Having botched the Bolton fight on the Senate floor (see "Still Waiting for Guffman"), Douglas Jehl's reporting in "Nominee Vows Tighter Control of Intelligence" should surprise few. While they should have been trying to convey outrage over Negroponte, the Democrats largely took a pass on the whole issue (Senator Ron Wyden appears to be the only exception).
At one point, Negroponte declared, "My punch line is, I believe in calling things the way I see them. And I believe that the president deserves from his director of national intelligence, and from the intelligence community, unvarnished truth."
I doubt people in Honduras are laughing over that one.
But instead of being a voice for the powerless, the Democrats took a pass.
From Democracy Now!:
ZENAIDA VELASQUEZ: What I know is that we were insisting to get a meeting with the ambassador knowing how powerful the ambassadorship to Honduras from the United States is. And we finally met in October of 1983, but to no abate. We were not either -- lucky to have, save the lives of our people. Whenever I think that Negroponte as the Ambassador of the United States to Honduras had the power to intervene before the Honduran authorities to stop the human rights abuses, he could have saved the lives -- not say about my brother, because he got there a little bit after my brother was kidnapped and disappeared. And who knows? Maybe he was still alive. But, at least, what I say is at least he could have saved the lives of people that were kidnapped, tortured and disappeared during his tenure as Ambassador to Honduras.
When the issues on the Senate floor go to procedural (basically "how will you handle this post") and only that, you start to wonder if the Democrats are even interested in staking a claim to the moral ground.
They botched Bolton and gave Negroponte a pass.
From Democracy Now! again:
ROZ DZELZITIS: Well, for six years, I and the staff of May I Speak Freely? Media have been researching the legacy of human rights abuses in Honduras. And in response to Negroponte's testimony in his last two confirmation hearings, May I Speak Freely? Media produced a memo to address members of the intelligence committee directly about Negroponte's human rights record in Honduras, and the memo describes evidence that suggests Negroponte knew, or at the very least should have known, about what widespread government sanctioned abuses. In addition to not reporting abuses in annual human rights reports, which incidentally we now know that the C.I.A. knew about and were reporting, he praised the government's protection of human and civil rights to the U.S. press. And because the U.S. Congress did not receive information about government sanctioned abuses, it increased military aid to Honduras in order to fight communism in the region.
Where was the grilling? And if he's going to be an intell czar, was it too much to expect that they might have, at the very least, grilled him on "what he should have known?"
They took a pass. When people wonder where the outrage is over the torture in Iraq and Afghanistan, they need look no further than the Negroponte hearings which were devoid of serious discussions and played more like interviewing Miss America contestants: "How would you use your title?"
Senate Dems took a pass on Negroponte's record and accountability. Others tried to raise those issues but spineless Dems were happy to lap up Negroponte's "for world peace" lines.
By refusing to walk the public through Negroponte's past record and actions that he either tolerated or was unaware of (or possibly far worse), Democrats again reduced what should have been a debate about where our country is headed into a standard job interview.
Is Negroponte qualified for the post? If you're comfortable with anything being done in your name, absolutely. If you balk at seeing everything this country is supposed to stand for destroyed by ever lowing expectations, be thankful for outside voices because they were the only ones raising that issue.
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