both the means and the motive to attack America or her interests. I urge my colleagues who focus only on the setbacks, mistakes, or tragedies of Operation Iraqi Freedom: Take the long view.

"If there had been as many television cameras at Omaha Beach on D-Day as there are in this chamber today, General Eisenhower would have been fired before sunset. War is messy, but history tells us we must see our fights through to the end. The goal of spreading peace and freedom in the Middle East is too important to suffer hyper-critical, politicized attacks.

"I am happy to praise Dr. Rice today. My experiences with her over the years justify every word I have said. But we should not be debating her nomination today. This Senate should have confirmed her on January 20.

"Finally, Mr. President, I wish to leave you with a question for every member of this body to ponder. It is too easy to snipe from the sidelines at nominees like Dr. Rice, who are willing to make great sacrifices to serve their country. So I ask, what positive actions can this Senate take to further the spread of peace, liberty and democracy over the globe?

"I would refer my colleagues to the Asia Freedom Act of 2004, which Senator Lugar and I proposed last November. The Act provides an integrated and coherent framework for U.S. policy towards North and Southeast Asia. It ties U.S. foreign aid to commitments from governments in the region to better their records in democracy, civil liberties, cooperation in the Global War on Terror, and several other areas. It requires the State Department to judge these governments not by what they say, but rather the concrete actions they undertake to further democracy, security and stability in the region.

"This Act would contribute to the march of freedom from sea to sea. This is the kind of business this Senate should be focusing on. Advancing freedom, attacking terrorism and ending tyranny is the mission of our time. I have no doubt that this Senate recognizes that, and will act with commensurate speed and wisdom.

"America has passed weighty tests before. Sixty years ago, emerging wearily from a great war, this country began the struggle with another seemingly entrenched enemy—the Soviet Union and its scourge of Communism. When that battle began, Americans could not know when it would end. But they knew they had to fight it. In 1947, President Harry Truman spoke to a joint session of Congress about this new Cold War. He said, "Great responsibilities have been placed upon us by the swift movement of events. I am confident that the Congress will face these responsibilities squarely."

"Now it falls to us to face our responsibilities just as squarely, Mr. President. We can, we will, and we must."

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