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CNN "State of the Union with Candy Crowley" - Transcript

Interview

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CROWLEY: I read something in "Roll Call" that described the prospects for Democrats retaking the House as theoretically possible but unlikely. Would you agree with that?

PELOSI: No. I think that, first of all, I don't know what that is, but I do know that the source of our confidence is, and that's the quality of our candidates. They're just great. The fact that they are strong in terms of their grass roots mobilization and their resource raising and the rest. And that the issues are with us.

For one year and a half since the Republicans passed their budget, which the Romney-Ryan now, Republican budget, which severs the Medicare guarantee, we have been saying three important issues of the campaign, and in alphabetical order they are Medicare, Medicare, Medicare.

On August 11th when Governor Romney chose Ryan, that was the pivotal day.

ROMNEY: Paul Ryan has become an intellectual leader of the Republican Party.

PELOSI: That is a day things really changed.

We were on a path. I would have said to you then we were dead even. Well, momentum is very much with us. The Medicare issue in this campaign.

So we have a message. We have the messengers. We have the money. We have the mobilization. We have an excellent chance to take back the House.

CROWLEY: Just quickly, the Romney campaign says that Medicare will always be a choice, but that they want to open it up so that they're not cutting off the Medicare option.

PELOSI: Well, you know, that is completely upside down. It's a contradiction of Medicare. Medicare is a guarantee. To make it a voucher is to put the decision in the hands of the insurance companies. Seniors know that. I'm a senior. I know that.

The whole pillar that Medicare is about economic and health security for our seniors and those who depend on Medicare. There are families who need their parents and grandparents to be provided for under Medicare. Everybody understands that.

If you don't believe in Medicare, you will say what the Republicans are saying.

CROWLEY: Let me ask you, if it should turn out that you gain seats in the House, but you don't take over the majority spot, would you still run for leader of Democrats?

PELOSI: Well, I don't ever predicate anything when losing. I feel very confident about our ability to win. Who will lead the party after that is up to my members. I feel that I...

CROWLEY: Oh, sure, but would you still run, whether it was for speaker or Democratic leader?

PELOSI: Well, I actually, didn't choose to run last time. My members chose that I would run last time.

But this isn't about me, this is about Medicare. It's about Social Security. It's about women's rights. It's about the American dream. It's about our democracy. All of that is on the ballot.

CROWLEY: If we look at the polls rather than the possibilities, it looks as though there is an even chance that the senate Republicans could take over and that the probability is that Democrats will not take over in the House.

So let's say everything stays as is and the president is re- elected. What's different about the dynamic that has been so toxic between Capitol Hill and the White House if we have what currently the polls show is -- you know, if the election were held today?

PELOSI: Well, with that theoretical, the -- you'll see more of the same because it's really important for the public to know that the Republican obstruction of President Obama's jobs bills and whatever he was advancing, their obstruction is their agenda. They really don't believe in...

CROWLEY: Does that change? If nothing changes in the dynamic...

PELOSI: It's what they believe in. Now I have always said in my Republicans take back your party, because this wing of the party or this over the edge crowd that is in charge -- taking charge of wagging the dog in congress is never going to cooperate, because they do not believe in a public roll. Clean air, clean water, public safety, public education, public transportation, public health, Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, they don't believe in it, and that's what their budget is about. And that's what wee we vote on the floor almost every day.

CROWLEY: Do you see that changing.

PELOSI: No, I don't see it, that's why it's important for us to win the election so that we can go forward because bipartisan collaboration is on the ballot too.

When President Bush, George W. Bush, was president and we were in the majority and I was the speaker, we had our differences, we fought, but we also found common ground.

GEORGE W. BUSH, 43rd PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I thank the leadership of the congress for joining us here.

PELOSI: There are so many places where we came together.

CROWLEY: So you could work with Mitt Romney basically, if it came to that?

PELOSI: Oh, Mitt Romney is not going to be president of the United States.

(LAUGHTER)

CROWLEY: Let me ask you...

PELOSI: I think everybody knows that.

CROWLEY: The president has put out his -- by law he had to put out a response to detail what its cut and what doesn't get cut under what we call sequestration, which are just mandated across the board cuts in both sides of the ledger. It says it will be horrible if it happens, et cetera, et cetera. The Republicans have complained repeatedly that there is no presidential leadership on this.

What is the president's involvement been so far in trying to get Republicans and Democrats together to avoid this fiscal cliff?

PELOSI: Well, the president as recently as yesterday I received a call from him saying we really do have to have an agreement, which I fully agree with, and the must have as much -- do everything we can to find common ground. That's what we did one year ago, more than a year ago in July/August of last year and the president worked very hard with the speaker to come out with a bipartisan agreement that was a big design which had $4 trillion over 10 years in deficit reduction and the House and Senate Democrats said Mr. President, we're with you on this. He agreed to it. The Republicans walked away. CROWLEY: Is he a work-the-phoner, though? I mean, compare him, say, to Bill Clinton who you also worked with. I mean, the image that we have is a president that does not do that as much as a Bill Clinton did in terms of offering guidance, trying to get people together in the same room, reaching out to Republicans, reaching out to you. The level of leadership from the president when it comes to legislative things compared to former President Clinton.

PELOSI: Well, I would say that they both score very high in terms of leadership. If you measure leadership in the number of phone calls, well, that might be a little bit of a different story because they're different personalities.

CROWLEY: Yes, more contact with Bill Clinton over the years.

PELOSI: Well, I wasn't leader or speaker when Bill Clinton was -- President Clinton was president, but we all -- but I saw how he worked with Congress and our leadership at the time.

Make no mistake, President Obama is, of course, a great leader. He has great vision for our country. He knows the issues. He has a plan. He is eloquent and can draw people to what he has to say, and that's all great.

He also is such a respectful person. And I have never seen -- I worked with presidents to a great or lesser degree, certainly to a greater degree to President Bush and President Obama, and this president has listened, spent time, respects the opinions of the Republicans to an extent that I think -- I wish one of them would come up with a new idea because he has more patience listening to them than I do.

But so, really, leadership should not be measured in the number of calls. But they were both great. They are both great leaders.

CROWLEY: So I'll just extrapolate from that that perhaps Bill Clinton was more hands-on than President Obama, but they both -- you think they both showed leadership?

PELOSI: Well, I think they're both hands-on. It's just a question of how they spent their time. And the challenges are very great today that the president -- as they were under President Clinton, but I think he uses his time well. I have no complaint with that.

CROWLEY: House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, thank you for joining us today.

PELOSI: Thank you, Candy. My pleasure.

CROWLEY: I appreciate it.

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