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CBS "Face The Nation" - Transcript

Interview

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CBS "Face The Nation"

MR. SCHIEFFER: We talked to Secretary Gates on Friday to accommodate his very busy schedule. And for a very different take now on Iraq, we turn to Democratic Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi. We also spoke to her Friday at her Capitol office.

(Begin videotaped interview.)

Madame Speaker, thank you for joining us. You're making a lot of news lately. The president says it's logical to have a pause now in the withdrawal of our troops to just sort of see where we are before we decide whether to withdraw any other troops. Doesn't that make sense?

REP. PELOSI: Well, I don't think so. But of course, I don't think the war made sense in the first place in terms of the justification for going, the conduct of the war and the rest. But the president has been kicking the can down the road for the last couple of years saying, we'll have a surge, and if it works then we can bring our troops home. And now there's a pause in withdrawal and redeployment out, but we haven't really had any major redeployment out.

I think that what we have passed in the House over and over again, the honorable, responsible and safe redeployment of our troops out of Iraq in a reasonable period of time in order to bring stability to the region and to make the American people safer so that we can focus our full attention on the real war on terror, which is in Afghanistan, makes sense.

MR. SCHIEFFER: Every member of the administration that has spoken out, General Petraeus, they all say if we withdraw now that it would be chaos. The Democrats, including you, seem to say that it would cause stability. But can you say what would happen if the administration decided to do exactly what you're proposing?

REP. PELOSI: What would happen is is the Iraqi government would take responsibility for its country. They would get a signal from us that they must now make the political decisions necessary to bring peace and reconciliation to their country. They have had no incentive to do that because we are there, and we're there in greater numbers. So the most important messages to them -- the generals on the ground there, not retired generals, the generals on the ground there have said the biggest obstacle to peace in Iraq is not the al Qaeda, it's not the Iranians, it's not the Sunni militias, it is the government of Iraq. They haven't made the decision necessary to take the actions that are commensurate with the sacrifice of our troops.

MR. SCHIEFFER: What would be the reaction, though, in Iran? Wouldn't this sort of be a signal that we've given up, that we were turning tail and running? And wouldn't that really be dangerous for this country?

REP. PELOSI: Bob, we've been there for over five years. As you know, March 19th, the Feast of St. Joseph, was the fifth anniversary of our initiation of hostilities into Iraq. Pretty soon we'll be in Iraq two years longer than we were in World War II. There is not a strategy involved here to go in, get a job done and come home. That's really unfair to our troops, our men and women in uniform who have done everything they've been asked to do and well, and we praise them for their patriotism, their courage and the sacrifice they're willing to make. That's what we have to think about.

We have to think about the safety of the American people. we don't have a combat-ready unit in the United States to protect any threats to our security wherever they may occur. The real war on terrorism, as I said, is in Afghanistan. We need to redeploy troops to Afghanistan, but there are no troops to redeploy. So the president says he wants a pause in redeploying out of Iraq. We don't have any troops here to send to Afghanistan. That's where the threat is. The president's Iraq war policy is not making the American people safer. It is undermining the capability of our military to protect the American people.

MR. SCHIEFFER: Can you do anything as a Congress to change the direction of this policy because so far you haven't?

REP. PELOSI: Well, you know, interesting question. When we won and the American people overwhelmingly spoke to the issue of the Iraq war that they want it to come to an end, we thought that the strength of their message and their strong voices would be heard by the president and/or by the Republicans in Congress. We thought that that would give us an opportunity to have a compromise on how we could redeploy out of Iraq in a way that kept our troops in the region -- talking about Iran -- troops would be in the region over the horizon but not an occupying force in Iraq.

But the president had a tin ear to the will of the people. And he has a blind eye as to what is really happening in the Middle East and in Afghanistan. And so we have not been successful because what we found out really is it's not just the president, it's the Republicans in Congress who are committed to this course of action which is, I believe, a wrong course of action. And it will keep us in Iraq for many years to come instead of taking us out, strengthening our military, regaining our reputation for security in the world. I've always said it was a mistake. Sadly, it's now a mistake that is five years old.

MR. SCHIEFFER: Let's take a break here. We'll come back and talk about this some more and some other things.

(Announcements.)

MR. SCHIEFFER: We're back now with the Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi.

Madame Speaker, you decided to block a vote on this trade agreement that the president wants to make with Colombia. One of the president's supporters said that you got the 3 a.m. call and decided just to not answer the phone -- referring, of course, to the famous Hillary Clinton commercial. What's your response to that?

REP. PELOSI: Well, first of all, without going into anybody's political commercials, the seriousness of this issue goes beyond whoever made that statement. I'm more interested in statements of the president of the United States as the speaker of the House. And we didn't move to block the consideration of the bill. We moved to create a timetable for consideration of the bill that was sensitive to the concerns of America's working families. It's now their timetable, not President Bush's timetable.

But until we can address the concerns of the American people in this downturn in the economy, which some call a recession, and we can talk to you about how this trade bill fits into that picture, then, again, we need more time to do that. It wasn't a blocking. It just removed the timetable.

MR. SCHIEFFER: The White House says that you're actually harming national security, that this is one of our staunchest allies, that the leader of Colombia is fighting the narcotics mafia down there. They just say this is the worst thing you could possibly do for our policy toward Latin America.

REP. PELOSI: Well, the president wants us to see the bill in the context of foreign policy, and we agree. We want to see it in the context of economic security in America. So he doesn't want to see it in a vacuum and neither do we. And I called the ambassador from Colombia the day that we announced we were doing this and told her we appreciate the friendship between our two countries, we send our respects to the president of Colombia, and that it should not be viewed as it is being characterized by the White House.

MR. SCHIEFFER: Let's talk a little politics here. Hillary Clinton's husband has now brought up this whole business about the story that she told about her arrival in Bosnia and about the snipers and all that. He says she's being very unfairly treated. This was something she said late at night. In fact, he has mischaracterized it because she said this on three different occasions. My question is, why would he bring this up again? It seems to me as if it was all dying down, this whole controversy, and now here it is back in the news. Do you think this was a good thing for him to do?

REP. PELOSI: Well, I think you started off the question appropriately -- Hillary Clinton's husband. I think Hillary Clinton's husband was being a husband and wanted to be protective of her. But I have to tell you the truth. I don't spend a lot of time thinking about the motivation of comments like that. we're trying to address the subprime crisis, deal with the war in Iraq, have a stimulus package to turn our economy around, deal with global warming issues and the rest. And I know it's fun to talk politics, but I couldn't possibly tell you the motivation for that remark.

MR. SCHIEFFER: Well, you know, I'll tell you what a lot of people are saying and what kind of the buzz is.

REP. PELOSI: Tell me because I haven't heard. (Laughs.)

MR. SCHIEFFER: Well, that maybe he's trying to undermine her candidacy. Could that be possible?

REP. PELOSI: Well, maybe it was late at night when he said it, and maybe he should be forgiven. (Laughs.) They say age and time of night. Well, maybe the same applies to him as he uses the excuse for Senator Clinton.

Senator Clinton and Barack Obama -- we have two great candidates. One of them will be president of the United States, the other one will emerge as a great leader and respected leader in our country. It's fun to talk politics. We all know that. But we have serious work to do to take the country in a new direction. And I can't, for the life of me, figure out why the president would have said it except he may have been having a late-night adult moment. (Laughs.) But let's leave it at that.

MR. SCHIEFFER: (Laughs.) All right, Madame Speaker. Thank you very much.

REP. PELOSI: Thank you.


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