Senate confirmation hearings don't get any more raw than the bareknuckle back-and-forth yesterday between Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) and Condoleezza Rice.
Pants on fire!
That would apply to Boxer, who seems to be going through a terminal meltdown. Something is driving her over the edge, and she's determined to take the Democratic Party with her.
A week after she tearfully sided with the wackadoo wing by becoming the only member of the Senate to vote against certifying President Bush's election victory, Boxer crossed the line again. This time, she was dry-eyed as she used the hearing on Rice's nomination to be secretary of state to accuse Rice of lying repeatedly about Saddam Hussein and the Iraq war.
"Your loyalty to the mission ... overwhelmed your respect for the truth," Boxer said during a haranguing 12-minute attack based on statements Rice and Bush have made. Boxer did not ask a single question, being too busy replaying the presidential race.
Rice can take the heat. She calmly rebutted the quotations Boxer trotted out and said forcefully of Saddam, "It was high time we got rid of him, and I'm glad that we're rid of him."
She also fired back at Boxer's insults, saying, "I really hope you will refrain from impugning my integrity."
"I'm not," Boxer piped up, denying the thing she was obviously doing.
The smackdown ended only when the spoilsport committee chairman, Sen. Richard Lugar (R-Ind.), said, "Let me intervene" and called for a lunch break. Just when it was getting good.
Actually, I don't have a problem with tough questions about the shifting rationale on Iraq. There is a gap between the initial talk of weapons of mass destruction and the current fixation on a democratic Iraq. It's a gap filled with our blood and treasure.
My problem is that Boxer came off as someone who needs a rest. Just as Sen. Edward Kennedy did in the hearings on Alberto Gonzales to be the next attorney general. Kennedy and Boxer both lectured Bush's nominees in condescending moral terms, with Kennedy saying, "I wouldn't have" engaged in discussions of torture.
I wanted Gonzales to ask Kennedy if he had been to Chappaquiddick lately. And I wouldn't have blamed Rice had she told Boxer to stuff it.
Boxer and Kennedy are living in the past, back when it was okay for limousine liberals to tell the rest of us how to live. And maybe they're going a little nuts with frustration because white-bread Bush was reelected and he's the one nominating the first Hispanic attorney general and the first black female secretary of state.
Whatever's bugging them, Kennedy and Boxer need to get a grip. They're embarrassing themselves and defining their party as a bunch of sour-grapes, out-of-touch losers. All the talk about Dems moving back to the political center and working with Bush is being demolished every time these two open their potty mouths.
Of course, there is another, even more scary possibility: Maybe Kennedy and Boxer actually speak for the majority of their party.
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In that case, Dems are in more trouble than they can ever imagine.