BY TIFFANY BENJAMIN
On Monday afternoon, Senator Barbara Boxer (D-California), spoke to a crowd of about 200 Harvard Law students on issues ranging from terrorism to the Green Party to the fight between Republicans and Democrats over confirmation of President Bush’s judicial nominees. The speech was the HLS Democrats’ first major event of the year.
Much of Boxer’s time was spent discussing the recent resolution authorizing the President to use force in Iraq if the nation refuses to comply with U.N. weapons inspections. Boxer was among the minority voting against the resolution, which passed 77-23.
“To me, it wasn’t a hard call, because I had 25 to 30 completely unanswered questions,” Boxer said. “I believe war is a last resort.”
In defense of colleagues who voted for the resolution, Boxer said that Democrats forced the President to go through several channels before they voted to approve, and that the final resolution was drawn narrowly.
“The Democrats said, ‘Go to the U.N.’ and [Bush] went to the U.N.” she said. “I also again believe that he wasn’t going to come to the Senate or the House. He was going to bypass us and say, ‘I don’t need to come here — they gave me this power through the [Persian Gulf War] resolutions back in ‘91’”
Boxer charged the Bush administration with having nefarious motives for seeking the resolution. “The whole thing was brought up because of politics,” she said. “It was all part of the grand plan by the Bush administration to get the Senate.”
Democrats, Boxer said, have a lot of work to do to get their constituencies excited about the November 5 election.
“I think it’s just a matter of us having to take it to the people. We have to make the connection between the quality of their lives and who is in office,” Boxer said.
She warned Green Party voters to, “think of the ramifications and don’t delude yourself,” this time around, stating that the Green Party cost Democrats the White House in 2000 and risked handing the entire Congress over to Republicans as well.
Boxer also defended Senate Democrats against the claim that they have obstructed the approval of the President’s judicial nominees, arguing that the reasons individuals were refused had nothing to do with the President.
“I think the Senate would be happy to put people on the bench who reflect mainstream America,” Boxer said. “We have put many people on the bench, but we refuse to put people on the bench who are from the far end of the spectrum. We never did it under Clinton, and we’re not going to do it under Bush.”
Melinda McLellan, a 1L, said she was impressed by Boxer’s candor. “I was pleased to hear from a leading Democrat who had the courage to vote ‘no’ on the Iraq resolution and who seems genuinely committed to correcting perceived problems in the Democratic Party,” she said.
Boxer was elected to the Senate in 1993. She chairs several committees, including the Environment and Public Works Committee.