Madeleine Albright’s Senate Confirmation Hearings
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KWAME HOLMAN: Madeleine Albright came before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee this morning as the first woman to be nominated secretary of state. Her confirmation, considered very likely, would make her only the second foreign born secretary of state in the last 25 years. Albright is the daughter of a Czech diplomat forced to flee the Communist takeover his country in 1948. She grew up in Colorado, graduated from Wellesley College, and married and later divorced newspaper heir Joseph Medill Patterson Albright. The mother of three grown daughters, she earned a Ph.D. in public law and government from Columbia University. Albright, who has worked both on Capitol Hill and in the White House National Security Agency, was joined this morning by the man she is to replace, Secretary of State Warren Christopher.
WARREN CHRISTOPHER, Secretary of State: As far as we can tell from looking at the history books this is the first time an outgoing secretary of state has ever had the honor of introducing his nominated successor to this committee. And for that particular privilege I’m very grateful to you, Madeleine, for asking me. All who know Amb. Albright admire her keen intellect, her moral strength, and her powerful sense of history born of personal experience. Millions, of course, have been touched by her plain-spoken eloquence. She’s the master of the one-liner. The one for which I have particular affection is her contention that at times Warren Christopher seems almost life-like. (laughter among group) I’m confident that Amb. Albright will be a great secretary of state, one who will make history as she advances our nation’s interest and upholds our ideals around the world. Indeed, of course, Madeleine’s already made history by being what I predict will be the first of many outstanding women to be chosen for this by office.
KWAME HOLMAN: With that, Christopher exited the committee room for the last time as secretary of state. An indication of the solid bipartisan support Albright enjoys came from conservative Republican Committee Chairman Jesse Helms, who warmly welcomed Albright even as he criticized some of President Clinton’s foreign policies.
SEN. JESSE HELMS, Chairman, Foreign Relations Committee: And I believe I’m in the ball park when I say that 62 men, including Sec. Christopher, have served as U.S. Secretary of State since the beginning of the republic. Jefferson, Madison, Monroe, John Quincy Adams, Buchanan of that group later went on to the presidency. That may portend something for you to look at. Many Americans–I among them–hope that the area of foreign policy in the next four years will not produce a sequel to the travail of the first four years. And that was a bipartisan folly. And it’s quite revealing when this administration, as often it has, boasts that the invasion of Haiti was identified as a great foreign policy achievement. Now, I must be candid about that. Sending American soldiers in harm’s way to a tiny Caribbean island with no vital national interest at stake, sending them to replace one group of thugs with another, does not seem to this Senator to be much of an accomplishment. In any event the Haiti excursion at last count has cost the American taxpayers in excess of $2 billion. Before recommending one penny of American taxpayer’s money to foreign assistance programs or to multilateral development banks or to bureaucratic demands at home, I think you and we together should ask ourselves whether the expenditure or expenditures are truly in America’s interest.
KWAME HOLMAN: Albright’s statement to the committee spoke to those concerns.
MADELEINE ALBRIGHT: Over the past four years the Department of State has cut more than 2,000 employees, downgraded positions, closed more than 30 overseas posts, and deferred badly needed modernization. If confirmed, I will strive to fulfill my obligation to manage our foreign policy effectively and efficiently. I will work with this committee and the Congress to ensure that the American public gets full value for reach tax dollar spent, and I will also want to ensure that our foreign policy successfully promotes and protects the interests of the American people. As President Clinton said recently, the United States cannot and should not try to solve every problem, but where our interests are clear, our values are at stake, and where we can make a difference, we must act, and we must lead. During the past four years, the United States has been steadfast in supporting the peacemakers over the bomb throwers in historically troubled regions.
KWAME HOLMAN: Ranking Committee Democrat Joseph Biden asked Albright to spell out the administration’s views on Russia and a new NATO that soon might include former Soviet satellite states.
SEN. JOSEPH BIDEN, (D) Delaware: Would you be kind enough to outline the likely scope or at least the direction the administration wishes to move in pursuing a proposed charter between NATO and the Russian Federation?
MADELEINE ALBRIGHT: We believe that it is very important to expand NATO to deal appropriately with the new countries, the new democracies in Central and Eastern Europe. But at the same time we fully understand that one of our key relationships is with Russia and that Russia, that we have to establish a relationship between NATO and Russia through a parallel system through this charter. I just have to tell you that the major goal of this is to make sure that we do not create new dividing lines in Europe because part of what we’re trying to eliminate with the NATO expansion is to eliminate the artificial dividing line of the Cold War and, therefore, having a charter in which we detail that relationship between NATO and Russia is very important. We want to make sure that Russia does not believe that the NATO expansion is an adversarial idea against them and at the same time to make sure that Russia does not veto membership by any new country within NATO, because that decision has to be made by NATO members, themselves.
KWAME HOLMAN: Democrat Paul Wellstone had a question about U.S. policy on human rights in China.
SEN. PAUL WELLSTONE, (D) Minnesota: Is the United States prepared to make a strong fight for a resolution, which is critical of China at the upcoming session of the U.N. Human Rights Commission in Geneva? I mean, are we willing to take leadership on that?
MADELEINE ALBRIGHT: Senator, on that subject we are going to be assessing exactly where the human rights situation is at the time that the co-sponsorship comes up. The situation is not much better than at the time that we did this last year, but we will have to assess exactly where it is. And if it is not better, we are prepared, in fact, to co-sponsor that resolution. And the Chinese know that, and I think that the issue here is what in the remaining weeks, how they approach this situation.
KWAME HOLMAN: Georgia Republican Paul Coverdell wanted to know what Albright would do about the international drug trade.
REP. PAUL COVERDELL, (R) Georgia: I’m going to move to what I consider the singular greatest threat to the hemisphere, which is narcotics. I think there’s broad and general agreement that we are not being successful in this struggle that is so damaging, whether it’s damaging of consumption, as in our country, or corruption, as in many of the others. Sen. Dodd and I have on more than one occasion talked about a restructuring of this conflict, particularly among the five principals, the United States, Mexico, Bolivia, Colombia, and Peru.
MADELEINE ALBRIGHT: We are looking into various venues and possibilities of dealing with this subject. It’s the No. 1 subject for us to really concentrate on because it undermines the fabric of all our societies and while we all got, you know, the nuclear threat was something that we heard about every five minutes during the Cold War, this is “a” threat that is, I believe, equally serious in terms of undermining what this country and the Latin American countries are about.
KWAME HOLMAN: The hearing ended with virtually no criticism of Madeleine Albright. The Foreign Relations Committee expects to move the nomination quickly, aiming for what’s expected to be easy confirmation by the full Senate the day after the President is inaugurated.