CNN Larry King Live-Transcript
KING: Nancy Pelosi, the first female speaker of the House in U.S. history. Dick Cheney says her ideas could validate al Qaeda's strategy. Now you'll hear what she has to say about Cheney, as she joins me for a rare Capitol Hill sit-down.
And then, exclusive, best-selling financial expert Suze Orman on the Dow in freefall today, dropping more than 400 points, its worst day since 9/11.
What's behind it? And what should you do?
Suze Orman explains in her first interview since revealing she's a gay, 55-year-old virgin worth at least $25 million. Suze Orman will take your calls next on LARRY KING LIVE.
We're with the speaker of the House of Representatives, the honorable Nancy Pelosi, first woman -- if I have to tell you that, you're on Mars.
What office are we in?
PELOSI: This is the ceremonial office of the speaker of the House of Representatives.
KING: It's not your -- it's an office for ceremonies?
PELOSI: Well, it's my office -- the speaker's office, yes, for whatever purpose. But I use it for ceremonial purposes, where I welcome visiting dignitaries, the president of the United States, when he comes to make the State of the Union address, and now you, Larry.
KING: It's good seeing you again.
PELOSI: Nice to see you.
KING: We go back a long way in San Francisco in the '80s.
KING: What, if anything, has surprised you about this job?
PELOSI: Well, I'm usually not one to be surprised. I like to be prepared for everything. But I am surprised by the overwhelming show of enthusiasm from across the country from women of all ages -- young girls to women my age who say I never thought I would see the day. And, also, from fathers of daughters who written in and called and communicated one way or another about the prospects that this means -- what this means for their daughters, breaking the marble ceiling.
KING: Anything surprising about the working aspect?
PELOSI: The -- not surprising, but encouraging, is that my colleagues have fully accepted the idea that there is a woman speaker of the House after these many years.
KING: Were you surprised when the president acknowledged you at the beginning of the State of the Union?
PELOSI: The president was very gracious and I was surprised when he acknowledged that my father, as member of Congress, had been in the chamber to hear President Roosevelt and President Truman, but he could never have been as excited as to see his daughter acknowledged as the first woman speaker.
KING: How are you two getting along?
PELOSI: Oh, great. I have a great deal of respect for the president, both as the posi -- from the standpoint of the position he holds and just about him personally.
KING: But you're a tough critic?
PELOSI: Oh, yes. Well, that's a different story. I don't mind criticism of my policies, but I do -- I do think that the political and the criticism of policy is a different matter than the personal relationship.
KING: Speaking of criticism, let's go right to it. We'll discuss a lot of things.
Vice President Cheney said: "If we were to do what Speaker Pelosi and Congressman Murtha are suggesting, all it will do is validate the al Qaeda strategy. That al Qaeda strategy is to break the will of the American people."
Apparently you phoned the White House to complain? PELOSI: Well, the president had said to me in a recent visit -- actually, two recent visits -- that he would not tolerate any undermining of anybody's patriotism or our intentions to protect the national security of the United States. So I wanted the president to be aware. He said you let me know if this happens, so I wanted to let him know that it had.
What the vice president said was beneath the dignity of his office and beneath the dignity -- the sacrifice of our men and women in uniform, to equate our position with a validation of the al Qaeda.
The vice president is in a place that is out of touch with the American people, out of touch with what the generals -- former generals are saying -- and out of touch with even the bipartisan majority in the Congress of the United States.
KING: Can you say, Madam Speaker, you were surprised?
KING: Not surprised?
PELOSI: The vice president has made many statements that have not been true, whether it was we're going to be greeted by rose petals in Iraq, whether the insurgency was in its last throes. The list goes on and on.
KING: There was a bombing in Afghanistan today and apparently the attempt was on him.
PELOSI: Oh, that would be awful.
KING: That's what they're saying.
PELOSI: Well, I don't know the facts of it, if that is, in fact, the case, it's dreadful. But that -- it got regrettable that it got so close. But I understand there were like four layers between where...
PELOSI: ... the break in security occurred and where the vice president was.
I was in Bagram in January, right? It was my first trip out of the United States, was to go visit our troops, to thank them and pay the respects of the American people to them for their patriotism, their courage and the sacrifices they're willing to make.
So I was in Iraq and in Bagram at that air force base. That that security was breached is a problem, but that the vice president is safe, is, of course, very gratifying to all of us.
KING: How much into security are you?
In fact, when that plane flap occurred about you flying to San Francisco...
KING: ... it was Dennis Hastert, your predecessor, who said that was necessary.
KING: Is -- are we an overly security conscious -- security is the reason that you fly, right?
PELOSI: That's right. The sergeant at arms had requested, for the former speaker, that there be a plane to protect his security and he made the same request for me. The misrepresentations that were made by some on the other side were not, in fact, true.
But I don't like having so much security.
KING: You don't?
PELOSI: I like my freedom. I like my freedom of motion. But since I became leader and now more so as speaker, I have much more security.
KING: You've called the Iraq War "a grotesque mistake."
Did everybody who voted for it make a big mistake in 2002?
PELOSI: Well, I think that a mistake was made by that vote in the Congress of the United States. At the time, I was the senior Democrat on the Intelligence Committee. There -- it's called the gang of four -- the senior Democrat in the House and Senate, the senior Republican in the House and Senate. And we get briefed to the nth degree on the intelligence and the intelligence leading up to that vote.
At the time, I said the intelligence does not support the threat.
They said are you calling the president a liar?
I said no, I'm not calling the president a liar, I'm just saying there is nothing in this intelligence that says there is an imminent threat to the United States.
Senator Bob Graham, who was the chair of the Intelligence Committee in the Senate, my Democratic counterpart there, voted against the war.
So those of who had the most intelligence, operational intelligence to -- at our disposal voted against it.
KING: Now Edwards, Senator Edwards -- running -- former Senator Edwards, running for the nomination...
KING: ... has apologized and said he was wrong.
KING: Senator Clinton has sort of, they said, quaffed on this.
Where do you stand...
PELOSI: Where do I stand on it?
KING: ... in that verbal dispute?
PELOSI: Oh, you don't think I'm going to get involved in that.
KING: Why not?
PELOSI: No, I think this -- on issues that relate to war and those kinds of decisions, we don't try to persuade other people. We just say this is why I am voting the way I am. Everybody makes his or her personal decision about it and they decide how they'll deal with that decision, as well.
KING: So you won't say if someone voted for it they made a mistake?
PELOSI: Well, I do think that the entire vote was a mistake, that the...
KING: Then it was a mistake, then.
PELOSI: The entire vote was a mistake. But whether you're interpreting their vote as giving the president the authority and the discretion or whether you're saying I know he's going to war with it, that's something an individual has to decide.
KING: In this war of words, is Congressman Murtha an asset or a liability because he's so out front on this...
PELOSI: He's a...
KING: ... with that military record?
PELOSI: ... tremendous asset, 37 years in the Marines as active duty and reserve. In fact, a poll that came out today, a survey of the American people had overwhelming support for what Mr. Murtha is saying. And all he is saying is obey the law. The law says that we shouldn't send our troops into battle unless they have a certain level of training. The law says that we shouldn't over extend their stay, because that is detrimental to their performance. And the law says that they should be home, actually, more than a year, but he says they should be home at least a year before they are called back.
The American people think that those rules should be obeyed.
KING: So -- and they're not being obeyed, why?
PELOSI: There have been waivers to them. The heads of the military services have the ability to waive the rules. And so, some of our troops are going in without the training, without the equipment and staying too long and not staying home long enough before they are redeployed. This is not fair to them.
We have to be thinking first and foremost of our troops, of our military readiness. As elected officials, our responsibility, first and foremost, is to protect the American people. And we do that by the investment that we make in our troops or in our neighborhoods, in our police and fire, our first responders.
But in terms of the troops, we say that this is to support the troops and yet we send them into a dangerous situation. And when they come home they come home to a Walter Reed that is not worthy of their sacrifice.
KING: I'll ask about that right after this.
We'll be right back with Madam Speaker.
It's so nice to say that, isn't it?
PELOSI: Thank you.
KING: Nancy Pelosi.
We'll be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BUSH: And tonight I have the high privilege and distinct honor of my own, as the first president to begin the State of the Union message with these words -- Madam Speaker.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PELOSI: We are having a celebration. Democrats are back.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: We're back with the speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi.
All right, we mentioned Walter Reed.
Were you shocked?
PELOSI: Well, it's surprising that with all the attention to our troops coming home that we aren't better prepared.
That word is so discarded now because of the manner in which we sent our troops into war, without the proper equipment, without the operational intelligence to know what would happen there. In military, we always say that in battle, we will never leave a soldier on the battlefield. And we say and when they come home, we will not abandon them, as well.
So we should have the best possible opportunities for them when they come home.
KING: Then why do you continue to financially support something that you consider abominable?
PELOSI: As long as our men and women in uniform, our troops, are in harm's way, we will all be there to support them.
KING: So when you look...
PELOSI: We can't abandon that.
KING: ... that's the same thing as saying it's wrong to keep them more than a year, but we keep them more than a year.
PELOSI: Well, we're hoping that they will obey their own rules. This is not about the troops. This is about the president of the United States and his policy. And I would hope that the president would get the message the American people sent in the election, that the generals were sending to him, that a bipartisan majority in the House and the Senate have said -- that they disagree with how he is proceeding, that we need a new direction.
And we have proposed to him what shape that new direc -- what form that new direction could take.
But we will not say to our troops, you over there, you're cut off.
KING: Then how do you end it?
PELOSI: Well, we have proposed, Senator Reid and I, the Democratic leader in the Senate, along with the chairman of the committees of jurisdiction, have repeatedly sent to the president a proposal which says you change the mission from combat to training of Iraqis, counter-terrorism, force protection for our own people.
When you change the mission, then you can redeploy the troops, take them out of the combat zone. Then you have to do with what the generals are proposing. You cannot do this militarily.
Our soldiers have performed magnificently, but you cannot do this just militarily. You must have real reconstruction, honest reconstruction. You have to have reengagement of the diplomacy in the region. So reconstruction, economic reconstruction, diplomatic engagement. And you must have political reform, amending the constitution.
Only then, when you do those five things -- change the mission, redeploy the troops, real reconstruction, diplomatic engagement and political reconciliation -- can you turn the attention to the war on terror that we must fight and we must win.
KING: Do you have the power to do that?
PELOSI: We have, hopefully, the moral suasion of a Congress of the United States, speaking on behalf of the American people. The president and the vice president are living in an illusion that is quite different from the reality on the ground in Iraq.
KING: So you don't expect him to listen?
PELOSI: Well, I'm always hopeful and I'm prayerful about it because our -- three things have to be achieved by any military invasion which we have anywhere in the world -- does it make the American people safer, does it make our military stronger and does it make the region we're in more stable.
This -- this war has failed on all three fronts.
KING: Is it, in your opinion, the number one election issue in '08?
PELOSI: Absolutely. Absolutely. Everything is eclipsed by this war because it is, I think -- Larry, I think it's the biggest ethical issue facing our country when we send our troops into harm's way in the manner in which we did, how we persist this -- in another few weeks, we'll be going into the fifth year of this engagement, longer than we were in World War II in either front.
It's just not right.
And, so, the loss of life, of course, which is the biggest -- the biggest price we've paid -- tens of thousands of casualties, some of them permanent. The cost in dollars will be over a trillion dollars if it ended today. The cost in reputation in the world for us to do other things, if we could assume our leadership role in the community of nations. And cost to our military readiness, cost to our military readiness, so that we can -- are weakened in our ability to project our power and our ideals, to protect the American people.
KING: So do you think that candidates supporting it are in big trouble, at all levels, Congress, Senate, presidency?
PELOSI: Well, I would hope that soon the president would see the light. He's digging a hole, digging it deeper and deeper, far from the light. I hope that he would see the light and this would not be an issue in the campaign coming up. Another year-and-a-half, just think of the loss of life and readiness that is involved.
KING: Why do you think, despite public opinion, rhetoric in the Senate and the House, they are unmoved? Why do you think?
PELOSI: You know, I don't -- what I don't think is that it's a political decision on the part of the president. I think this is what he firmly believes. I think this is deep within him. And I just would hope that whatever he thinks about the war that he would also value the fact that the American people have lost confidence in him, in this war.
KING: President Johnson, toward the end of Vietnam, he didn't run for reelection, exhibited extreme torture himself. You see it in all the tapes that have been released, the look on his face. And he died soon after leaving office.
Why do you think this president doesn't appear to exhibit that kind of pain over all this public opinion against?
PELOSI: I think he believes he is on the right course even though the facts on the ground speak to a different reality. And I just don't know, but I don't think he's getting good advice. I think that he is receiving advice that is wrong, has been from the start. I think they thought when they went in the first day, that it was going to end in one strike -- they take out Saddam Hussein and they would have a great victory.
The fact is, even if they had, they would still be faced with all of this civil strife in Iraq that they have now. They did not know what they were getting into. They do not know the damage that they have caused. And I think the judge -- his judgment is severely impaired on this war, with all due respect to the president and his good intentions.
KING: Do you compare it, Speaker, to Vietnam?
PELOSI: Well, Vietnam was one tragedy. This is another. But this is a massive national security blunder. And don't take it from me. Just listen to the generals. General after general after general has said that this course of action is not going to bring our troops home soon.
KING: And you don't think at all they have a point when they say you and others like you, who speak out forcefully against it, help al Qaeda?
In other words, al Qaeda is happy what you're your saying tonight.
PELOSI: No. No. No, that isn't so. The -- a person who would become the Republican leader of the Senate two weeks after Pearl Harbor said disagreement in time of war is essential to a governing democracy.
We have to have this challenge to the president. And for a vice president to characterize the thinking -- the thinking, not the rhetoric, the thinking on the part of those who oppose this war as validating al Qaeda, is, as I said earlier, beneath the dignity of the sacrifice of our troops.
KING: We'll cover some more bases in our remaining moments with the speaker of the House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi. Don't go away.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The gentle lady from California, Nancy Pelosi.
UNIDENTIFIED PEOPLE: Three, two, one! (UNINTELLIGIBLE).
PELOSI: We're all of America's children. The House will come to order.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: We're back with Nancy Pelosi, the speaker of the House.
What do you make of this dispute between Hillary and Barack, Senator Clinton and Senator Obama, over this California, Mr. Geffen and speaking out against -- what do you -- what's your opinion of the whole thing?
PELOSI: Well, my view is that we have a great field of Democratic candidates. Senator Clinton and Senator Obama are certainly among them. And hopefully they'll get through this little disagreement and we can talk about the issues.
KING: Are you going to endorse?
KING: Will you vigorously support no matter who the nominee is?
PELOSI: Absolutely. Here is my view. I have a responsibility to maintain and increase the Democratic majority in the Congress. As speaker of the House, that's the agenda for the Congress. And we have an agenda to protect the American people, to grow our economy, to create jobs, how we care for our children and our families, how we protect -- preserve our planet against global warming, etc.
And how we enhance our democracy -- how we account for the funding, how we have elections that are legitimate and respected and how we have transparency in government. That's my responsibility, to elect a majority, and hopefully to work in a bipartisan way. That's my goal, to achieve those.
So I'm busy. And I think all of the candidates are great. I know them all well, so I don't say that frivolously. I say it from knowing the candidates and what they each could bring to the White House. So I look forward to again reelecting a Democratic Congress, but also electing a Democratic president.
KING: What do you think of the Republican group running?
PELOSI: I -- can you tell me who the field is? KING: Well, McCain, Giuliani, (UNINTELLIGIBLE)...
PELOSI: It will be an interesting debate on the Republican side. But let me just tell you how proud I am of the Democratic candidates.
What do you make of the sudden emergency -- maybe it's not so sudden -- of Al Gore?
He wins an Academy Award, produces an incredible film about the environment. Anybody -- you can disagree with it, it's still well done.
KING: And now there are some urging him to come back in.
What do you think?
PELOSI: Al Gore was a great vice president. I have always thought he would be a great president of the United States. But I am not one who coaxes people into races. This is something you have to really want to do and know why you are running.
So if he makes that decision, I think the field will be enhanced of candidates and it will be a lively debate.
KING: Would you welcome him in?
PELOSI: Yes. Yes, I think that -- I think so. Yes.
KING: In 2006, Democrats ran on the pledge they would change the so-called culture of corruption in Washington and you said it would take a woman to clean up the House.
PELOSI: That's right.
PELOSI: Well, just a change. You know, as a woman speaker of the House, I came here really as an outsider. And when I became the whip and then the leader, it was not as one who had gone through the chairs, but one who said I think we should do things differently here. And as speaker, I fully intend to have us have the highest ethical standard.
KING: But the "Washington Post" -- I want to get this right -- detailed this weekend that your party has launched a fundraising blitz, including events featuring you and top House committee chairman, that smacks of selling access.
Isn't that the kind of thing that you rejected?
PELOSI: No, I think they're wrong. I think they're wrong. I never said we weren't going to run for reelection and that we weren't going to raise money to do so.
KING: What are you buying when you...
PELOSI: And that characterization is, I think, inaccurate.
What I do support is public funding of campaigns. And I hope that we can persuade the American people that their interests are best served by having public funding.
KING: What's this done to your life -- grandmother, children, husband?
PELOSI: Oh, yes.
Well, you know, I came to Congress after I had raised my children. My youngest daughter was a senior in high school when I came to Congress, the youngest of my five children. When I went to her and said Alexandra, I have an opportunity to run for Congress, but you're a senior and it would be better, you know, next year and this or that, but this is when the opportunity is here, she said mother, get a life.
And so I did. And I came to Congress, worked very hard as a regular member of Congress. I had great committee assignments and I learned the issues very well. And then the opportunity presented itself. And so here I am.
PELOSI: I never went on a course of action to do it, but as an outsider I have attained this position.
KING: You're not an outsider anymore.
What's about the flak over Congressman Jefferson?
He had $500,000 of alleged bribe money in his freezer and yet you put him on the House Homeland Security Committee.
PELOSI: Well, not that it makes any difference, but I think it was $90,000 in his freezer. And what I said to my colleagues is, you have $90,000 in your freezer, whatever the explanation, you have a problem with me.
So I had him removed from the Ways and Means Committee last year.
KING: Oh, I'm sorry. I had it wrong. It was -- I had it written 90. I read it wrong.
PELOSI: But Mr. Jefferson's district has been New Orleans, greatly affected by Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Rita. And the committee of jurisdiction there, Homeland Security, is an appropriate place for him to be. But I removed him from the Ways and Means Committee, that had something to do with the accusations made against him. Homeland Security does not.
KING: Do you ever want to be in the Senate?
PELOSI: In the Senate?
I'm the speaker of the House.
KING: No, but in the past...
PELOSI: No. No.
KING: ... like 10 years ago?
PELOSI: My, you know, again, I have five children, six grandchildren, a wonderful husband. And so I like the idea of representing San Francisco in the Congress of the United States. When I went home, I was home. I didn't have to travel the state.
KING: You never wanted to be in the Senate?
KING: Did you ever want to be governor?
PELOSI: No. No. I actually liked my job. I love the arena, the chamber, the House chamber is my venue. And I never thought I would ever be speaker of the House. But president, as the president reminds me, president, vice president, speaker of the House.
KING: You're third in line.
PELOSI: Well, second, actually, unless you consider George Bush first in line.
KING: Well, he's in...
PELOSI: But (UNINTELLIGIBLE)...
KING: He's got the job.
PELOSI: So it's second.
KING: You are second.
Do you ever think about that?
PELOSI: No. I mean, I have to think about it from time to time because there's a continuation of governance -- of government -- initiative that I have to briefed on certain things from time to time. But, you know, I obviously hope and pray that that is not anything that ever...
PELOSI: ... a reality that we would have to ever deal with.
KING: Great seeing you again.
PELOSI: Wonderful to see you.
KING: Not so long between visits next time.
PELOSI: Not next time.
Thank you, Larry.
I'm pleased to welcome you to the speaker's ceremonial office.
KING: It's my honor.
PELOSI: Thank you.