Thursday, May 10, 2007

sen. patrick leahy's remarks to condoleezza rice -- may 10, 2007

Statement Of Sen. Patrick Leahy,

Chairman, State, Foreign Operations,
And Related Programs Subcommittee,

Hearing On Fiscal Year 2008 State,
Foreign Operations Budget Request

May 10, 2007

. . .Secretary Rice, it is good to have you here to discuss the Administration’s Fiscal Year 2008 budget request for the State Department and Foreign Operations. . .

Madam Secretary, wherever I go these days, a question I am invariably asked is how can the United States repair the damage to its international reputation as a nation that has historically stood for the rule of law – including international law; for peace; and for defending the fundamental rights of people everywhere regardless of race, religion, ethnicity or nationality.

The policies of this Administration – from Iraq to Guantanamo – have turned strong allies into reluctant partners, and friends into antagonists. According to surveys, many people, particularly in Muslim countries, now see America as a greater threat than the religious extremists who incite hatred and violence. This should alarm us and stir us to action. Those who hold these views are horribly mistaken. But we are not doing enough to convince them otherwise.

While some may argue that taking unpopular stands is the price of leadership, I reject that as a justification for the damage we have needlessly caused to a proud and principled reputation that took the founding of our nation, a civil war, two world wars, and the lives of countless American patriots to forge, fortify and defend.

Everywhere I look -- from the Pacific Rim to the Middle East, from Darfur to South America – our image, and our influence, are waning sharply in the face of growing challenges. Once again, we have learned the painful lesson that military might is no substitute for effective policies that rally support and cooperation from the international community.

“Transformational diplomacy” is a lofty slogan for what amounts to adding new positions at posts that have been under-staffed for years. I welcome it. But beyond that, your 2008 budget offers little confidence that this Administration is prepared to devote the resources necessary to successfully exert America’s influence in such a complex and dangerous world.

Senator Gregg and I will do our best to fund the President’s requests and to incorporate the meritorious suggestions of Senators, but I am afraid that once again we will fall far short of what this country is capable of and should do.

We want you to succeed in the time you have left, particularly in the Middle East where so much is at stake. But much time has been wasted and much good will has been squandered.

This White House has not only favored a “my way or the highway” unilateralism in its dealings with the world; it has often treated Democrats in Congress the same way. It was as unnecessary as it was ineffective, and the American people and our national interests in the world have paid a high price for it. . .

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