Floor Statement in Opposition to the Nomination of Dorrance Smith to be Assistant Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs
MR REED: Mr. President, I stand to support the position of Senator Levin with respect to the nomination of Dorrance Smith to be Assistant Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs. I, too, participated in his hearings. I listened to Mr. Smith, and I think he lacks the judgment necessary to be the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs. Senator Levin has quoted the Wall Street Journal op-ed piece. This was not the example of making an offhand statement. This is not the situation where someone was being quizzed and extemporaneously suggested something that later one regrets. This was a very carefully crafted editorial which was sent to the Wall Street Journal for publication. In it, Mr. Smith says: Osama bin Laden, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, and al Qaeda have a partner in al-Jazeera and, by extension, most networks in the U.S. Mr. President, can you think of a more provocative and a more incendiary comment, to suggest that anyone is equivalent, by extension, to bin Laden and al-Zarqawi? That is essentially what he said about the media in the United States. I believe it represents extremely poor judgment. Perhaps that is why he is getting the job, because we have heard before these very loose suggestions that somebody is just like Zarqawi, somebody is just like that. We also heard coming out of the Department of Defense the notion that we have problems not because of strategic mistakes that have been made, we have problems because the media just doesn't get the story right. This may be part of their approach to the media, but I don't think it represents the judgment necessary for an individual to discharge the responsibilities of that nature for the United States and the Department of Defense. The other point is that Mr. Smith later went on to say: Al-Jazeera continues to broadcast because it reportedly receives $100 million a year from the government of Qatar. Without this subsidy it would be off the air, off the Internet and out of business. So, does Qatar's funding of al-Jazeera constitute state sponsorship of terrorism? As long as al-Jazeera continues to practice in cahoots with terrorists while we are at war, should the U.S. Government maintain normal relations with Qatar? Should the U.S. not adopt a hard-line position about doing business with Qatar as long as al-Jazeera is doing business with terrorists? All of these quotes are from the Wall Street Journal article. I think what he fails to recognize is that Qatar is a major base of American military operations in the region. I asked at the hearing if he seriously thinks we ought to break diplomatic relations to Qatar. The answer was rather unsatisfactory, sort of: I was just posing a question. But these are the kinds of provocative questions that suggest he doesn't have the judgment to do the job. Let me just suggest our involvement with Qatar. Qatar has invested over $1 billion to build Al-Udeid Air Base, one of our principal air operations in the region. There are 2,200 U.S. air men and women stationed today at that airbase. During our operations in Afghanistan, that number was over 4,000. U.S. military flights leave and arrive from Iraq every single day going into Qatar. All of us on the Armed Services Committee have traveled in Qatar, have stayed in Qatar, have visited with the Government of Qatar, and to suggest, even rhetorically, that we should consider abandoning our normal relations with Qatar is absurd. This was not some cocktail-party comment where he was just thinking out loud; this was a very well-crafted editorial. Again, it just goes to my conclusion that he lacks judgment. It is a very intricate arrangement we have with the Government of Qatar. Yes, they do support al-Jazeera. Al-Jazeera is not an entity that is trying to promote American interests in the region. That is clear. But we have to recognize not just the simple black-and-white comic book approaches to policy but the reality of our engagement with Qatar, their support of our operations, and the essential facilities that are there. Statements such as these are totally, in my mind, indefensible and demonstrate a gross lack of judgment. That is not the kind of individual we want in a position that is supposedly designed to craft a policy that will, through ideas and engagement, get the people of this region to be supportive of the United States and its policies. So I join my colleague in opposing this nomination.