Published February 2005 — Download PDF of the original newspaper column
Byrd's-Eye View By U.S. Senator Robert C. Byrd Meeting Our Constitutional Responsibilities
At the start of each term, Senators swear to "support and defend the Constitution of the United States .... " It is a sacred oath, one before God and man, that I take with the deepest conviction. The Constitution mandates that Senators provide "advice and consent" for presidential nominees, including Cabinet officers. I support the majority of President Bush's nominees. But I have opposed two people responsible for scars on the reputation and integrity of the United States. When asked to confirm Condoleezza Rice as Secretary of State, I voted no. I do not question her credentials, but I oppose many of the decisions that Dr. Rice made during her four years as National Security Advisor. There remain too many unanswered questions about Dr. Rice's failure to protect our country before the attacks of September II, her public efforts to politicize intelligence leading to war with Iraq, and her allegiance to the unconstitutional Bush doctrine of first-strike war. I cannot endorse promotion of a person who helped to set us on the path of a war that has led to the deaths of more than 1 ,440 American military men and women, and changed the image of this nation from that of a peacemaker to that of a bully. When asked to confirm Alberto Gonzales as Attorney General, I again voted no. Mr. Gonzales, as chief legal counsel to President Bush, provided his interpretation of law and policy directly to the President. When asked whether the United States should use torture as a means of interrogation, Mr. Gonzales gave the green light. Opinions on torture, which Mr. Gonzales either wrote, requested, authorized, endorsed, or had implemented, contributed to the graphic pictures and accounts of prisoner abuse in Afghanistan, Guantanamo Bay, and Iraq, including at the Abu Ghraib prison. The Constitutional "advice and consent" responsibility is not a rubber-stamp endorsement of a nominee's educational achievement or level of expertise. Senators are expected to use their best judgment in considering nominations. The people deserve nothing less. In my judgment, these two nominees' records did not merit giving them higher responsibilities in government. At his Inauguration, President Bush spoke about America's historic support of freedom. But truly supporting freedom means upholding human rights, not seeking rationalizations to circumvent them. Moral standards long have defined America. But official policies of torture and abuse, and misleading a nation about the reasons for war, undermine our moral authority. Rewarding the architects of such policies makes a travesty of accountability. The Constitution's Framers would not have approved, and neither did I.