Rice is likely to be confirmed today.
KNIGHT RIDDER NEWSPAPERS
WASHINGTON -- Senate Democrats hammered away Tuesday at national security adviser Condoleezza Rice, using a daylong debate over her nomination to be secretary of state as a high-profile forum to bash the Bush administration for the Iraq war.
Rice, 50, is expected to be easily confirmed today to replace Colin Powell, making her the first black female secretary of state. But what seemed last month like a smooth path to one of the most important Cabinet positions -- and the culmination of a remarkable life story that began in the heart of the segregated South -- took a bumpy detour last week after two days of contentious confirmation hearings by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
For opponents of Iraq policy, Rice has become a symbol of what they say was the Bush administration's misleading case for launching war and the missteps after military victory.
"I cannot endorse higher responsibilities for those who helped to set our great country down the path of increasing isolation, enmity in the world and a war that has no end," said Sen. Robert Byrd, D-W.Va., his voice booming at the end of a nearly hour-long speech. "Oh, when will our boys come home?"
Republicans countered that Rice is highly qualified for the job and Democrats were playing politics with the nomination, delaying her inevitable confirmation and possibly damaging her ability to do the job.
"Condoleezza Rice will be a great secretary of state," said Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas. "She has the capability. She has the trusted ear of the president. She has the knowledge of foreign policy from 25 years of experience."
"Be cognizant the rest of the world is watching," said Sen. George Allen, R-Va. "Do not diminish Dr. Rice's credibility in capitals around the world."
Not all Democrats opposed Rice's nomination. Sens. Joseph Lieberman, D-Conn., Ken Salazar, D-Colo., and Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., spoke in her favor. But Sen. Evan Bayh, D-Ind., a moderate who voted to authorize the war in 2002, said he'd vote against Rice because "accountability is important."
Democrats joined Republicans in praising Rice as an intelligent and experienced nominee who has the trust of President Bush. But opponents of her nomination said she needed to be held accountable for her role as a chief architect of the Bush administration's foreign policy and a leading spokeswoman for war in Iraq.