THE NOMINATION OF ANTHONY LAKE (Senate - March 18, 1997)

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Mr. DASCHLE. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that the letter submitted by Anthony Lake to the President involving his nomination to be Director of Central Intelligence be printed in the Congressional Record at this time.

There being no objection, the material was ordered to be printed in the Record, as follows:

The White House,
Washington, March 17, 1997.

The President,
The White House,
Washington, DC.

Dear Mr. President: I am writing to ask that you withdraw my nomination to be Director of Central Intelligence.

I do so not because of concern that the nomination would be defeated if it ever came to a vote. In fact, there are sufficient votes for confirmation--in both the Select Committee and the Senate.

And not because of concern about further personal attacks. That gauntlet has been run. Every question has been answered.

I do so because I have regretfully concluded that it is the right thing to do.

While we have made great progress in the nomination process over the past month and during last week's hearings. I have learned over the weekend that the process is once again faced by endless delay. It is a political football in a game with constantly moving goal posts.

After more than three months, I have finally lost patience, and the endless delays are hurting the CIA and NSC staff in ways I can no longer tolerate.

I am told that the Chairman of the committee, having now reviewed the positive FBI materials underlying the report on my background investigation, may want other members of the committee to read them. I had doubts about the precedent we have already set in allowing him and the Vice Chairman such access. To bend principle further would even more discourage future nominees to this or other senior positions from entering public service.

I am also told that his committee staff will again insist that NSC staff meet with the committee on terms that White House Counsel will find unacceptable, leading to a further stalemate on that issue as well.

In addition, the story today about the activities of Mr. Roger Tamraz is likely to lead to further delay as an investigation proceeds.

All of this means a nomination process that has no end in sight. We have been proceeding on the assumption that there would be a vote this week. It now seems certain the committee deliberations will extend past the recess until after Easter, and probably longer. In addition, even after the nomination receives a vote in committee, whenever that might be, there is no prospect for a near-term vote on the floor and every chance it will be extended as long as your political opponents can do so.

I have gone through the past three months and more with patience and, I hope, dignity. But I have lost the former and could lose the latter as this political circus continues indefinitely. As Senator Richard Lugar, perhaps the most respected member of the Senate, has said with regard to my nomination and its treatment, `The whole confirmation process has become more and more outrageous.' It is nasty and brutish without being short.

If this were a game, I would persist until we won. My colleagues tell me to stay the course, lest I be perceived the loser or scared of a further fight. I'm not.

But this is not a game. And this process is not primarily about me. It is about the future of the Central Intelligence Agency. The Agency, once again, is becoming politicized. The longer this goes on, the worse the damage. The controversy and its effects could linger on after my confirmation. The men and women of the CIA deserve better than this.

The process is also impugning, through a new form of guilt by association, the names of NSC staff members who have done nothing wrong. So long as my nomination is mired in partisan politics their reputations will be, as well. It is ironic that the staff, which in every case took the right positions in keeping national security decisions and domestic politics separate, as I had encouraged them to do, is now the staff bearing the brunt of criticism because it didn't go beyond its own responsibilities to manage others' business as well. This is a staff that was doing its job properly. There was never any disguise of wrong-doing; they were consistently doing right in the advice they offered, while concentrating on the large daily agenda of important national security issues before us. I am very proud of our work on these issues and very proud of our staff members.

In unprecedented fashion the nomination is also politicizing the Senate committee.

And I have noticed that, in numerous ways, it is poisoning the attitude of members of the Agency towards the committee.

Most of all, the way this process has been conducted would make it difficult for me to work with the committee in the ways that a Director of Central Intelligence must do--and as I had hoped to do.

I am deeply grateful to you for your strong support, for your encouragement over these difficult months, and--most of all--for the opportunity to serve over the past four years. I am very proud of your foreign policy record and of whatever contributions I made to it.

I have greatly appreciated the support of Senators McCain, Lugar, Lieberman, Kerrey, Kerry, Kennedy and many others, like John Deutch. I have been moved by the principled position of a large number of Republicans like John McCain, Warren Rudman, Richard Lugar, Robert Gates and Peter King. And I am especially grateful to the volunteers from the NSC who have put so much into this, as well as officials of the CIA. I am sorry that their efforts were not better rewarded.

I have believed all my life in public service. I still do. But Washington has gone haywire.

I hope that, sooner rather than later, people of all political views beyond our city limits will demand that Washington give priority to policy over partisanship, to governing over `gotcha.' It is time that senior officials have more time to concentrate on dealing with very real foreign challenges rather than with the domestic wounds that Washington is inflicting on itself.

This is a very difficult decision. I was excited about this new opportunity to serve. I had developed firm ideas on how to bring further reform to the Agency and had no doubt about my capacity to implement them. I was ready to devote four years to a tough new challenge. I truly regret that I will not have the opportunity to seize it.

Anthony Lake.

Mr. DASCHLE. Mr. President, I do so simply to comment on the very unfortunate set of circumstances that led to the decision by Mr. Lake to submit this letter.

I have had the opportunity to work with Tony Lake now for some time; first, as a Senator; and, second, as leader. I must say that I do not know that I have ever met anybody more decent, more committed, more dedicated to public service than is Tony Lake. Our Nation owes him a big debt of gratitude for his contributions, and a great level of appreciation for the many ways in which he has already served his country. I only hope that he will continue to choose to do so in spite of these extraordinary circumstances.

Mr. Lake was asked to be the Director of Central Intelligence by the President of the United States. It has been the prerogative of the President to name people within his administration, going all the way back to George Washington. Of course, there are times when the Senate in its role as a body to serve with advise and consent that it has disagreed with the President about a particular nomination, or about a particular member of a given administration. But I must say in all of history I challenge somebody to come up with more flimsy evidence with which to destroy the character of a candidate for public office appointed by the President as grievously as what I see has happened to Tony Lake in the last several months.

Mr. Lake was not even given the opportunity to be voted on, never presented an opportunity for a vote in the committee, never presented with an opportunity to be voted on on the floor.

I was asked this morning if this is some retribution for John Tower, or Robert Bork. My answer was that I hope our Republican colleagues are not that cynical. I hope there is some other motivation for doing to Tony Lake what they did over the last couple of months. It is very unfortunate. And it is sad, Mr. President. A man of his integrity, his character, was treated so shabbily by the committee that is supposed to be as devoid of politics as any in this institution. I think they owe him an apology. At least they owed him a vote.

Under these circumstances, I think he made the right decision. But I am deeply troubled. I am troubled by the way it was handled. I am troubled by the insinuations and allegations all printed on the front page of every newspaper as fact. I am troubled by his inability to be given the opportunity to defend himself adequately against this never-ending list of additional allegations and questions going over old material time and time again almost as if it was an inquisition.

So, Mr. President, it is a sad day for this body. It is a sad day for the Intelligence Committee. And it certainly is a sad occasion for those seeking to serve our country in the capacity and the level as Director of Central Intelligence.

I don't know what recommendation I would give to some other candidate who now may consider this particular position. What advice do you give someone who puts himself forward knowing full well that there will be raw FBI data available to Members, and, if the chairman of the committee had his way, to all Members? What do you tell someone who has laid himself out? What do you tell the next person who is expected not to subject himself or herself to the same set of circumstances?

Mr. President, this institution needs to restore civility, needs to come up with a way with which to take the meanness out of our process, whether it is a legislative issue or a nomination. Civility has to be brought back into this process. I hope we will start soon.

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