Pelosi challenges Bush, pushes new agenda
First woman speaker says Iraq war won’t keep Washington from addressing education, health care and environment.
By Thomas Dewell
May 23, 2007
WASHINGTON – Speaker of the House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi in a May 15 interview challenged the Bush administration, focused on her domestic agenda and shared her vision for the next presidency.
Pelosi, D-Calif., was a busy woman that afternoon. The House was in the midst of five votes and her husband, Paul Pelosi, had come from San Francisco to submit the financial statements politicians must turn in to the federal government. The News&Guide interview lasted eight-and-a-half minutes.
“The American people have as their top priority ending the war in Iraq,” she said. “They want Congress to do something about it. But ... it doesn’t mean that they’re not interested in jobs and health care, education and stopping global warming and public safety in their own neighborhoods.”
Pelosi divides the work her office tackles into four areas: defend the country, grow the economy, care for children and families and protect the planet.
On defense, she wants to fight terrorists, stop the proliferation of nuclear weapons, improve military readiness and push Congress to hold the executive branch accountable for its actions. To address the economy, the speaker plans to focus on education, research and development and keep good jobs in the U.S.
The domestic plan for families calls for expanding access to health care and addressing issues such as neighborhood security. On Tuesday, she convened a Children’s Summit to ensure the best science guides policy on child care, children’s health and early learning.
To protect the planet, she wants to reduce the nation’s dependence on foreign oil, increase the use of renewable energy and have America lead the effort to develop clean energy technology.
The following interview was transcribed from a tape recording and excerpted here.
NEWS&GUIDE: So, I went to talk to Sen. Thomas [R-Wyo.] today and said, Sen. Thomas, what do you think about the climate, what do you think about the environment [in Washington, D.C.]? He said, I think what’s going on with Iraq is a whole lot of posturing and getting ready for the 2008 election season and we’re not getting anything done ...
SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: ... I don’t like to comment on what other people say – but we’re very pleased with what is happening here in our first 100 hours. We signaled a new direction in Congress in terms of fiscal soundness, openness in governance, highest ethical standards. We are moving toward energy independence and we intend to achieve it within 10 years.
Certainly helping protect our country is our top priority here. And as far as the war in Iraq is concerned, we hope it will be over long before the 2008 election. The American people have lost confidence in the president’s conduct of the war. They’ve asked for a new direction in the last election. It’s not about the next election; it’s about what we do now.
NEWS&GUIDE: What do you think of the work that Vice President Cheney is doing? With his trips and the way he’s been a part of the front line of the administration?
SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: I don’t have any view of – all of this is the president’s responsibility. It’s President Bush’s war. Who he takes advice from is a matter for the executive branch. But in terms of being accountable to the American people, it is President Bush’s war.
And the American people, as I say, have lost ... confidence in his conduct of the war.
NEWS&GUIDE: Some would say that if you have an earlier withdraw rather than a later withdraw, it’s going to lead to a bloody civil war over there. Do you agree with that –
SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: Well, it’s too late for an early withdraw. We’re five years into it.
NEWS&GUIDE: Earlier, maybe.
SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: ... Our legislation talks about redeploying the troops so that they are out of the civil war, but there to protect us against terrorism, to protect our embassy, to protect our interest in the region and those responsibilities are those that I’m sure the administration would agree with. They have said we’re not there to be engaged in a civil war, so we’re saying, fine, let’s get out of that combat and be there for training missions for the Iraqi troops as well as, as I said, fight the terrorists, protect our diplomats and protect our interests in the region. It’s a mess there now whether we stay or whether we go. It’s a mess.
NEWS&GUIDE: What I’m curious about: Is there enough oxygen for an issue [such as early childhood development] to breathe in this current environment?
SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: Oh sure, there has to be, yeah. The American people have as their top priority ending the war in Iraq. They want Congress to do something about it. But ... it doesn’t mean that they’re not interested in jobs and health care, education and stopping global warming and public safety in their own neighborhoods.
So we have a domestic agenda, as I mentioned. In the first 100 hours [of the current Congress] we made America safer by passing the 9/11 Commission recommendations, made the economy fairer by passing the increase in minimum wage, cut in half the cost of student loans to make college more affordable, began moving towards energy independence by repealing subsidies for big oil and putting that money toward alternative energy resources and passed our stem-cell research bill [and will send it to the president’s desk]. ... The domestic issues are the issues ... relevant to the people, the American people’s lives. ... The war in Iraq ... takes up a good deal of time, but we have other issues we’re working on at the same time.
NEWS&GUIDE: ... Tell me about your vision for January 20th, 2009 [inauguration day].
SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: January 20th, 2009. I would hope that we would be swearing in a Democratic president of the United States. I think that the American people and the world would give a new president an opportunity for a fresh start. For a fresh start to ... establish, once again, our ... respected place in the community of nations so that we can do what we have to do. We have to protect the American people, stop proliferation of weapons of mass destruction – we have to do that through diplomatic alliance. That we would see a situation where America would be in the lead on how we preserve our planet, how we reverse global warming and make the future better for our children.
Those two international aspects of a new president are ones where a new president of a new party would be given a fresh chance.
In all honesty, I think a Republican, a new Republican president, would be given a fresh start, too, in that regard.
In the domestic scene, I would hope that we would have more of a focus on science so that we’re respecting science whether it comes to early childhood learning and respecting what science is telling us on that. Stem-cell research and what science is telling us on that. ... There has to be a scientific basis on how we go forward.
... My vision for January 20th, 2009, would be to have a Democratic president and a Democratic Congress so we can show the American people what we can get done for them. But whatever it is, it will be new, and it will be a fresh start and it will be, hopefully, free of the past so that we can work together in a bipartisan way, in greater civility, to meet the needs of the American people on issues that are relevant to their lives: jobs, health care, education, a safe, clean environment.