Biden should follow Kerry's example

Although he was unable to figure it out until after the election — and just a day before the second inauguration of President George W. Bush at that — Sen. John Kerry finally hit upon a novel concept Wednesday: meaning what he says and saying what he means by way of a vote that actually reflects his convictions.

As most everyone knows by now, Kerry (joined by Sen. Barbara Boxer) voted to reject the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee reporting Dr. Condoleezza Rice's nomination for Secretary of State to the whole Senate. Kerry based his vote on his disappointment with Dr. Rice's statements during her hearing over the course of a little over a day in the matter of Iraq and other foreign affairs issues. Kerry's 'questions' were nothing more than a rambling version of his rambling campaign speeches on the subject of Iraq, and condescending statements to a woman who has forgotten more about foreign policy than Sen. Kerry will ever know.

Though Kerry's sudden departure from fence sitting is laudable, he remains in his familiar lifelong position, on the wrong side of history. While his dour visage and wooden speech grate, the most annoying performance of the confirmation hearings was delivered by Sen. Joe Biden of Delaware who, to borrow an appellation the late Michael Kelly stapled to Jesse Jackson, is the secretary of the state of his own mind.

Sen. Biden, the ranking member of the Committee, made an ass of himself from the start, as Committee chair Richard Lugar explained that Sen. Biden's train from Delaware was 'late' in arriving. On cue, Sen. Biden entered the Committee room a few seconds after that, huffing and puffing a lame attempt at humor by saying to Dr. Rice 'I don't run from the platform for just anyone,' as if his conduct itself was not a backhanded slap and a display of uncommon rudeness. His opening statement may have set a Senate record for use of the word 'I,' 'me,' 'my,' and 'mine' and it served no purpose other than amplifying the sound of his own voice and securing coverage on cable television. Unlike some of his more dubious orations, the solipsistic quality made it fairly certain that Sen. Biden wrote this speech himself.

As anyone who has ever watched a Sunday morning political talk show knows, Sen. Biden considers himself the foremost theorist of foreign affairs since Jefferson, even though not once in his life has he ever had to formulate a policy, much less implement one. His 'questions' revealed a real lack of research on his part or of that of his Committee staff, unless watching CNN and reading stories in The New Yorker counts as serious inquiry. Sen. Biden chided Dr. Rice and the administration with the tired lefstist boilerplate criticism about war planning, 'torture,' and security that seems to be the only bullet left in the Democrats' ammo clip. That the first free election in memory is going to occur in Iraq in a few days, or that we are not torturers because those who break the rules in the U.S. military are punished (as Dr. Rice pointed out) was lost on the Democratic side of the aisle.
 
Sen. Biden could have been easily confused for a member of the White House press corps when lecturing Dr. Rice that admitting mistakes in Iraq should not be 'considered a weakness.' He also told Dr. Rice to tell the President of the United States to 'read some history.' Dr. Rice calmly tried to explain for the zillionth time that weapons of mass destruction were never the only reason for going into Iraq, and referred the Committee to various speeches by the President given since September 11, 2001. She also rightly pointed out that to make final judgments about the mission in Iraq at this point is premature and looking through a narrow window of history.

Nobody is questioning the Senate's role in critically questioning would—be members of the Cabinet. It is the Senate's job to do so, and to do so with vigor. But it is also the job of Members of the Senate to do so with honor, some semblance of balance, fairness, and a base of facts — not conjecture or the latest dispatches from Sy Hersh's imaginary friends, err, sources — from which to base their questions. Members would do well to follow the example of the serious members of the Committee and ask tough questions that do not require a half—hour prelude, and that allow the witness to answer concisely and without interruption. Sen. Biden, a straightforward question not containing a first person pronoun doesn't mean you're weak.

As he so often does, Sen. Biden failed miserably and was unequal to the task at hand and further cemented his legacy as a walking advertisement for term limits. On Wednesday, Sen. Biden declared that he was less—than—impressed with Dr. Rice's performance during the hearings, that he had serious reservations about her willingness to speak her mind should it differ from the President (a shocking statement revealing his ignorance of Dr. Rice's personality), and was worried about her tenure at Foggy Bottom. Yet, he decided to vote in her favor. At least Sen. Kerry had the decency to vote his conscience. Sen. Biden's motivation for voting 'yea'  is anyone's guess, though it is probably so he can deny in the months and years ahead that he is what he is — an obstructionist. He would have been more respectable had he at least voted against a person who so distresses him, however, and it would be slightly easier to take him seriously. Who would have thought that John Kerry is currently the leading example of acting on conviction among the U.S. Senate Democrats?

Watching these clowns try and lecture Dr. Rice, though, a wave of relief comes over the viewer upon remembering that, had Sen. Kerry been the one preparing for his inauguration this week, it is more than likely that Sen. Biden would have been preparing for his confirmation hearings as the Secretary of State—designate.

Matt May can be reached at Matthewtmay@yahoo.com; his blog address is mattymay.blogspot.com

Although he was unable to figure it out until after the election — and just a day before the second inauguration of President George W. Bush at that — Sen. John Kerry finally hit upon a novel concept Wednesday: meaning what he says and saying what he means by way of a vote that actually reflects his convictions.

As most everyone knows by now, Kerry (joined by Sen. Barbara Boxer) voted to reject the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee reporting Dr. Condoleezza Rice's nomination for Secretary of State to the whole Senate. Kerry based his vote on his disappointment with Dr. Rice's statements during her hearing over the course of a little over a day in the matter of Iraq and other foreign affairs issues. Kerry's 'questions' were nothing more than a rambling version of his rambling campaign speeches on the subject of Iraq, and condescending statements to a woman who has forgotten more about foreign policy than Sen. Kerry will ever know.

Though Kerry's sudden departure from fence sitting is laudable, he remains in his familiar lifelong position, on the wrong side of history. While his dour visage and wooden speech grate, the most annoying performance of the confirmation hearings was delivered by Sen. Joe Biden of Delaware who, to borrow an appellation the late Michael Kelly stapled to Jesse Jackson, is the secretary of the state of his own mind.

Sen. Biden, the ranking member of the Committee, made an ass of himself from the start, as Committee chair Richard Lugar explained that Sen. Biden's train from Delaware was 'late' in arriving. On cue, Sen. Biden entered the Committee room a few seconds after that, huffing and puffing a lame attempt at humor by saying to Dr. Rice 'I don't run from the platform for just anyone,' as if his conduct itself was not a backhanded slap and a display of uncommon rudeness. His opening statement may have set a Senate record for use of the word 'I,' 'me,' 'my,' and 'mine' and it served no purpose other than amplifying the sound of his own voice and securing coverage on cable television. Unlike some of his more dubious orations, the solipsistic quality made it fairly certain that Sen. Biden wrote this speech himself.

As anyone who has ever watched a Sunday morning political talk show knows, Sen. Biden considers himself the foremost theorist of foreign affairs since Jefferson, even though not once in his life has he ever had to formulate a policy, much less implement one. His 'questions' revealed a real lack of research on his part or of that of his Committee staff, unless watching CNN and reading stories in The New Yorker counts as serious inquiry. Sen. Biden chided Dr. Rice and the administration with the tired lefstist boilerplate criticism about war planning, 'torture,' and security that seems to be the only bullet left in the Democrats' ammo clip. That the first free election in memory is going to occur in Iraq in a few days, or that we are not torturers because those who break the rules in the U.S. military are punished (as Dr. Rice pointed out) was lost on the Democratic side of the aisle.
 
Sen. Biden could have been easily confused for a member of the White House press corps when lecturing Dr. Rice that admitting mistakes in Iraq should not be 'considered a weakness.' He also told Dr. Rice to tell the President of the United States to 'read some history.' Dr. Rice calmly tried to explain for the zillionth time that weapons of mass destruction were never the only reason for going into Iraq, and referred the Committee to various speeches by the President given since September 11, 2001. She also rightly pointed out that to make final judgments about the mission in Iraq at this point is premature and looking through a narrow window of history.

Nobody is questioning the Senate's role in critically questioning would—be members of the Cabinet. It is the Senate's job to do so, and to do so with vigor. But it is also the job of Members of the Senate to do so with honor, some semblance of balance, fairness, and a base of facts — not conjecture or the latest dispatches from Sy Hersh's imaginary friends, err, sources — from which to base their questions. Members would do well to follow the example of the serious members of the Committee and ask tough questions that do not require a half—hour prelude, and that allow the witness to answer concisely and without interruption. Sen. Biden, a straightforward question not containing a first person pronoun doesn't mean you're weak.

As he so often does, Sen. Biden failed miserably and was unequal to the task at hand and further cemented his legacy as a walking advertisement for term limits. On Wednesday, Sen. Biden declared that he was less—than—impressed with Dr. Rice's performance during the hearings, that he had serious reservations about her willingness to speak her mind should it differ from the President (a shocking statement revealing his ignorance of Dr. Rice's personality), and was worried about her tenure at Foggy Bottom. Yet, he decided to vote in her favor. At least Sen. Kerry had the decency to vote his conscience. Sen. Biden's motivation for voting 'yea'  is anyone's guess, though it is probably so he can deny in the months and years ahead that he is what he is — an obstructionist. He would have been more respectable had he at least voted against a person who so distresses him, however, and it would be slightly easier to take him seriously. Who would have thought that John Kerry is currently the leading example of acting on conviction among the U.S. Senate Democrats?

Watching these clowns try and lecture Dr. Rice, though, a wave of relief comes over the viewer upon remembering that, had Sen. Kerry been the one preparing for his inauguration this week, it is more than likely that Sen. Biden would have been preparing for his confirmation hearings as the Secretary of State—designate.

Matt May can be reached at Matthewtmay@yahoo.com; his blog address is mattymay.blogspot.com