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MADDOW: Joining us tonight for the interview is House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi, who for the entire time that the "don`t ask, don`t tell" policy was alive, before, during and after her term as speaker of the
House, helped lead the fight against it. So, tonight, she is out celebrating its demise with the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network at their party in Washington, D.C.
Leader Pelosi, thank you so much for joining us tonight. It`s nice to have you here.
REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), MINORITY LEADER: Thank you, Rachel.
As you can see, it`s a cause for great celebration that we are -- it is the end of "don`t ask, don`t tell." And it`s pretty exciting, both for our country and for each of the people who are here, each of their personal
stories is really a victory.
MADDOW: It has been received wisdom in Washington for nearly 20 years that President Clinton hurt himself politically when he tried and failed to repeal the ban on gay people serving in t the military. Do you think it was risky for you and other Democrats and President Obama to push so hard to repeal the ban these path couple years?
PELOSI: Well, whether it was risky or not, it was the right thing to do. President Obama deserves a great deal of credit for creating the atmosphere, providing the leadership for those in the military to follow
the lead of the commander-in-chief and look carefully at this issue, to see how we could enable patriotic Americans to serve our country.
The American people seem to be way ahead of Congress. I`m very pleased we were able to get two strong votes. My colleague whip Steny Hoyer is here tonight. He`s an important part of what we did in the House.
Senator Reid in the Senate, putting together a bipartisan coalition there.
And so, again, the American people approved. The issue was urgent. The president led. Tonight we celebrate.
MADDOW: Do you have anything to say tonight to Buck McKeon, the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee or to Senator John McCain or other members of the Congress who you fought against all these years, the ones who fought so hard to keep this ban in place?
PELOSI: You know what, I`d rather be thinking in a positive vein tonight about what was accomplished and the joy it brings to all of these people here and the 14,000 people who were discharged under the "don`t ask, don`t tell" policy -- the respect that they are receiving, the opportunity they have to go back and to be reinstated and what it means for those who have never served but want to serve our country. That`s the emphasis I would like to place tonight as we have this celebration.
I hope that in the hearts of those who have not been as enthusiastic, that they will see the inevitability of it.
When we took the vote last year in the spring, we got -- we had a 40-vote majority. When we took the vote again in the winter, it had grown to 75 votes majority, nearly double. I think that`s the wave of the future
and that others -- I always say about "don`t ask, don`t tell," it was inconceivable to us that it would not be repealed. It was inconceivable. It was inevitable that it would happen.
We wanted to shore up the distance between the inevitable and the inconceivable and make this night happen. Some people just take a little longer to come around, but I think the American people have led and the president has been absolutely great. It`s a real tribute to him.
But I`m proud of my members because every district isn`t the same. And all of them were very courageous.
MADDOW: To hear your optimism about this, about the sort of making the inevitable happen, is a glass half full way of looking at it. Does that mean when we hear Republican presidential candidates, for example,
talking about putting -- reinstating "don`t ask, don`t tell," it`s essentially rescinding the repeal if they became president -- do you think that`s just noise? Do you think there`s no chance of that ever happening?
PELOSI: I don`t think so. I think this has its -- the repeal of "don`t ask, don`t tell," the participation of our men and women, everyone in our country what wants to serve in the military has a momentum to it.
It`s really a celebration of their patriotism, of their love of our country.
And it is really part of two bookends in the Obama administration. He started his -- the first bill the president signed passed by the Congress. The first bill he signed was Lilly Ledbetter, to end discrimination in the
workplace. One of the last bills he signed in that two-year period was the repeal of "don`t ask, don`t tell."
And in between, the hate crimes bill, fully inclusive and many other initiatives, he broadened opportunity in our country. That is the wave of the future. I think that we`re on pretty solid ground here.
MADDOW: Leader Pelosi --
PELOSI: Pretty happy ground, too.
MADDOW: It sounds like it.
PELOSI: It`s hard to hear you. I`m sorry. It`s very hard to hear
MADDOW: I`ll try to be emphatic. I`m sorry.
I have one last question for you about President Obama and his strategy, as he`s heading into his re-election campaign. He is talking more and more about Congress these days. About the priorities of
Republicans in Congress in particular and how he sees his priorities and the nation`s priorities as different than what Republicans want.
Do you think there`s been a real important strategic pivot for the president, that he`s being more confrontational or more willing to call out people he sees as standing in the way of progress?
PELOSI: Well, I would hope that the president, taking his message on jobs and deficit reduction that is fair, that is marked by fairness, where all Americans pay their fair share, as he takes his message to the American people that all of us can find common ground on the high ground of values -- the education of our children, the dignified retirement of our seniors, the creation of jobs of the American people, the safety and good health of our neighborhoods, the strength of our country and is done in a fiscally sound way, nothing partisan about that.
I think as the president shows that what our values are and how the budget reflects them, that hopefully we can find common ground in the budget. But I do think that it`s really about not only his re-election,
it`s about his belief in the future. A vision of America that is more, that provides more fairness, more opportunity, that speaks to the greatness of America.
So, I`m very proud of the president. Our caucus -- our House Democratic Caucus is fully behind him in what he is doing and we just would hope we can, again, find common ground with the American people and our
colleagues on the Republican side of the aisle in Congress.
We will find a solution. We will have to find a solution, but we cannot find a solution by surrendering. We have to fight the fight, find common ground, if not, stand our ground. The president has made that very
MADDOW: House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi -- thank you so much for taking time away from the party you are at tonight, and joining us on tonight of all nights. Congratulations to you for your hard work on this.
I know it`s a real achievement for you, personally. So, thank you, ma`am.
PELOSI: I`m very proud of it. Thank you. Thank you, Rachel. Thank you.
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