Upcoming House Speaker Discusses Iraq, Working with Bush
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MARGARET WARNER: Madam Speaker-to-be, if I may call you that, welcome.
REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), Minority Leader: My pleasure to be with you, Margaret.
MARGARET WARNER: Now, Donald Rumsfeld is gone, just as you this morning and many Democrats had urged. Do you take this as a sign that President Bush really does want a new direction in Iraq?
REP. NANCY PELOSI: I certainly hope so. Yesterday, the American people spoke very clearly that there’s one place they want a new direction: It’s in the conduct of the war in Iraq.
The day before, the military press, Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force, all came out and said Donald Rumsfeld must go, their exact words. So thank heavens the president has heard the message and has acted upon it.
MARGARET WARNER: Now, you spoke with him today. Did he mention to you that this was in the offing?
REP. NANCY PELOSI: No, he didn’t tell me about the secretary or we didn’t talk about Iraq. We talked about getting together tomorrow; perhaps we’ll talk about it then. It certainly is Topic A for us.
A change of direction in Iraq
MARGARET WARNER: Now, after his press conference two weeks ago, you issued a statement saying he was in denial about how bad the situation was in Iraq. After his press conference today, do you think that is still his frame of mind?
REP. NANCY PELOSI: Well, I certainly hope not. I hope that the election yesterday was instructive to him and to all the rest of us, as well.
MARGARET WARNER: But how do you read what he said and the fact that he has let Rumsfeld go?
REP. NANCY PELOSI: Well, I think it signals that he might be ready for change, but let's remember: He is the commander-in-chief. Rumsfeld or any secretary is an employee, an implementer of the policy. But the president makes the policy.
So I hope that this would be an indication that he's at least willing to turn fresh eyes to the challenge and be more open to bipartisanship, because our national security is not a partisan issue, nor it shouldn't be. As they say, partisanship should stop at the water's edge.
MARGARET WARNER: That certainly wasn't true in the election.
REP. NANCY PELOSI: Well, it certainly wasn't. But now the election is over. Democrats are ready to lead, prepared to govern, and certainly willing to work in a bipartisan way with the Republicans in Congress and with the president for better policy at home and abroad.
MARGARET WARNER: Now, the president said today also he wanted to work in a bipartisan way on Iraq. But then he repeatedly defined the goal as "victory." And he said at one point, you know, speaking of the troops, "I want them home, too, but I want them home in victory, not leaving behind an Iraq that's a safe haven for al-Qaida." And he said repeatedly that victory was leaving an Iraq that was self-sustaining and could defend itself.
Now, can Democrats work with him and embrace that as the goal?
REP. NANCY PELOSI: I mean, the point is, is that our presence in Iraq, as viewed by the Iraqis and by others in the region, as an occupation is not making America safer. We are not even honoring our commitment to our troops who are there, and we are not bringing stability to the region.
So what is being accomplished by our being there? A responsible redeployment outside of Iraq, at the same time disarming the militia, amending the constitution, so that more people feel a part of the new government, and, again, building diplomatic relationships in the area to bring stability and reconstruction to Iraq is really a path we have to go down.
The president -- victory is elusive. Victory is subjective. What does he mean by "victory"?
MARGARET WARNER: So are you saying that, as far as the Democrats are concerned, and certainly many members of your caucus have called for a rather quick withdrawal, that you would not accept the kind of open-ended commitment to achieving some end-state for the Iraqi government before American troops left?
REP. NANCY PELOSI: What I'm saying is, is that the president of the United States, in pursuing a course of "stay the course," has limited any good options for us. So let's at least say that, if we have a new direction, it will include talking in a bipartisan way to the Iraqi government about what the responsibilities are for their own governance and also for their own security.
Working with President Bush
MARGARET WARNER: You've talked about wanting to work with the president, but he was asked today, in fact, about things you have said about him. I just wanted to cite a couple of others. You've called him an incompetent leader, a person with no judgment. You've talked about his shallowness.
REP. NANCY PELOSI: I don't think I ever said "shallow."
MARGARET WARNER: Shallowness. You said he still showed the same shallowness he brought to the office.
MARGARET WARNER: You did. And I'm just wondering, do you have that level of contempt for him, for his intellect, for his judgment?
REP. NANCY PELOSI: It's not about that. It's about Katrina; it's about the conduct of the war; it's about the deficit that is growing monumental scale in our country.
This administration is marked by gross incompetence. And you have to have knowledge to have judgment, to make the right decisions, to improve the lives of the American people and the policies of the United States.
MARGARET WARNER: So do you think you can work with someone whom you think has not demonstrated that?
REP. NANCY PELOSI: Of course. He's the president of the United States. He's the president of the United States. I respect the office, and I respect him. I don't respect his judgment on Katrina, on Iraq, and on a number of other issues.
Ethics inquiries may be pursued
MARGARET WARNER: Now, some members of your caucus are calling for big investigations into how the president got us into the war and how they've managed it. How far will you let investigations like that go?
REP. NANCY PELOSI: First of all, there are people in the country who are saying it's time for the Democrats to get even. And I say to them: We're not about getting even. We're about helping the American people get ahead. That's what our priority is here.
You do have to have hearings and checks and balances in the Congress of the United States vis-a-vis the executive branch, if you're going to pass laws and improve the lives of the American people. This is about honoring our constitutional responsibility.
Investigations are needed in terms of -- I think the American people want to know about Katrina, about contracting and Halliburton in Iraq. They want to know how we have the energy policy that we do so that we go forward to protect the American people in case of natural disaster, to protect us in times of -- we're engaged in a war and its cost to the American people and, of course, how we form our energy policy. That would be three places where I think hearings would be very necessary for us to go forward for better policy.
MARGARET WARNER: Now, Dick Armey, the former House Republican leader, was on the NewsHour Monday night with Jim. And he said the hardest thing for you or the most important thing for you is going to be that you have to resist the forceful demands of your base to do some ill-advised things.
Do you think he's right, that you are going to have some conflicting pressures on you from many of the liberal members of your party who are now going to be committee chairmen, but a lot of the newer members who are elected who are more moderate to conservative?
REP. NANCY PELOSI: Whatever the persuasion of any of the members of the caucus and the beautiful diversity of it, philosophically, ethnically, geographically, generationally, and every way, that's what we consider our strength.
Whatever our differences, we know that we have to govern from the middle. And there's plenty of room in the middle that the Republicans have abandoned, whether it's raising the minimum wage, making health care more affordable, college more accessible, energy independence more a priority, a dignified retirement is something that is guaranteed, and again protecting the American people in a way that it gives a real security to our country.
So there's plenty of room for agreement before we have to get into what divides us as a party.
MARGARET WARNER: Madam speaker-to-be, thank you.
REP. NANCY PELOSI: Thank you, Margaret.