Pelosi Speaks Nancy Pelosi met with the Prospect and discussed, among other things, what a Democratic House could look like. By The Editors Web Exclusive: 05.25.06
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On Friday, May 5, we held our fourth Prospect breakfast, this one featuring House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi. Among the guests were Michael Tomasky and Garance Franke-Ruta of The American Prospect; columnist Marie Cocco; Ellen Ratner of Talk Radio News Service; Thomas Edsall of The Washington Post; Ari Berman and David Corn of The Nation; Walter Shapiro of Salon.com; David Grossman of politicstv.com; Zack Roth of The Washington Monthly; and Josh Orton of Air America Radio.
Nancy Pelosi: Good morning, welcome. Iím delighted to have you here in the leaderís office. Iím not going to speak for 10 minutes because Iím very eager to hear your questions. But I do want to say thank you to Michael for arranging this and thank you all for being here. Nice crowd and self-identified progressives -- good room.
Marie Cocco: Everyone knows the number of seats that you need to take the House Ö well, thatís what clearly I think is on everyoneís mind here. Everyone knows the number of seats you need; to achieve what you need you have to do more than just bump off people like Chris Shays who live in marginal districts. So could you please tell us what might be the five or six districts that heretofore were not marginal for them but are now and look winnable for the Democrats?
Pelosi: We have to win 15 seats. Iím sure you probably know that number pretty well. And weíre playing in 50 seats that we think we have an opportunity to win, seats that meet a certain criteria, determined in a very cold-blooded way, and we will proceed in that fashion as we keep those districts in or out of the mix. We have enormous opportunity in the Northeast; we have great opportunity in the Rocky Mountain West. When I say Northeast, I include the Middle Atlantic -- thereís just opportunity all over the country for us. We have put out a First List; we have a First List on our Red-to-Blue program. That doesnít mean that these have a higher priority than the districts on our next list. It just means that either these people have a primary coming up so we want them to get support pre-primary. We donít usually have any political information here, thatís what we usually do down at the DCCC, so we can get you that information, itís in the public domain.
So weíre looking at 50, weíre not looking at 15, weíre looking at 50 seats and itís very exciting. The two things we had to do to put us in play -- we had to take down President Bushís numbers, and he gave us an opportunity when he made his assault on Social Security. That was a big fight for us because if we had lost that fight, we as a party should be in the dustbin of history because that was a core value of the Democrats and he was going out there and saying ďto save Social SecurityÖĒ and it sounded good to people. Sixty percent of seniors thought that was a good idea. The newly-President-again and he was going to save Social Security. Anyway, we had to go outside of D.C. Ö a thousand town hall meetings across the country to persuade the people Ö by September, 70 percent of the seniors were against what the President Ö but in the meantime the message came in -- he doesnít care about people like you. It bothered us that his number on ďcares about people like meĒ was higher than it should be in light of what happens here on the floor every day. So, took his number down there, laid the foundation on the unethical behavior here. Weíve been doing that for a while, but it finally was taking the culture of corruption, incompetence, and cronyism. Pound away on that and then of course along came Katrina as further evidence of this incompetence, cronyism, and corruption, and the war spoke for itself.
People criticize us -- ďyou donít have your own plans.Ē You know what? Weíll take the heat, Harry and I. Weíre willing to take the heat, and we just have to keep the spotlight on the President of the United States. For these and other reasons, the Presidentís numbers are very low. Weíre 15, 16, 17, depending on what generic you look at, ahead in the polls. So with those generics so high, thereís good results for us in the individual, by-name polling in districts. So, weíre not going for 15 to 10, we have 50 that weíre hitting.
Since his numbers have been low for such a long period of time, weíve been able to attract a high quality of candidates because they know their prospects would be good. I always say, a year before an election is as important as Election Day because thatís when you see who youíre fielding. You have to have a candidate. We have our message; weíll have our mobilization at the grass-roots level; we have our money coming in at record amounts, but if you donít have those three pillars to hold up the candidate, you just canít go to the finish line.
So we have the attorney general of New Mexico; a popular sheriff in the biggest county in a district we have to win in Indiana; we have an Iraq veteran, Tammy Duckworth.
Mike Tomasky: Let me ask this age-old question of nationalizing the election and doing what the Republicans did in 1994. Thereís a lot of talk of that. You made a sort of stab at that in 2004, but I think it was rather general and bland. Is there an effort to have a Contract-With-America type of thing? And bearing in mind what this caucus is like -- you had eight Democrats vote for that ethics thing yesterday, so is that remotely possible?
Pelosi: We have, starting in January, House, Senate, governors, mayors, state legislators all coming together on a national message of honest leadership and open government. In March we came out with our Real Security to Protect the American People. In June weíll roll out our family-security agenda. So yes, weíll have a national agenda. You have to define or be defined in this. And of course the races are also local. Nevada -- Yucca Mountain, South Dakota -- country-of-origin labeling. They want to know how you will represent them and their concerns. And also, weíre calling this the Republican Rubberstamp Congress for George Bushís failed policies, so that national message is important to us. In í04, I really thought if we had our unity, which we built, which was a very important thing for us Ö When I became leader, we were a very disparate group Ö it served to build our unity but we were so totally eclipsed by the presidential election that nobody could hear our message. We thought, well, weíll win something; of course, that didnít happen, we didnít win anything. But then the President decided to make a fight on Social Security.
I wasnít happy that eight Democrats decided to vote with the Republicans, but make no mistake, it would have passed. Itís just question of how many Republicans they would have let off the hook, but the bill would have passed.
Ellen Ratner: Just to follow up on what Mike said. We sat with Harry Reid, and Harry Reid said that they were going to roll out an agenda in September. I think there was a collective gasp among some of us saying, ďSeptember?Ē I come from the talk media and to follow up on what Mike said, yes, you have this Real Security and you have Innovation Agenda, but there isnít a 10 commandments kind of deal like Innovation for Job Creation or Moral Budgeting or Energy and Environmental Security, something that everybody can tell you what the agenda is, because it is coming out in dribs and drabs. What can you do to really fix it in peopleís minds? The corruption issue has, but you have to have something to go forward.
Pelosi: Thatís right and we have to build our unity so that everyone is behind what weíre putting out there. Can you imagine what itís like to have 250 House and Senate Democrats not have their own Social Security proposals? I mean, this was a remarkable feat and Harry and I were pleased to get credit for that. So we have to build our unity around what we say we are for. We are deadly serious about achieving these things when we win. So we will do that in June , but in September we will have a distillation of that as we go into the campaign. But we will have -- and Iím not going to roll it out now -- . Jobs, health care, education, etc., and itís going to have a bigger thrust.
In the meantime, along the way, in the various speeches that all of us make, we have made certain commitments about what the first week in Congress would look like. And that would be Ö again, this is not anything Iím rolling out now, but if you listen to our speeches and hear what weíre saying in relationship to a strong America begins at home, Real Security rolls out the first session, the first day of Congress. Weíll have the 9-11 Commission recommendations to keep America safe. The fact that the minimum wage hasnít been raised in such a long time, talk about Give America a Raise. Weíve talked about prescription drugs; we have said that the first few days of Congress we will eliminate the prohibition on the Secretary of HHS being able to negotiate lower prices and bring down the cost of prescription drugs. There will be some things that will make their mark right from the start in terms of our values and our commitment to get the job done.
But youíre right. If people are not receiving the message, weíre not communicating it well enough. But I have confidence that . In June we will have that, in September we will have more of a campaign piece. These are our policy pieces that will be more of a campaign piece at that time. But I feel confident about our timing. You know, everyone wanted us to do this last year; we said, we have to take him down first. The President, the House, the Senate -- Republicans have every venue available to them. Every time you pick up the paper or turn on the TV, thereís some other majestic auspice to put his message out there, and here we are Ö nobody knows who we are. Heís the President; he has all this plus a rubberstamp Congress that doesnít even think, they just do exactly what he decides should happen. So I think we have done what we needed to do to take him down, getting our numbers up. And now, I agree Ellen, we canít wait much longer, and frankly, for me with all the candidates that I have, the sooner the better.
Tom Edsall: You have a situation with the DNC -- does not have much money and America Coming Together is defunct. What kind of get-out-the-vote program are you going to have on the ground to support your campaign?
Pelosi: Tom and I go way back. I come from an organizational background and I know if you donít own the ground, you might as well not get into the fight. Weíre obviously working very closely with Rahm Emmanuel, who Iím very proud of as chair of the DCCC. But, it would be great if there were a grass-roots effort being done by the Democratic National Committee, and my understanding is that they are going to do such a thing. But I cannot have one in five children living in poverty in America, the disparity in income in our country, the degradation of the environment, the misrepresentation Ö all of that dependant on whether the DNC has cash to cover. We have to make sure in each of our districts . Itís the only way to win. You can advertise and persuade all that you want, but if you donít turn out the vote youíre just having a conversation.
Iím not putting any resources in races where we donít have a ground operation because thatís just not a winnable strategy. Mobilization, message, money -- the three pillars built on the foundation of our unity and supporting our candidates. And nothing can happen without all of that and weíre committed to that. But it would be great if the DNC would do that. The chairman tells me that he has plans to do that. But I like the indigenous grass-roots effort, too, that springs naturally around the enthusiasm that people have for their candidates, so I have no doubt that we will have what we need on the ground. Itís just a question of how much a heavy lift itís going to be for us as opposed to a cooperative effort with the DNC.
David Corn: Leader, so far you havenít said much about Iraq other than that the Presidentís handling of the war speaks for itself. Is that good enough for Democrats? I read the Real Security plan and I have to tell you, on the question of Iraq, it was pretty weak -- we insist on this, we urge that -- and it wasnít much different from what the White House will tell you they want to see happen in Iraq, too. Are you content to let public disappointment with Bush on Iraq take care of itself or do Democrats have to speak to it, and if they do speak to it , how can they and still preserve this foundation of unity youíre interested in?
Pelosi: Well, I beg to differ with you a little bit. I think weíre different from the White House. They may say something but itís very different from what theyíre doing. There are only two ways to go -- you stay the course and let some other President clean up after this President, which is . Or, we have House and Senate Democrats coming together to say 2006 has to be a year of significant transition in Iraq, where the Iraqi people take responsibility for their government and for their security. It captures everything from Jack Murtha, Neil Abercrombie, and some of the Republicans as well as some in our party who, before we went into this unity message, were talking about sending more troops. It also talks about holding the administration accountable. Iíve never heard anyone in the White House say that. Holding the administration accountable for what is going on here.
And one of the great triumphs of our victory in November will be the power of the subpoena. This is a Congress that is not only a rubberstamp for the President, but has abdicated its responsibility, derelict in its responsibility for oversight. The power to investigate, the power to subpoena will show the American people how far they were willing to go for their own agenda at the expense of the lives of our kids, the limbs of our kids, a trillion-dollar war, the cost to our reputation around the world. Very calmly, very calmly, when we win, we will assume the duties of the legislative branch, the first branch of government. We will have a system of checks and balances that is called for in our Constitution and abandoned by this Congress. 2006 will be a year of change in Iraq. I hear what youíre saying. I wish everybody would be on the Murtha bill -- makes all the sense in the world. But thatís not where they are; thatís not where their constituents are, but I think thatís where everybody is going to be at some point.
Walter Shapiro: How do you reconcile voter concern with prices at the pump with the fact that most environmentalists associated with the Democratic Party think that only high gasoline prices will encourage the kind of conservation we need to make a serious dent against global warning?
Pelosi: What is happening here is that people who have to drive, this isnít an option. This isnít about people who can say Iím going to drive less because of the price at the pump. This is about people making minimum wage who canít afford to go to work. I want to talk about energy for a second because when you elect two oilmen to the White House, thatís exactly what you get -- the agenda of Big Oil. They canít do anything else. Theyíre true to their natures. Big profits for oil companies? Whatís the problem? These people, wittingly or not, willingly or not, the oil companies have a stranglehold on them. Thereís an anvil weighing down the executive branch and the legislative branch when it comes to energy. They canít think in fresh, new, innovative ways.
Now, Democrats have made the decision in our Real Security agenda. And weíll do it again in our Family Security agenda because itís a domestic and international issue -- energy independence. The technology is here; itís just a decision. But they canít do it. What does the President say? We should import ethanol. Import ethanol? Their heads are not in the future. They come from a world that says, as long as can keep this thing going with these profits, weíre OK. So when weíre balancing the equities of what reduces our dependence on gasoline, letís think of some alternatives.
Shapiro: At the very beginning of your answer, you sort of implied thereís nothing wrong with high energy prices, gasoline prices, if the money were going to alternative fuels rather than Exxon profits. Is that how you feel?
Pelosi: No. My point was . This is not about energy prices that are high in a way that people can make ends meet and still go to work. When I was in Moline, Illinois, a woman drove me to the airport and she said, ďI have to drive all these miles to work. Iím not sure I can keep this job, I canít afford the gasoline.Ē That is one story -- an anecdote, not data, but it is a shared experience. I think weíre at a different place in the discussion now. For years we were talking about how if you double the price of gasoline, the price of oil . Weíre at a different place now, where profits to oil companies are of such magnitude -- historic, record-breaking -- and at the same time, to add insult to injury to the consumer, that same taxpayer is giving billions of dollars in subsidies and royalties to these companies. They donít need any incentives to drill. And on top of all that, the CEO of Exxon got a $400 million retirement package. This is not a commitment to the middle class; this is not a commitment to democracy. This is plutocracy. And so, that is one way of looking at it. Ölook to the future. Where do we want to be in ten years? What do we have to do to get there? We have a goal; we have a plan; we have a timetable, and we will be judged on how we reach those goals.
David Grossman: Republicans have stated publicly that theyíre looking to make gay marriage an issue in the midterm elections, the same thing they did in the 2004 presidential election. Obviously in a midterm election where a lot of importance is in turning out your base, what are some of the things that you and your colleagues are looking at doing to make sure that a divisive issue doesnít help them win in 2006, and whatís the message in response to their efforts to keep bringing up gay marriage when there are issues of energy, education, retirementÖ?
Pelosi: David, I think the American people have reached the conclusion that , and expands their access to health care -- we say, and have said -- we intend to have health care for all Americans and intend to achieve it in five years .We have something to offer them -- the education of their children, their economic security, their access to health care. When we have something to offer, these other issues arenít the point. But if they donít see a positive message from the Democrats on these issues, bread-and-butter issues, then theyíll say, ďI donít know what Democrats stand for but Republicans will let me keep my guns, are not for abortion ÖĒ You know, all of that.
It behooves us to show them that we are concerned about them. When Franklin Roosevelt died, he didnít want a state funeral if we were still at war, as we were, because of the cost and the pomp and circumstance and ceremony. So they came from Warm Springs, Georgia, to Washington to lie in state at the White House and then to Hyde Park, where he was buried. And when he was coming in to Washington, there were millions of people lined up, millions of people . One of the mourners was standing there and a reporter went up to him and said, ďWhy are you here? Did you know Franklin Roosevelt?Ē And he said, ďNo, I didnít know President Roosevelt. But he knew me.Ē And thatís what I say to my caucus -- we have to let them know that we know them, we do know them and we work for them all the time. They donít have a clue of it -- shame on us for not getting that across and for letting ourselves be characterized by others. We have to show them we know them -- their hopes, their dreams, their aspirations, the obstacles, the challenges that they face to make the future better for their children. Since the beginning of our country, itís always been the case that every generation believes the next generation would have more opportunity and that we each have a responsibility to make it so. That confidence in the future, about the next generation being better, thatís all been true until now. Thatís what that ďWrong DirectionĒ number is so fraught with meaning.
What do you mean, a country that hasnít raised the minimum wage in all these years, where purchasing power is going down and CEO pay is going like that , and the gap is so enormous Ö itís just unbecoming to a country committed to a middle-class democracy, in my view. So we have to let them know that we know them. And I think that these other issues Ö theyíre there, but theyíre not disposative of how they vote. It may factor in but there will be other considerations. I feel very confident about that.
Zack Roth: You talked a bit before about using subpoenas to create a record. Whatís the response when Republicans say during the campaign, as theyíve already started to say, if Democrats retake the House theyíll investigate everything, theyíll impeach the President, theyíll throw the country into turmoil. Is that something youíll shy away from or embrace at all?
Pelosi: What I said was, and I think the tone was Ö we will calmly, seriously have Congress assume its responsibilities. And it is a responsibility of Congress to have oversight hearings whether the party in the White House is of your party or the other party. To have oversight hearings and to have the power of subpoenas because if you donít subpoena these people under oath, you just get what they tell you, and thatís not fair to the American people. Thatís why I say subpoena, under oath. The record has to be clear. I donít say the Democrats are going to come in and impeach the President . I donít think it helps, I donít think it helps. No.
Cocco: To what end would you want to establish the record? Say you do become Speaker in January of 2007 and itís about a year or so until thereís a presidential election, isnít anyone, whether youíre a Republican or an independent voter or, for that matter, an independent journalist looking at that and saying, this is about political payback and this is not about establishing a record for the country. This is about establishing a record that sets the Democrats up for 2008.
Pelosi: That isnít what our intention is. Our intention is to establish a record so that we can go forward with public policy that has the support of the public and they know why certain decisions are made. The public is Ö theyíre beautiful -- theyíre optimistic, theyíre positive, theyíre concerned now about the direction of the country. But they project their own honesty on to some other people. Sometimes they think things are the way they are because thatís the only way they can be. Thatís completely wrong. These people have acted in a way that is contrary to the public interest. They are the handmaidens of special interests, and we have to show that to them . How many of them know that, I mean, insiders know, how many of them know that the Vice President of the United States had secret meetings with the energy industry, wrote the energy policy for the country and we have $3 a gallon gas at the pump, $3.50 in my district; that you have billions of dollars in subsidies that are given to the energy companies, subsidies Ö you know what I mean, all of the tax breaks that theyíre giving them. They gave how many millions of dollars to the Republicans in campaign contributions? They got billions of dollars in subsidies while the consumers got $3 plus a gallon of gas at the pump. There is a direct relationship. We have to show that to the public. Öwhoever prevails in the future. They know they canít get away with it. Theyíve done serious damage to the country, and we have a responsibility to have the record show that.
And also to take people to a different place. This is an old way of thinking -- the rich get rich and the poor get poorer. You know, itís an old idea and itís not a good one. They have to see that there is a concerted decision made to do these things, and so, let the chips fall where they may. The public record is there. The public record on how we got into Iraq; the public record on the prescription drug bill -- probably one, well, thereís competition for the title, probably one of the most corrupt bills to come down the pike and middle-class seniors will pay. The cost of corruption Ö itís not only the culture of corruption, itís the cost of corruption to the taxpayer. And so, this is about letting the public know. There has to be, in a very dignified way, and I think you will see Republicans participate because they have major doggie do on their shoes and itís going to be a long time coming off, and they may want to look as if they were interested in finding some answers as well. But weíre not doing anything unusual -- weíre doing what Congress is supposed to do, what Congress is supposed to do.
Tomasky: About three times now youíve spoken with real passion about how the Democrats have let the Republicans define them over the years. You seem really mad about that. How does this happen? That you havenít been able to respond to all of this stuff about Mommy Party and Homosexual Party and Anti-Religion Party and youíre the San Francisco liberal and all this kind of stuff. Why has this happened?
Pelosi: First of all, quite frankly, many people in the press didnít want to cover what we did because we didnít have the majority, we werenít going to have an impact on the outcome, so letís go cover the majority. But more importantly, in terms of our own responsibility for that Ö again, Tom knows, and Jules from the Baltimore Sun Ö you have to fight, you canít let them say something and let it stand because a point unanswered is a point conceded. Otherwise intelligent people will ask what are we going to do in í08. And I say, í06 -- we have elections coming up in í06. Now I think theyíre getting a little bit used to the idea. But we have to define ourselves; we have to let people know what weíre willing to fight for in this elections, and get everybody on board for that. And then you have to make distinctions, you have to differentiate, but you have to fight. Somebody said to me the other day, well, redistricting has determined the elections so why do you think you can win. I canít identify with that idea. Every 10 years with redistricting we decide what Congress is going to look like for the next 10 years? Without a fight? All of us take responsibility for not being visible enough and thatís fine, but how do we get to be visible? Give us more press! Write about us!
Democrats are just so wonderful. We have such a perfectionist drive and if our leaders donít agree with us 100 percent Ö the Republicans donít act that way. Theyíre with the program. Thirty years ago, you know what they did. After the í60s, the early í70s, they decided that the free enterprise system was at risk, so they had these foundations, huge money, the richest people in America, the far right who didnít want any taxes, protect the assets of the wealthy period, no taxes. And employment was dangerously high, as Allan Greenspan, former chairman of the Fed said to a committee I was on; employment was dangerously high. And I said Get Out of Here! Because what he meant was that inflation was going to come and he was there to protect the assets of the rich. Letís understand whatís going on here. Itís all about money. They also told people at the time that Social Security was not going to be there when they retired, they started that a generation ago. So this thing has grown. Theyíre the people who wrote the Contract-On-By-For America, and they had by then all the talk radio -- got rid of the Fairness Doctrine -- all the talk radio, and they had by then half-a-billion dollars in endowment money. No money to be raised, half-a-billion dollars to go out there with their message. They have this whole network, the Cal Thomases, Rush Limbaughs, this whole thing. They have a message -- boom. Half a billion dollars goes a long way.
So we have to do what we have to do. Iím not about whining, Iím about winning. Whatever it is we have to do -- we have to do it to get our message out there. It was important to us to spend time building unity in the party because that has its own appeal. Weíre united around core principles.
Ratner: The White House just put out a fact sheet about economic growth continuing Ö more than 5.2 million jobs created since 2003. And they talk about the unemployment rate, etc. Theyíre going to roll this out, have already started. Whatís your response?
Pelosi: Theyíll roll it out big time. They can say it all they want but they donít convince the American families caught in the middle-class squeeze. Itís good for their friends. The job growth for this month is less than what they projected; they projected 200,000. The purchasing power of Americaís working families has not increased. So theyíll try to Ö this what they do. I donít blame them Ö they can say it all they want, itís not going to convince people who canít make ends meet because of the high cost of energy, prescription drugs, because of the lowering of the purchasing power of their income, that everythingís great. Hallelujah -- whatever his name is at Exxon is making $400 million. Everything is great! They can say whatever they want. The budget deficit, they say itís lower, itís still over $300 billion.
Josh Orton: This question may be a bit of a right turn. You recently reiterated your call for the administration to declassify the names and the dates of the members of Congress who received briefings about the administrationís warrantless wiretapping program. In the letter you said that without doing that, the administration is encouraging the belief that the administration makes classification decisions solely for political purposes. Is that your belief, and do you have similar concerns about the politicization of the warrantless wiretapping program itself?
Pelosi: The arrogance, perhaps in violation of the Constitution, but we have to get the record. We have to get the record to see what they did and how it complied or did not comply with the law. Theyíre engaged in domestic surveillance. Congress refuses to review whether what they did was against the law or not. They donít even want a record of what they did. They donít want to put them under oath. They donít want to subpoena them. If youíre not under oath or under subpoena, donít even do it because it gives the illusion that something perhaps might have happened which didnít. Then they go around saying all these members of Congress were briefed on dozens of occasions. So I said to them, who and when? I want to know who and when. I was briefed maybe two, three times, but I want to know who and when because if I tell you something one day and you something another day and you something Ö you know, where is there any consistency in what this is?
So, this was December when it first came out and I thought, ďhe did notĒ , but if you think you did, tell us when it was . ďOh, itís coming, itís coming, the list is coming.Ē So it came out about a week and a half ago, and what they did was, they said this list is compartmented. Compartmented is the highest classification. Classified -- I canít tell you. Compartmented -- I canít tell my intelligence staff person. Nobody can know except a person who is in the room at the time. I mean, I donít use foul language, but a hell of a nerve. For them to say to the public, dozens of times members of Congress were briefed, and to me, this list is so secret you canít even share it with your intelligence person. I just think thatís outrageous. You canít let them get away with that, that they can get the upside of saying whatever but we canít even talk about it in the Congress. I couldnít even tell a member of Congress or my staff person whoís cleared to the nth degree.
I canít tell you whatís in that letter, but Iíll tell you this: whoever they briefed on whatever day Ö suppose I said to you, OK, Iím going to brief you on some stuff. The two of you go outside, and then the two of you, and then the two of you. You have no idea of the kind of consistency of that briefing unless those people can talk to each other because you only know that theyíre telling you. Thatís what I tell the people who are now being briefed, the expanded group -- remember, you donít know until theyíre under oath and subpoena Ö You only know what theyíre telling you. So donít let them give you some kind of song-and-dance about that.
This isnít really serious but itís one of those issues, in my view, the American people need a lot more information about because theyíll go, ďNancy Pelosi wants to hang up on Osama bin Laden.Ē Thatís their famous line. That is so ridiculous; it cheapens the debate. Shame on them for even suggesting such a thing. The FISA law gives them all the latitude in the world. They just have a real aversion to subjecting themselves to the law, and thatís a real problem for some of us. Now the public record wonít show what a lot of the program is because it will be classified, if not compartmented. But thereís enough that can be known that a judgment can be made. Whether thereís a Republican or a Democrat in the White House, we donít want that President to have that kind of power over the American people without another branch of government approving that, that being the FISA court.
Garance Franke-Ruta: I have a question about the Democratsí fractiousness you were talking about earlier in terms of the media environment. It was reported on one of the progressive blogs yesterday that thereís an increasing dissatisfaction, that people are hearing from Democrats on the Hill about the progressive bloggersí attacks on Democrats going into the elections, and Iím wondering if you think some of these people should lay off until the election.
Pelosi: Far be it for me to suggest anything other than freedom of speech and free press in our country. The fact is, in my caucus from right to left we have the greatest unity Ö what did they say, the Congressional Quarterly? Ö since Sam Rayburn in the middle í50s, since they started measuring these things . Look, I came out of the grass roots so I understand the dissatisfaction . When I was in my early 20s, weíd work so hard for these people and then theyíd go off to Washington and what would they do? Veer off from what we were working for. So we were always dissatisfied. So all I can say is, advocates are advocates. God bless them for that. And thatís a very important part of our democracy. But donít lose sight of the fact that we have a very big election coming up at which everything is at stake -- the Constitution of the United States, the separation of church and state, the three independent branches of government Ö our democracy is at stake Ö fairness in our economy and growth in our middle class, one in five children, as I said, living in poverty, 30 years of bipartisan environmental progress rolled back, a disgraceful budget in terms of how it allocates resources, mountain of debt onto the next generation. Democrats have done better in all of these things by light-years.
I always quote Martin Luther King: we canít always afford the luxury of incrementalism. Now, we canít win by putting out every idea that every person has. We have to choose those that resonate with the American people, that are fundamental to us as Democrats Ö about fairness in our economy, about opportunity in education.
Look, I get annoyed when some of the Members donít vote with me, but every dayís a new fight, and we put one good week in front of another. Give us some credit for the position that weíre in. If we had gone out there and put out all the ideas everyone had on Social Security, weíd have had 250 plans. How would that have been? We canít do that. We have to have a strategy and we have to have priorities. What we do has to have consensus but it has to be bold. Iím not here for any milquetoast politics. Go home and criticize us, but donít slow us down. Donít slow us down. This is no convoy, this is a bandwagon. It has to have consensus and it has to have clarity. In order to have to have that clarity, we canít have every issue in the book. We can bring it around the frames of fairness, of responsibility, of community, of real securityÖ.
Let me just say this and youíll understand. If I said, ďa microphone is on the table is the message,Ē 10 Republicans around the table would say a microphone is on the table, a microphone is on the table, a microphone is on the table. Ten Democrats around the table would say a microphone is on the table, itís next to a glass, thereís all these people sitting around, itís in a room with a chandelier, there are windows in the roomÖ Now why are you doing that? Just say what weíre going to say! Just say it! This is what we want them to know! But I think if I said it that way, they would understand it better, thereíd be more contextÖ They have this much time for us -- you got to get in before the window closes. The microphone is on the table!