On the front page of today's New York Times, Steven R. Weisman and Joel Brinkley do a half-hearted he said/she said dance (ignoring the record as they pursue "fairness") in Rice Sees Iraq Training Progress but Offers No Schedule for Exit -- print edition calls it "At Hearing, Rice Claims Progress In Iraq Trainging." Yes, Rice did "claim" that. Senator Joseph Biden corrected the record. (See transcript, linked provided at the end of the entry.)
Others asking hard questions included Senator Barbara Boxer and Senator John Kerry. Kerry's interaction with Rice occurred late in the evening which may be why it doesn't get more attention in Weisman and Brinkley's article. They do highlight some of Boxer's statements and questions but not in any manner that conveys what Boxer was addressing.
We'll highlight this:
BOXER: Which he says, Although Saddam clearly assigned a high value to the nuclear progress and talent that had been developed up to '91, the program ended and the intellectual capital decayed in the succeeding years. Here's the point: You and I could sit here and go back and forth and present our arguments, and maybe somebody watching the debate would pick one or the other depending on their own views. But I'm not interested in that. I'm interested in the facts. So when I ask you these questions, I'm going to show you your words not my words. And, if I might say, again you said you're aware of the stakes in Iraq. We sent our beautiful people -- and thank you, thank you so much for your comments about them -- to defend freedom. You sent them in there because of weapons of mass destruction. Later, the mission changed when there were none. I have your quotes on it. I have the president's quotes on it. And everybody admits it but you that that was the reason for the war. And then once we're in there, now it moved to a different mission. Which is great, we all want to give democracy and freedom everywhere we can possibly do it, but let's not rewrite history. It's too soon to do that.
RICE: Senator Boxer, I would refer you to the president's speech before the American Enterprise Institute in February prior to the war, in which he talked about the fact that, yes, there was the threat of weapons of mass destruction but he also talked to the strategic threat that Saddam Hussein was to the region. Saddam Hussein was a threat, yes, because he was trying to acquire weapons of mass destruction. And, yes, we thought that he was -- that he had stockpiles, which he did not have. We had problems with the intelligence. We are all, as a collective polity of the United States, trying to deal with ways to get better intelligence. But it wasn't just weapons of mass destruction. He was also a place -- his territory was a place where terrorists were welcomed, where he paid suicide bombers to bomb Israel, where he had used Scuds against Israel in the past, and so we knew what his intentions were in the region, where he had attacked his neighbors before and, in fact, tried to annex Kuwait, where we'd gone to war against him twice in the past. It was the total picture, Senator, not just weapons of mass destruction, that caused us to decide that post-September 11th, it was finally time to deal with Saddam Hussein.
Rice is rewriting history in this answer. The Bully Boy addressing the AEI in Feb. 2003:
And we are opposing the greatest danger in the war on terror: outlaw regimes arming with weapons of mass destruction.
In Iraq, a dictator is building and hiding weapons that could enable him to dominate the Middle East and intimidate the civilized world -- and we will not allow it. (Applause.) This same tyrant has close ties to terrorist organizations, and could supply them with the terrible means to strike this country -- and America will not permit it. The danger posed by Saddam Hussein and his weapons cannot be ignored or wished away. The danger must be confronted. We hope that the Iraqi regime will meet the demands of the United Nations and disarm, fully and peacefully. If it does not, we are prepared to disarm Iraq by force. Either way, this danger will be removed. (Applause.)
The safety of the American people depends on ending this direct and growing threat. Acting against the danger will also contribute greatly to the long-term safety and stability of our world. The current Iraqi regime has shown the power of tyranny to spread discord and violence in the Middle East. A liberated Iraq can show the power of freedom to transform that vital region, by bringing hope and progress into the lives of millions. America's interests in security, and America's belief in liberty, both lead in the same direction: to a free and peaceful Iraq. (Applause.)
The first to benefit from a free Iraq would be the Iraqi people, themselves. Today they live in scarcity and fear, under a dictator who has brought them nothing but war, and misery, and torture. Their lives and their freedom matter little to Saddam Hussein -- but Iraqi lives and freedom matter greatly to us. (Applause.)
Bringing stability and unity to a free Iraq will not be easy. Yet that is no excuse to leave the Iraqi regime's torture chambers and poison labs in operation. Any future the Iraqi people choose for themselves will be better than the nightmare world that Saddam Hussein has chosen for them. (Applause.)
If we must use force, the United States and our coalition stand ready to help the citizens of a liberated Iraq. We will deliver medicine to the sick, and we are now moving into place nearly 3 million emergency rations to feed the hungry.
. . .
We will also lead in carrying out the urgent and dangerous work of destroying chemical and biological weapons. We will provide security against those who try to spread chaos, or settle scores, or threaten the territorial integrity of Iraq. We will seek to protect Iraq's natural resources from sabotage by a dying regime, and ensure those resources are used for the benefit of the owners -- the Iraqi people. (Applause.)
Saddam Husein was said to be a threat in that speech because he possessed WMD. That's the thrust of Bush's argument. Rice can rewrite it any way she wants but she shouldn't be surprised (or indignant) when she's called on her revisionist practices.
From yesterday's hearings:
RICE: Senator, we can have this discussion in any way that you would like. But I really hope that you will reframe from impugning my integrity. Thank you very much.
Your integrity? Well if it's not a question of integrity, is it a question of intelligence? Comprehension? Exactly what does Dr. Rice not get?
Skip the story, it's useless even as an overview. Read the Transcript instead.
Pay attention to Senator Christopher Dodd's questions as well, he's asking if we don't just have an obligation to do what's legal but to lead as well. Rice seems completely lost in responding.
Boxer was the strongest (no surprise, but we are grateful); however, Dodd, Kerry and Biden also deserve attention for their questions. Again, skip the article and read the transcript.