PBS's Charlie Rose: Interview with Speaker Nancy Pelosi
CHARLIE ROSE, HOST: Welcome to the broadcast. We're in Washington at the Speaker's chamber in the House of Representatives for a conversation with the Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi.
As a result of the 2006 elections, Nancy Pelosi, from San Francisco, California, became the Speaker of the House, the first woman to ever hold that job.
I'm pleased to have her here for a conversation about the Congress and the country.
Let me start with this idea. Senator Lugar made lots of news yesterday. Tell me how his speech and his decision changes the dynamic of the Iraqi debate in Congress.
NANCY PELOSI: Senator Lugar's speech was very courageous on his part, and it was a great speech. I urge everyone to read it.
It really doesn't change the dynamic as it continues, the unfolding of a dynamic that I think Democrats put in place when we came into power.
We changed the debate on Iraq. We established some accountability for the President and for the Iraqis. We put a bright light on what was happening on the ground in Iraq.
So it was inevitable that over a period of time, the ineffectiveness of the President's initiatives would become so apparent that even Senator Lugar had to say it is not worth the outcome.
CHARLIE ROSE: Ok, but he said more than that. Most people hear the President and General Petraeus and others are saying September 15th is a magical date, because then Petraeus will come here; the ambassador, Crocker, will come here and they will deliver their report in terms of what is the situation on the ground politically and militarily. Senator Lugar seems to be saying, "We can't wait."
NANCY PELOSI: That's right. Well, you have two things here. Senator Lugar is saying every day it's important, we can't wait. The Baker-Hamilton commission said -- the Iraq Study Group said that a long time ago.
But what the President and General Petraeus are saying is it's just a day, a photograph of what's happening at the time. They seem to be trying to kick the can down the road.
What's especially important about Senator Lugar's speech is he's saying we want to see -- we want some answers, and don't think you're going to take this any longer than September, and September is even too late as it is.
Senator Voinovich, as you may know, joined him. And others are expected to. That's what we said when we sent the President the first bill, House and Senate, with goals for a time to get out of Iraq by next spring.
The President vetoed the bill. We had no recourse because we couldn't get a signature that we could override.
CHARLIE ROSE: Didn't have enough Republicans signing on.
NANCY PELOSI: We didn't have enough Republicans signing on. But you see the unfolding of that now.
CHARLIE ROSE: But could that bring another vote sooner? Because these Republicans not only are saying we can't wait, but in addition they may have -- make some pressure on the President, because in the end, many people have said it's when the Republicans tell the President it's not working that he has to listen.
NANCY PELOSI: You're so right, Charlie. I think that it may not come to a vote. It may come to overtures made by Republicans to the President, to say: "Let's remove all doubt -- in case you're counting on our votes, we can't support this, don't put us in a position to oppose you." That will be very important.
Because the truth -- the ground truth in Iraq is devastating. It's a sad thing. Here we are all these many years later, over four years later, so many young people who have died, so many who have become permanently injured. That cost is something that is the highest cost to us, of course, the cost of reputation in the world to America, the great country, taking its rightful place in the community of nations. That is diminished.
The cost in dollars, over $1 trillion, $10 billion a month. Think of what we could do with that money.
But the big change for many of these Republicans and some of the more conservative Democrats has been the strain that this war has placed on our military. It is undermining our ability to protect and defend America wherever our interests are threatened in the world. And that is a high, high cost. And it has changed some people's view of whether what we're doing there is worth the outcome.
CHARLIE ROSE: Does the Speaker of the House believe the surge is not working?
NANCY PELOSI: The Speaker of the House believes that the surge is not working. The surge had been tried at least three times before and failed. I've been to the region, the theater, before the initiation of hostilities, right before, and then a number of times since then. I said to the President: "Mr. President, the surge has been tried at least three or four times already. What makes you think it will work this time?" He said: "Because I told them it had to work."
CHARLIE ROSE: And because I have a new general in Baghdad.
NANCY PELOSI: Well, I said, well: "Why didn't you tell them that before?" But, well, he now has a new general in Baghdad.
CHARLIE ROSE: And you expect for General Petraeus to come here in September and say what?
NANCY PELOSI: I expect General Petraeus to be an honorable general and I respect him as such, and I expect that he will come here and tell the truth.
But, again, this does not happen in a vacuum. There are many observers of what is happening on the ground. And it's a complicated situation.
What's surprising to me -- I'm rarely surprised in politics, in government and the rest, because I study the scene pretty carefully, and maybe that's a haughty thing to say...
CHARLIE ROSE: Otherwise you wouldn't have been Speaker.
NANCY PELOSI: I guess not. But what is interesting to me, and I've said this to the White House, why is it that they don't come to the American people and say: "This is our vision for stability in the Middle East. This is what is important to the national security of America, and that is why our course of action in Iraq should be thus and so."
I think the reason they don't do that is because there is no justification for the course that they are taking in Iraq.
CHARLIE ROSE: Do you believe they know that and understand that?
NANCY PELOSI: The generals know it. General Odom, who has done a response to the President on this subject, has said that any stability in the Middle East must begin with the redeployment of American troops out of Iraq.
CHARLIE ROSE: Ok. But does General Petraeus know that? Does general -- does Admiral Fallon know that? Do people who report to the President know that?
NANCY PELOSI: All I know is that generals who are now retired are very outspoken about their opposition to the course of action in Iraq, the conduct of the war there, and, in many cases, they have said that any success in the region beyond Iraq, any strategy for success, must begin with the redeployment out of Iraq.
CHARLIE ROSE: Ok. Let me talk about the forces that are coming together here. Now, you have Republican senators -- first Lugar, then Voinovich and...
NANCY PELOSI: Warner.
CHARLIE ROSE: Warner saying after July 4th, a lot of people will come back and there may be another vote then.
You have Baker-Hamilton seeming to get a new breath of...
NANCY PELOSI: Yes.
CHARLIE ROSE: ... encouragement to step forward and do more, to resume Baker-Hamilton. You now have General Jones on instruction from the Congress doing a study. All of this will lead to what?
NANCY PELOSI: Hopefully, this will lead to some wisdom that says, well, first of all, how can we trust the judgment of those who got us into this war in the first place? It's ancient history four years ago, five years ago when they brought this vote up in Congress. But what we do know is that there was -- I said at the time, there is no intelligence to support the threat that the Administration is claiming. People said to me at the time: "Are you calling the President a liar?" I said no, I'm just saying as one of the gang of four -- you know, the House and Senate, Democrat and Republican, have access to all of the intelligence, more than any of the Members of Congress -- the intelligence was not there.
CHARLIE ROSE: The intelligence for what?
NANCY PELOSI: The threat that the President was claiming.
CHARLIE ROSE: Before the invasion?
NANCY PELOSI: Before the invasion. Before the vote. Before the vote. So, again, why go back except to say this is the judgment we are asked to respect at this time, a judgment that went into war on a false premise, without the appropriate training and equipment for our troops, without a strategy for success, without knowing what they were getting into. And now they are saying we're either going to be there for 50 years, a la Korea, or we're going to reduce our troops by 50 percent. Fifty seems to be a number fraught with meaning for them.
But what this all means is that the President -- the American people have resoundingly stated they have lost faith, they have lost confidence in the President's conduct of this war. And all that you have just described, all of that information coming to bear at the same time I think will speak to a different approach when it comes to a vision for stability in the Middle East and what initiatives are necessary for our national security, to fight against terrorism. The focus has to be different.
CHARLIE ROSE: And I'm asking, is it going to be sooner than September 15th when General Petraeus comes here, because, as Senator Lugar said, you can't wait? Will you and will the Congress do something different than you expect it to do in order to bring a redeployment or withdrawal from troops earlier than you might have imagined?
NANCY PELOSI: Well, all of what we have put forth has been prospective. And we're still sort of saying by the spring of next year, the redeployment out of Iraq must be complete.
So in July, as planned, according to the bill that passed and the President signed, the President now has to answer to the Warner resolution, the benchmarks established by Senator Warner. That has a July deadline.
We will be taking up other initiatives. There are initiatives to deauthorize the war. There are initiatives similar to what we passed originally, which was a deadline for troops in Iraq, except for certain purposes, which were to protect our forces and our embassy, to train the Iraqis and to fight terrorism. That's called the Levin resolution, and there's a consensus in both House and Senate on that.
We will be taking up the defense appropriations bill. We'll be taking up the defense authorization bill. So appropriations and authorization.
In all of those vehicles, you will see initiatives to vote on the conduct of this war, and it will be harder and harder for the Republicans to stick with the President.
CHARLIE ROSE: There is this point to consider. The President argues that we -- if we withdraw too early, or even redeploy, it will be chaos. Have you and have others clearly understood the impact of withdrawing for the Iraqis and the Middle East crisis?
NANCY PELOSI: Yes, we have. Our first responsibility is to provide for the common defense, to protect the American people, to ensure our national security. That's a big responsibility. It's in the Preamble to the Constitution, to which we take an oath of office. And so we have to look at every situation regardless of how we got into it, regardless of the judgment or poor judgment of the President of the United States as to what is in our national interest and the security of the American people.
And that's what's particularly devastating about what the President's doing, because it is not making the region more safe, it is not making it more stable, it's not making the American people safer, and it is not strengthening our military; it is weakening it.
So in response to your question, I would say what I said earlier. We need to enlarge the issue. What is in furtherance of bringing -- what is the vision that we all have for bringing stability to the Middle East?
CHARLIE ROSE: And what is ...
NANCY PELOSI: And how are the decisions in Iraq in furtherance of promoting that? So you have to take it and say, while there were no terrorists there -- that is to say al Qaeda was not present in Iraq at the start of the war and now Iraq is a magnet for them -- we must stay to fight the al Qaeda. Nobody is saying: "Oh, just walk away from them."
What we are saying is the mission must be redefined to stop wasting the time of fighting a civil war and taking sides and arming the Sunnis....
CHARLIE ROSE: Or being in the middle of it?
NANCY PELOSI: Or being in the middle of the civil war and saying what we need to do -- and we have said this over and over again - "Ok, fight al Qaeda, have the troops there to protect our diplomats and our forces who are there to fight al Qaeda, and to -- if it's possible, train the Iraqis to provide for their own security."
We have to do that, though, but as the Baker-Hamilton or the Iraq Study Group has said, you cannot -- there isn't a military solution. Everybody says that. The generals say that. A sole -- only a military solution.
You also must engage in diplomacy with the region, involving other countries in the stability of Iraq and the region, and you have to be involved in the economic development of the region as well.
So that requires diplomatic, economic, and military solutions. And, yes, indeed, we give careful consideration to that.
But let me say how destabilizing the presence of the U.S. troops in Iraq and the present mission is to the region. It is very destabilizing. And when people say, "Out of Iraq," they don't mean up and go tomorrow and let's go. They mean in a very responsible...
CHARLIE ROSE: Through March 2008?
NANCY PELOSI: March, 2008 is very doable.
CHARLIE ROSE: It's doable?
NANCY PELOSI: Yes, with what I said to you...
CHARLIE ROSE: With redeployment?
NANCY PELOSI: With redeployment as we deem -- as we decide is essential to our national security, the stability of the region and the strength of our military.
CHARLIE ROSE: Let me move from foreign to domestic. Immigration. What's going to happen this week, next week on an immigration proposal that both the President and Senator Kennedy both would like to see passed?
NANCY PELOSI: First, let me do something that may surprise you. Let me praise the President. I think he's been very courageous in fighting for an immigration bill that will bring some order to the situation that is in our country. I think the President is doing what is right, what he believes is right, and it's a tough fight in his own party.
The principles that we have on the House side in terms of the Democrats are that we will secure our borders, we will have workplace enforcement, we will protect our workers, we'll unify families, and we'll have a path to legalization.
Some of those features are present in the Senate bill.
What's going to happen this week? The Senate will vote for cloture, as to whether they can end filibuster and go to debate on the bill. That will be on Thursday. And then they will go from there to see whether they have the votes to pass the bill.
Of course, we'll be waiting to see if the bill meets the standards that we have, or what compromises we can make, because it is very important for us to have an immigration bill.
CHARLIE ROSE: And what do you think the likelihood of having one is?
NANCY PELOSI: It all depends on the leadership of the President of the United States. The problem he is having is largely in his own party on this, and it is -- I've said it now for a year and a half -- if the President wants the legislation, the legislation will pass.
CHARLIE ROSE: Have the proponents of this bill done a good enough job to sell it to the country?
NANCY PELOSI: It's amazing. If you take individual pieces of the bill, the American people support it. There is an element in our -- well, talk radio, or in some cases hate radio, where they just go on and on and on in a xenophobic, anti-immigrant...
CHARLIE ROSE: Calling it amnesty, amnesty, amnesty.
NANCY PELOSI: Amnesty, which it is not. And it's interesting because my faith -- I'm a Catholic and from San Francisco, which I'm proud to represent in the Congress...
CHARLIE ROSE: Via Baltimore.
NANCY PELOSI: Via Baltimore, Maryland, which I'm very proud of as well. And in both places, my faith was very important to me.
"Song of St. Francis" is the anthem of the city of San Francisco. St. Francis is our patron saint. And we always talk when there is hatred, we will bring love. His song, make me a channel - "where there is hatred, may we bring love, where there's despair, may we bring hope; where there is darkness, light. And to forgive is to be forgiven."
And all of a sudden, all these people of faith are just very unforgiving.
CHARLIE ROSE: They are not willing to forgive.
NANCY PELOSI: They're not willing to say: "Ok, they made a mistake. Now, they have to pay all these fines, they have to do all of these things, which will require them to have paid their debt to society, but we will never forgive them." It's not about amnesty. Amnesty...
CHARLIE ROSE: So why do you think they continue to hold that view?
NANCY PELOSI: I really don't want to characterize anyone else's motivation. I just think that they haven't been blessed with the experience that many of us have with living in a mixed society, where we know that the future of America depends on this constant invigoration of people coming in. I think, justifiably so, they're unhappy that people came in not strictly legally. Some came legally, maybe 30, 40 percent, but overstayed their welcome. So there's an unhappiness about that, and I respect that.
But what we're saying is, make them pay their debt to society, and then let's get on a path to legalization, which is a long and circuitous one. They get at the end of the line of anybody waiting to become a citizen or to come into our country.
But what's interesting about it is that they really -- I mean, what are we going to do with 12 million people? Does anyone want to pay the price of arresting them all? Are we going to send them all home when so much of our, whether it's our agriculture industry or other industries, depend on their work? And now they have children born in America.
But it is -- it's difficult, and I respect -- as I say, I don't want to mischaracterize. I know there are some who are exploiting this for reasons that are not highly motivated. But there are many people in our country who have legitimate concerns about obeying the law and respecting that.
ECONOMY and TRADE
CHARLIE ROSE: A lot of people also have legitimate concerns about the loss of jobs to overseas. And it is said that this Democratic Congress has a different attitude about trade than previous Congresses. Do you fear economic nationalism coming into play and trade legislation not having the same possibility it has had before?
NANCY PELOSI: Charlie, you very astutely positioned both of these issues right next to each other -- immigration and trade. Because many people in our country think that they don't have a job because of immigrants, or because of trade policy. Some of them may be right. Others may have just a ripple effect of it. And some don't have a job because our economy is not addressing the needs of all Americans.
So I think if we're going to be able to have a trade policy that enables us to benefit from globalization and we're able to have an immigration policy, enables our country to be invigorated by determined newcomers, determined to make the future better for their families, we're going to have to have a very progressive economic agenda for job creation and for job training, so that all people in our country think we're not just doing this here. We understand that we need to lift everyone up, and we want to have an economy that does that. Not a trickle-down, but a percolate-up.
CHARLIE ROSE: And how do we do that?
NANCY PELOSI: Well, some of the ways are very interesting. We have, as Democrats, we have put forth our Innovation Agenda, our commitment to competitiveness to keep America number one. And to invest in the research and development that will stimulate that.
But we all know that innovation begins in the classroom, so we have to -- I'm so pleased that legislation has already passed, and we've passed legislation that's the biggest commitment to higher education in our country since the G.I. Bill of Rights. And we also have a -- our -- preserve the planet.
I talk to my colleagues this way. We have to defend our country, grow our economy through innovation, strengthen our families through education and health care, et cetera, and to preserve our planet, to do so in the most fiscally sound way, the highest ethical standard, and in a way that is accountable to the public, in a bipartisan way.
ENERGY and GLOBAL WARMING
And when we do -- when we are doing these things, we're saying, for example, preserve the planet, and wedding that to innovation agenda.
We're talking about a green revolution in our country, where many more people can participate in a new industry. Green collar jobs, green jobs that, again, reverse global warming, reduce energy independence, and take us to another place, where everybody participates, not just some.
CHARLIE ROSE: I know you believe that. I know that the President would say he believes in part of that. Does John Dingell believe in that?
NANCY PELOSI: Oh, I'm sure he does.
CHARLIE ROSE: Are you sure?
NANCY PELOSI: I'm certain he does.
CHARLIE ROSE: Are you sure? I mean, in terms of emission standards, in terms of the green revolution -- this very powerful 81-year-old Congressman, and you have no doubt that he understands the Congress, that he knows how to use his power? Is he signed on to the green revolution? Does he perceive the green revolution, or does he look at it -- and I would say the same thing to him -- how does this affect my constituents in Michigan?
NANCY PELOSI: Well, I would say how it affects his constituents in Michigan is in a very positive way. Because as we go forward...
CHARLIE ROSE: The green revolution does?
NANCY PELOSI: Yes, it does.
CHARLIE ROSE: So lowering emission standards will have nothing to do -- I mean, raising emission standards will not have a negative impact in terms of automobile...
NANCY PELOSI: Well, let's talk about it in...
CHARLIE ROSE: ... employees and people he represents?
NANCY PELOSI: Well, as I said earlier, we always enlarge the issue.
CHARLIE ROSE: Right.
NANCY PELOSI: And what we're talking about here is there are many industries in our country -- the auto industry, the coal industry, the oil industry -- that will be part of this revolution if they so wish, and they need to.
And so, what we would hope is that if there were a situation where we had increased the CAFE standards, the emissions, that there would be joined with that the opportunity for public policy to help Detroit retool. Because the fact is, the world is moving forward. Thirty-five miles per gallon in CAFE standard that we have is admirable, but it's more than 40 miles per gallon in other countries.
CHARLIE ROSE: And if Detroit doesn't do it, it will not be able to compete effectively on the international auto market?
NANCY PELOSI: Well, they haven't. They haven't.
But here's the thing. There are many parts to this. We talk about energy independence. Mr. Dingell will give us a very fine bill that helps us reduce our dependence on foreign oil. Then we go into the next stage of it later in the year, where we talk about global warming and we talk about carbon trading, those kinds of issues.
There are many pieces to this. And as I have said, whether the issue is trade, immigration, the war in Iraq, energy independence - none of these issues is going to tear apart our Caucus. We will find our consensus on it. It will be bold consensus and -- but there will be decisions that have to be made.
But one thing's for sure, that our country has to be on the forefront of this green revolution. First of all, it's a national security issue that we reduce our dependence on foreign oil. Generals have testified before the committee -- the Select Committee on Global Warming -- that global warming is a national security issue as well.
Second of all, it's an environmental issue. The air our children and my grandchildren....
CHARLIE ROSE: Not just for the United States, but for China and the rest of the world.
NANCY PELOSI: For the world. For the world. And we've got to be a leader and set an example.
Third, it's an energy issue. We need to be resourceful in how we have -- and that's why the very first day -- second day in Congress, in our Six for 06, first 100 hours, we passed legislation that would take $15 billion in subsidies to oil companies and say we're going to invest this into renewable energy resources, and much of that in rural America. And rural America is very much -- America's farmers will fuel America's energy independence.
And it's a moral issue. This is God's planet. We're working...
CHARLIE ROSE: Well, might the Congress adopt a different attitude about the importation of ethanol?
NANCY PELOSI: One of these days, maybe. But in any event...
CHARLIE ROSE: But not now?
NANCY PELOSI: Well, it's a debate. It's a debate. There's an argument that ethanol kicks -- more ethanol kick-starts the process. Our farm folks are telling us that with cellulosics and other things other than corn, we have to get our own kick-start here. But that's a debate here.
But just to say that we have an interesting coalition, and included in it are many people in the evangelical community who believe, as do I, that this is God's creation and we have a moral responsibility to preserve it, and reversing global warming is an important part of that.
CHARLIE ROSE: Interesting. I mean, global warming has brought about interesting political bedfellows.
NANCY PELOSI: It certainly has.
CHARLIE ROSE: In terms of the evangelical community, together with people they didn't imagine they might be, because of opposition on other issues.
NANCY PELOSI: Well, the evangelicals have helped us with many environmental issues...
CHARLIE ROSE: Well, that's my point.
NANCY PELOSI: ... before this. Al Gore did a great deal to educate the public. Eighty percent of the American people at least know that this is what we have to do.
CHARLIE ROSE: And the political will is in the Congress to do something.
NANCY PELOSI: The American people are ahead of us. The American people are ahead of the Congress on this. But, yes, I believe the political will is there.
I'm very pleased with what happened in the Senate, and we'll go on to do our legislation as well.
But I'll tell you, I spoke to -- over the last few days, I've been speaking to large groups of at least 1,000, each crowd of young people. They know why we have to do it. It's their future.
CHARLIE ROSE: Let me talk about Congress for a second. You talk about Six for 2006. In terms of welfare reform -- I mean, you've got minimum wage already.
NANCY PELOSI: Minimum wage.
CHARLIE ROSE: You've changed that. Have you met any of those other...
NANCY PELOSI: Let me tell you what they are...
CHARLIE ROSE: ... priorities?
NANCY PELOSI: ... and we'll go with those.
The very first bill we passed was H.R. 1, how we protect the American people. And we have passed the 9/11 Commission recommendations, and they've passed the Senate. So we just have to finish it up and send it to the President.
We have passed our initiative on cutting in half the interest on student loans. That was wildly popular -- so we've passed that legislation.
We have passed legislation to increase the minimum wage, as you indicated. And on July 24th, millions of Americans for the first time in 10 years will get an increase in the minimum wage. We're very proud of that. The President has already signed that into law.
We passed legislation for stem cell research. The President vetoed the bill, but it passed both houses.
CHARLIE ROSE: So what's the impact of the President's veto?
NANCY PELOSI: Well, it's devastating, because it would have given hope to millions of families in America. But nonetheless, we haven't ended that fight yet. We have to have the override fight next. But we'll keep bringing that to the President's desk.
And we passed, as I mentioned, legislation to repeal the subsidies for big oil so we can invest in research for renewable energy resources.
We have -- in doing so, we've changed -- we've taken the country in a new direction. That was just a signal change. We have many other pieces of legislation that we've passed. You asked about the first six.
But what we did in H.R. 1, the 9/11 Commission, was so important. We're almost six years from 9/11/01. We're three years from the 9/11 Commission recommendations, three years in July, this month -- next month. And we finally, with a Democratic Congress, were able to pass those recommendations in the House and the Senate.
But, again, it comes back to our first responsibility to provide for the common defense. We changed the debate on the Iraq war, which we acknowledged earlier. We passed the 9/11 Commission recommendations. And I'm so proud to say that as part of our initiative, just a couple of weeks ago, we passed the biggest increase in health benefits for our veterans -- $6.7 billion -- biggest increase in the 77-year history of the Veterans Administration. The veterans were overjoyed. All paid for because our new direction is pay-go, no new deficit spending, fiscal soundness and keep your promises. We promised the veterans we would do that. America made that promise, too, and we honored it.
CHARLIE ROSE: Notwithstanding that list of accomplishments you just mentioned, there was great expectation after 2006, an election which led to your election as Speaker of the House, first woman ever to have this position. There are now polls that show declining respect for the Congress. Why do you think that is?
NANCY PELOSI: Well, first of all, let's make some distinctions here. I'm 20 points ahead of the President. The Democrats are...
CHARLIE ROSE: You as an individual?
NANCY PELOSI: As an individual. Double digits ahead as Speaker of the House. Double-digit lead in issues -- health care, education, taxes, on almost every issue, closer on the security issues. But the Congress as an institution has not been respected, and it continues not to be respected.
And I do believe that part of it is what have you accomplished and what have you not accomplished. It's not just -- because I can tell you the things we've accomplished, as I have. Others see an obstacle, and that obstacle is in the United States Senate.
Now, I'm not a -- I'm a professional, I'm not saying, well, we would be better if the Senate Republicans didn't put up so many obstacles. True. That is true. But what is also true is that we have to make our own environment. And we're going to have to take that case to the American people, so that they say -- now, as the Republicans did yesterday, they blocked three bills: Consideration of the 9/11 bill, consideration of the lobby reform bill, and consideration of the employee free choice bill for American workers. So three bills they were blocking yesterday.
Now by today, I think we've answered some of their concerns on two of them, because we want to move the bills along, not because we thought they were right.
So part of it is that the Republicans in the United States Senate use the 60-vote requirement to hear a bill to obstruct any legislation from getting to the President's desk.
CHARLIE ROSE: Tell me what you're saying about polls that show the Congress in declining sense of respect for the institution.
NANCY PELOSI: The institution. Let's say when a new President is elected, he or she has a whole fresh new start. The person is the office. The person is the executive branch. The President is -- everybody wants the President to succeed, because his or her success is the success of our country. I think that's how we all view it, Democrat or Republican in the White House, at least at the start.
Congress has been in disrepute for a long time. And so it takes a long time to turn that ship around.
CHARLIE ROSE: It's turnable?
NANCY PELOSI: It's turnable. It has to be. And the way its turnable is to show the American people -- look, I think we need a new direction. That's what we campaigned on, that's what we're trying to deliver. We need a new direction with a new way of thinking with a new Washington. With a new Washington. Because the forces at work here can hold up so much with even just a few votes in the United States Senate.
So what we have to do is make sure we can get the laws passed that drain the swamp, that break the link between lobbyists and legislation, that say we are here for the people's interest, not the special interest.
When you do that, then you can really affect universal access to quality health care for all Americans, a fairer economy where more people participate in the economic success of our country, stop global warming, reverse global warming and stop our dependence on foreign oil. Then you can really make the changes that are necessary.
But you have to free up this city. It's a big task. I welcome the opportunity.
I'm disappointed that the numbers for Congress are not good, but I am pleased that the numbers for the Democrats are, and that we have an opportunity to show that to the American people.
Some of it is, as I described, with the Senate, but rather than complain about that, I'd rather say that just tightens the need for us to show the American people why the issues that we are proposing are in the interest of the American people, they are relevant to their lives, and that their voices are the most eloquent of all to persuade members of Congress to vote a certain way.
CHARLIE ROSE: You have Democrats who were elected for the first time in very conservative districts.
NANCY PELOSI: That's right.
CHARLIE ROSE: And just elected, they made the majority that made you Speaker.
NANCY PELOSI: That's right.
CHARLIE ROSE: The Democrats did a very effective job in 2006 in doing that, selecting candidates, getting them elected.
They are also, it is said, very vulnerable come 2008. Is that -- how does that figure into how you see the world and how you see what happens in this institution?
NANCY PELOSI: Well, how I organize our Caucus, working with our leadership -- and we work as a team -- is to build consensus. I don't go in the room and say this is what we're doing on this bill. We build consensus. So this great diversity that we have, with all the dynamism of all the different parts of the ethnic, the regional, the geographic, the generational differences -- some of these Members are as young as my children -- all of those differences come to bear on a position that we can get behind. That's why all those who record such things say we have the greatest rate of unity since Sam Rayburn, since they've been recording unity in the Democratic Caucus.
CHARLIE ROSE: And if that's true, why do you think that's true?
NANCY PELOSI: I believe it's true because we listen to them. We respect each other. I would not want to be the leader of a group of people who all thought alike. What is the excitement of that? So we listen to each other, we respect each other, and basically we're going down the middle, where if you're talking about raising the minimum wage and stopping energy dependence and reversing global warming, caring in a better way for our children, providing for our veterans, and higher education for all Americans -- there's nothing political about it. Most of those aren't even partisan issues.
So I think that part of it is the respect that Members have for each other, that they listen to each other, and that there's so much to be done.
CHARLIE ROSE: You listen to them.
NANCY PELOSI: I listen to them, that's for sure. They're my bosses. But it's also a situation where there's so much -- the Republican Party has gone so far off the field in terms of what their priorities are, that there's so much to be done where we can try to get Republicans' vote. We didn't come in here looking for a fight. We came in here to make a difference. And as I said, mostly all of our legislation has had strong Republican bipartisan support as well.
But it is a wonderful dynamic to see the diversity of our country at work. I say to them: "You're the greatest collection of intellect, integrity, and idealism ever gathered together under one roof. Problem was, you weren't a majority until our new Members came along. Now let's listen to what they have to say. They're fresh from the trenches, and they are younger"
CHARLIE ROSE: But they're telling you what's politically difficult for them back home, which may not be part of your agenda.
NANCY PELOSI: Here's what I say to my new Members: "I want you to be independent representatives of your districts. Your title and your job description is the same thing: Representative. You have to provide leadership sometimes when you know an issue in the national interest, as opposed to what might be a parochial interest at home. But by and large, you represent that. And that's what we expect of you. We don't want you to be a rubber stamp for anyone. We want the vitality of your region to have an impact on what we are doing here."
And in that spirit, in that spirit, Members are listening to each other. And no one knows better than the Member him or herself what is important to his or her district and what will succeed there.
ACCOUNTABILITY and OVERSIGHT
And if they have to distance themselves from what we are doing, that's fine. We have to do what we -- you know, but we want the same respect back. They have to -- we have to do what we believe as a Caucus. And sometimes, they can be with us, sometimes they can't. But that's because they're independent representatives of their districts, and we respect them for that. Which is far different from the rubber-stamp Congress that went before, which never had -- not only were they a rubber stamp for their leadership, they were a rubber stamp for the White House. No oversight on the war in Iraq, no oversight in the Justice Department.
You see now the chickens coming home to roost with the U.S. attorneys, with the war in Iraq, with other things that are happening at the Justice Department. There was no oversight. Right now, we have oversight.
CHARLIE ROSE: Because you're in the majority, you're going to have oversight.
NANCY PELOSI: We're in the majority; we have oversight. And so many people have resigned from the executive branch because they've gotten a call from Congress to come in and testify. They don't want to.
CHARLIE ROSE: Have you had a lot of those do that or just a few?
NANCY PELOSI: Yes. We've had a good number.
CHARLIE ROSE: Mostly in Justice or...
NANCY PELOSI: A number of places. Department of Education, Department of Justice.
CHARLIE ROSE: There's this issue now that's just come up in the last week: Dick Cheney. Rahm Emanuel's talking about reducing the funding for the Vice President's office. Is that a joke, or is that going to happen?
NANCY PELOSI: Well, I think it follows on what was said out of the Vice President's office, that executive privilege did not cover him because he wasn't part of the...
CHARLIE ROSE: Executive branch.
NANCY PELOSI: ...executive branch. Well, if that's the case, then where should he -- all of our budgets are covered somewhere in the appropriations bills. One that will come up on the floor today covers the executive branch.
CHARLIE ROSE: Right.
NANCY PELOSI: And if the Vice President is not part of the executive branch, where would he receive his funding? Should he be deleted from that...
CHARLIE ROSE: Ok, but is this serious? Come on, is this serious? I'm asking. Are you going to take -- are you not going to fund the Vice President's office because the Vice President says....
NANCY PELOSI: No. No. No.
CHARLIE ROSE: So this is all politics?
NANCY PELOSI: Well, no, it's a response to these -- the folly...
CHARLIE ROSE: So he says...
NANCY PELOSI: ... of the executive branch...
CHARLIE ROSE: So it's one folly follows another folly, or...?
NANCY PELOSI: No, it's not. It's just to point out that of course, he's part of the executive branch.
CHARLIE ROSE: You want to make the point that he's part of the executive branch.
NANCY PELOSI: He's part of the executive branch.
CHARLIE ROSE: Because you fund him and...
NANCY PELOSI: And well, because he is! He's chosen by the President.
CHARLIE ROSE: The President. Do you think he is approaching irrelevancy?
NANCY PELOSI: I think he's approaching obliviousness.
CHARLIE ROSE: He's oblivious to what's going on around him?
NANCY PELOSI: Just so oblivious. He's a lovely man. You know, he comes from a beautiful, lovely family, great patriotic family, serves in the highest office of the land, leader of the free world. And he's a nice person. It's not his personality, it's his policies. And...
CHARLIE ROSE: What's he oblivious to?
NANCY PELOSI: He's oblivious to the truth on the ground in Iraq. He's oblivious to the needs of many people in our country in terms of saying that we need to lift up many more people in our economy if we're going to be proud of our economic success and our prosperity. He's oblivious to children.
I always say, the President will not hold the Iraqi government accountable while our troops are fighting a fight in Iraq, and yet he's holding accountable public school children in America if they can't pass a test.
CHARLIE ROSE: Ok, but that raises an interesting -- how would you like for him to hold the government of Iraq accountable more so than he is now?
NANCY PELOSI: Right from the start. Right from the start, the Administration...
CHARLIE ROSE: No, I'm talking about now, because of where we are now.
NANCY PELOSI: I'm just saying now with this government.
CHARLIE ROSE: Right.
NANCY PELOSI: With this government.
CHARLIE ROSE: The Maliki government.
NANCY PELOSI: I'm not talking about five years ago.
CHARLIE ROSE: The Maliki government.
NANCY PELOSI: I'm talking about the Maliki government. Right from the start, the Administration did not call upon them to do what was promised in the referendum on the constitution, which was to amend it to make it more inclusive. This is part of the political solution.
CHARLIE ROSE: So what should the President have done?
NANCY PELOSI: At the time, I asked the President if he encouraged President...
CHARLIE ROSE: Prime Minister Maliki, right.
NANCY PELOSI: ... Prime Minister Maliki to amend the constitution. And the response I got from the Administration? He deferred to someone else at the table, the Secretary of State. "We are not encouraging that. We are not encouraging that." So some of these problems are of our own making in that the President never set a standard.
And so now, you have Maliki, who may or may not even be capable -- he may not even be capable of being the leader he needs to be.
CHARLIE ROSE: He may ask for it and ask for it and ask for it, but it might not be deliverable because of the circumstances on the ground in Baghdad within his own government?
NANCY PELOSI: No, a sense of arrogance that some of the leadership in Iraq has in the Maliki government that, "What are you going to do if we don't do it? You're still going to stay." And that's the point of having a debate to say unless certain -- one of the ironies is that when we talked about putting standards there, we said as Democrats with some Republican votes, if the Maliki government measures up in these respects, we'll stay longer. So there was a reward, because the President says to me: "Well, what's in it for them? If you're going to leave anyway, what motivation do they have to do all that -- meet these standards?" And I said: "Well, because we say we'll stay longer if it looks like there's progress being made. But if they refuse to do what they need to do to have the economic, political, and diplomatic solutions, why should our kids be paying the price and fighting their civil war when they're not making the other moves that are necessary to end the war?"
CHARLIE ROSE: Tell me what you think is going to happen in the end in Iraq, and what kind of state is Iraq going to be two years from now?
NANCY PELOSI: You hear all kinds of suggestions about cutting it in the three parts...
CHARLIE ROSE: The Biden proposal.
NANCY PELOSI: The Biden proposal. I would hope -- because it's hard to tell, we have 18 more months of the President, and he seems determined to go out leaving this on someone else's doorstep. We are determined that this is going to come to an end and will go to the next step.
If, in fact, the Iraqi government would do what it promised on the referendum to the constitution, amend the constitution so that the country is more inclusive, that the Sunnis have a chance...
CHARLIE ROSE: Share the oil wealth.
NANCY PELOSI: If, in fact, the government is fair in how it distributes services and the rest -- when I was in Iraq maybe not the last time -- yes, I think the last time I was in Iraq, just a few months ago, they told me that they had a number of Sunnis in the hospital there, the U.S. hospital, the coalition hospital there, because they can't go to the government hospital because they'll either get kidnapped or murdered. That's what they fear.
So, again, there's such a, shall we say, a government in favor of the Shias there, so the Sunnis don't have a chance. So they have to change how they -- so if they in fact were of good faith, and we conditioned our support of being there and other support for them, they could take it to a place where the political, diplomatic, and economic choices could be made.
CHARLIE ROSE: You're saying that they could find a political solution if they wanted to?
NANCY PELOSI: If they wanted to. But I'm not sure that they want to. But if they wanted to. And then, I think you would see in the region -- because I've visited the whole region, as you may know...
CHARLIE ROSE: Including Syria.
NANCY PELOSI: Including Syria. And I said to some of the governments in the region: "Why are you not investing more in the economic growth of Iraq? It's important to the stability of your region." They don't have confidence in al-Maliki, either.
So I think if the government established itself in a way -- and maybe al-Maliki is not the person -- they could attract economic investment, they could have diplomatic engagement to help keep the peace there, and they could have political solutions. It's still possible, but not unless they decide to do so. And until we set some conditions on them that are real, with a price to pay, with consequences, they have shown no interest in doing that. And that's very sad, and much of that rests at the feet of the President of the United States.
CHARLIE ROSE: Let me pull back. You went to Syria.
NANCY PELOSI: Yes.
CHARLIE ROSE: You had conversations with Bashar Assad.
NANCY PELOSI: I did.
CHARLIE ROSE: You got some criticism from Republicans, who raised questions.
NANCY PELOSI: Yes.
CHARLIE ROSE: What's the Speaker of the House doing over there, engaged in foreign policy? Tell me how you see your role in foreign policy, and what you intend to do between now and 2008.
NANCY PELOSI: Let's start where we always start: To provide for the common defense. We all take an oath of office to protect and defend the American people and the Constitution. Our biggest threat right now, of course, is the threat of terrorism and the spread of weapons of mass destruction, which is related.
I and my colleagues have a responsibility to make judgments about policy that we make here. We have also an interest in seeing the facts on the ground in other countries. We want to take appraisals of leaders. We want to understand if this initiative to fight terrorism is successful. I don't think the war in Iraq is the war on terror, at least it wasn't to begin with. But we do have to fight the war on terrorism, and we have to do so with great resolve and with international partners.
So how I see my role is just as every other Speaker did. It's funny that they would decide to tell the first woman Speaker, stay home.
CHARLIE ROSE: So why do you think they did that?
NANCY PELOSI: It doesn't ring very well with me. I think they did it...
CHARLIE ROSE: You really do take it -- as a woman, you were insulted?
NANCY PELOSI: Yes. But, you know what? I don't waste too much energy getting insulted by the Republicans. That would be a waste of time.
But here's the thing. We told them, the Baker-Hamilton, the Iraq Study Group, everyone has said...
CHARLIE ROSE: Talk to the Syrians.
NANCY PELOSI: We must talk to everyone. You have to engage in discussion.
And so, we received an invitation from President Assad to come to Syria when he knew we were going to be in the region, and I said to my delegation -- bipartisan - "Do you want to accept this invitation or not?" They wanted to, and I was glad they did, because we had a very interesting conversation with him.
So you asked what my role is. What my role is is to go to a country to bring a unified American message.
CHARLIE ROSE: A unified?
NANCY PELOSI: A unified...
CHARLIE ROSE: Not a message that's separate from the President?
NANCY PELOSI: No, not a message that's separate from the President. Every place I went, I said the Democrats are engaged in a major disagreement with the President on Iraq. We have left that disagreement at home. We've come here to reinforce his message. Say, for example, in Syria, that you have to stop the fighters going across the border, endangering our troops and the Iraqi people. If you want to be our friend, we want you to be a friend to Israel. You must stop your interference in Lebanon and let the tribunal go forward to investigate the assassination of Hariri. You have to stop your support of Hezbollah, Hamas, and all these other terrorist groups.
CHARLIE ROSE: And sending military supplies across the Syrian border into Lebanon to support Hezbollah.
NANCY PELOSI: Well, that gets us to Iran. And Mr. Lantos, who was on our trip, very clearly said: "Look down the road a few years. Do you want to be Iran's friend or do you want to be a friend of all of the other countries? Because Iran is the danger in the neighborhood."
And a few weeks after we left, the generals complimented, commended the Syrians for reducing the number of soldiers, of fighters going across the border.
CHARLIE ROSE: And you think there was cause and effect there?
NANCY PELOSI: Well, it was after our visit, and they hadn't complimented them before that.
We said to the President, "You have to engage." Shortly thereafter, Secretary Rice met with the foreign minister of Syria.
CHARLIE ROSE: Right.
NANCY PELOSI: So you have to take a measure of the people. I mean, if somebody took a measure of al-Maliki or some of these other people we have placed our confidence in, they might have come to a different conclusion about what could be accomplished.
So you try to take a measure of the person, see the situation on the ground. Because we have to make important decisions about fighting terrorism, where it is and where it might be harbored. And so I have -- you know, all the Speakers have always traveled. In fact, one of my recent trips to Africa, when I went to Darfur, the President said: "I know you're going to South Africa, will you speak to the President of South Africa for me on an issue?" And the President said when I came back, he said: "I did not ever criticize your trip to Syria."
CHARLIE ROSE: I mentioned Baltimore.
NANCY PELOSI: Yes.
CHARLIE ROSE: Your father, I guess, was called in Baltimore Big Tommy.
NANCY PELOSI: Big Tommy.
CHARLIE ROSE: It was a political household.
NANCY PELOSI: Yes, it was.
CHARLIE ROSE: Politicians came there.
NANCY PELOSI: And my brother was Little Tommy, who was mayor, too. He's watching.
CHARLIE ROSE: Exactly.
NANCY PELOSI: He always -- every night, Charlie Rose.
CHARLIE ROSE: Politics was in your blood.
NANCY PELOSI: Yes.
CHARLIE ROSE: Yes. You came to it late, though.
NANCY PELOSI: That's right.
CHARLIE ROSE: Because you had children.
NANCY PELOSI: I had children.
CHARLIE ROSE: You were a hands-on mother. Do you wish you had gone into politics earlier? Do you wish that you'd become Speaker 10 years ago, rather than this year? Or rather than 2006?
NANCY PELOSI: Absolutely not. Being a mom, having my five children, in six years I might add, was the greatest accomplishment of my life. My husband and I, our family is everything to us.
I never intended to go into politics. It just was an extension of my care of my children. When they were grown and going on to college then it was obvious, whether it's to protect the environment, to have them live in a world that's at peace, a fair economy, it was a natural extension of my role as mom. So for me, everything has worked in perfect timing. I don't know if the world would have been ready for a woman Speaker before now. I don't know when that marble ceiling started to break.
CHARLIE ROSE: Fair enough.
NANCY PELOSI: But in any event, I have absolutely no regrets, and nothing has prepared me more for being Speaker of the House, in terms of the values and the prism of seeing everything
CHARLIE ROSE: Than being a mom?
NANCY PELOSI: ... through the eyes of the future, than being a mom. And a grandmother.
CHARLIE ROSE: But you wouldn't extend this metaphor to saying that as Speaker of the House, you have to deal with a group of children?
NANCY PELOSI: Oh, no, no, no. Not that at all. Not at all. Not at all. And you know what? For every woman, for every family, it works in their own timing, the professional activities of moms.
CHARLIE ROSE: Exactly. You find your own rhythm and balance in your life.
NANCY PELOSI: I do. And what's interesting is to hear from fathers of daughters throughout -- I hear from the women, of course. They're so thrilled. But the fathers of daughters have said: "This means so much to my daughter that this marble ceiling has been broken, and the sky's the limit for her."
CHARLIE ROSE: Thank you for this conversation.
NANCY PELOSI: My pleasure. Thank you so much.
CHARLIE ROSE: Speaker Nancy Pelosi. We're at the Capitol in Washington.
Thank you for joining us.