Nancy Pelosi: Activists should persuade GOP lawmakers to work to end war
The House speaker touted Congress's domestic accomplishments, but recognized Americans' frustration at a lack of action on the Iraq war at a Monitor lunch Tuesday.
Washington - House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, second in line to the presidency, in some ways lives in a bubble of protection. She arrives for a Monitor-sponsored lunch with reporters in an armored SUV and bodyguards trail her into a hotel two blocks from the White House.Skip to next paragraph
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But whether at work or at home, the first woman speaker in the nation's history cannot escape the unhappiness of those – including a key part of the base of her party – who want Congress to move faster to end the war in Iraq. "I am well aware of the unhappiness of the base," Speaker Pelosi said.
For more than four months, antiwar protesters have been "sitting outside my home, going into my garden in San Francisco and angering my neighbors, hanging their clothes from the trees, building all kinds of things, [putting] couches, sofas, chairs, permanent living facilities on my front sidewalk," she says. More recently protesters have taken up positions outside her Washington home.
So while the speaker's opening remarks to the dining room full of print journalists focused on domestic accomplishments by the Democratic Congress, much of the hour was – like her life – focused on war-related issues. "The war has eclipsed everything. And while I am very proud of the ratings that Democrats have on every issue you can name, I don't disagree with the public evaluation that we have not done well in ending this war," she said.
Pelosi stressed the differing roles of antiwar activists and congressional leaders. "We have to make responsible decisions in the Congress that are not driven by the dissatisfaction of anybody who wants the war to end tomorrow. God bless them for their passion on this issue. I believe that mostly they are right. But I do believe that we are responsible [for] a ... safe redeployment of our troops out of Iraq and that is what we will continue to fight for."
Activists who want to target congressional Democrats for lack of action on the war are misguided, the speaker argued. "I think it is a waste of time for them to go after Democratic members. They ought to just persuade Republican members who are representing areas that are opposed to the war," she said. "We said we would change the debate; we would fight to end the war. We never said we had the veto pen or the signature pen."
While offering flattering comments about Senate majority leader Harry Reid, Pelosi spoke about the other chamber with frustration. "It is clear now that the Senate is not going to be able to do much to overcome the 60- vote barrier that would send a bill to the president's desk. But that does not mean the House will not move to … responsible, safe redeployment of our troops, hopefully to end by next year," Pelosi said.
She agreed with those who say the Iraq war is being fought without equality of sacrifice. But responding to recent legislative proposals for a war tax, she said, "I don't support a draft, and I don't support a war tax."