Yesterday, there was a bloggers conference call with Leader Pelosi. When it was my trun to talk, I asked her to explain why "mouth-breathing, nose-picking idiots" that listen to right-wing talk radio were able to beat their Senators into submission and get them to defy their own Republican President, when, with 70% of the nation opposing the war, we can't get her and the rest of our Democratic leaders to do anything to end the war.
Next, Dave Johnson of SeeingTheForest.com asked about the administration's flouting of the rule of law. I was able to pile on a bit and point out that impeachment could begin with Gonzalez.
Anyway, I'm not going to summarize everything because I'll put up a transcript in the extended comments. I recorded the call, and you can hear the relevant excerpts (and check out more "analysis" at BraveNewFilms.org)
Mike Stark: Speaker, I wanted to ask you about this immigration thing as it relates to the Iraq war. I think what a lot of our readers have noticed is that a bunch of mouth-breathing, nose–picking idiots that listen to talk radio were able to browbeat their Republican Senators into defying their own president, their own Republican President. But we’ve got 70% public opinion against this war and we can’t get the Democrats to do what we want - to end the war. How can we explain to our readers why that disparity is there?
Speaker Pelosi: Well, let me say on immigration first, as I said last night on TV, talk radio – hate radio – has beaten this thing to a froth. But they have also hijacked the legitimate questions that some Americans have about the subject; some people in our country have questions about job security, border security in the West... So I wouldn’t characterize everyone who opposes it as that way. But I do think we have to try to fight for a strong immigration bill with border security, workplace enforcement, enforcing our laws, reuiniting our families/ family unification and a path to legalization. But having said that, I don’t want to paint everyone with the same disgusting brush you painted with (laughter), but that would be an accurate depiction of those who have beaten it to a froth. And that’s an anti... it has a market... I don’t think it has a market as big as the Republicans are claiming, but it has a market.
But having said what you said, I’m as disappointed as you are that we can’t get past the sixty votes in the Senate. But it’s no use to complain about that. We have to take... the court of public opinion is where the sixty vote barrier will come down. We can’t kick it down internally. But we can try to point out what is at stake, the ground truth in Iraq, so that in the districts... You know, I’m responsible for the House. We passed – we can pass a bill any day in the House, but if it can’t get through the sixty votes in the Senate to be heard... to go to the President’s desk... then we have to use our energy in another way and I think that is to focus in a public way, as you all have done.
I’m determined to end this war. It is my top priority. And some of that... there are good days. Nobody thought we would ever have a vote, or a timeline in Iraq coming out of the Democratic Congress in a unified way. Now the Senate turned it into a goal, we had it as a definite date of departure; we sent it to the President’s desk; he vetoed it. They only gave us one shot at it. The Republicans in the Senate said you get one shot – we’re not giving you a... you need sixty votes after that.
So I also, in order to end this war, have to take the heat when it doesn’t go well, because this is a strategy that is more than one event, that’s for sure. We are preparing legislation and we’ll announce it either today or tomorrow depending on the House schedule, that has our original language about the timelines – the timetable; that is to say no goal, but a definite date of departure: within 120 days the Secretary of Defense must begin the redeployment of the troops out of Iraq to be completed no later than April 1st of 2008. Not a goal, a timeline. Tougher than what we sent to the President. We think we can get the support of the Senate; we can have unity with the Senate on that – to have a stronger bill to go to the President. And if he vetoes it, it is still the case that the American people will see... it makes it harder every time for the Republicans to vote in favor of this war. You see the cracking of their unity – with Senator Lugar, with Senator Warner, with Senator Voinovich.
And I can tell you without any hesitation, in modesty that absent our changing of the debate on the War in Iraq, that would not be happening. So we had two-fold: we had to change the debate on Iraq, internally, in Congress and we had, we have to end the war.
September is fraught with meaning for us – it’s everything.
We have to make sure the President doesn’t think he can kick the can down the road again.
Again, we have our ups and downs and we have to take the downs in the strategy. But I think overall, I’m very proud of what the Democrats did in the spring. I don’t think anybody ever suspected that we would have the unity that we had to put a bill on the President’s desk. I would like it to be the House language with a definite date rather than a goal, and that’s what we are proposing now – a stronger bill.
Dave Johnson (of Seeing the Forest): We seem to be at a historic time right now with an administration that is starting to frankly assert that they are above the rule of law, and I’m wondering if you as Speaker can give us a short statement on this issue and what Congress is prepared to do to re-assert the rule of law of the people of the country.
Speaker Pelosi: Thank you David. The American people really don’t even know the half of it, but we are trying to build the record, and that’s what we have to do. You know, they’ve been going for six – almost seven – six and a half years, with no oversight. Just absolutely zero accountability, no oversight. And when people talk about this Congress, they have to recognize the big distinction between this Congress and previous Congress’ in terms of shining the light of oversight and accountability on this administration. So when people see what is happening in terms of... What we said last year during the campaign – for the whole of 2006 what we said "Corruption, Cronyism and Incompetence". And that’s some of this unint... Corruption. It’s not just the corruption; this personal aggrandizement that were guilty of, it was the corruption in terms of the governmental process. And they... it’s stunning. It really is stunning. And on many of these things, you have to build a record so that the public sees what it is. And I think that some of our people, Mr. Waxman in particular because he has the committee – The Government Reform and Oversight Committee – has done a spectacular job and I think you might share that assessment of what he has done.
Now you see the administration asserting executive privilege. So the press asked me this morning, "Does this mean you’re going to hold them in contempt next?" I said "No, we’re gonna let the process work out" because you have to build the record. You have to build the record.
On some of these issues the courts are not friendly to us because they are all in the family. You know, the Courts, especially in the District of Columbia if we wanted to challenge them in Court on anything, the decision would not be in our favor. They know that, and we can see what the Supreme Court did today if you need any evidence of the, shall we say, immodesty of the court.
So it is something though that we owe the American people. And our conduct of the business of Congress as a check on the executive branch... that we return to the rule of law. David, you and I could have a very long conversation on this.
They have tried to eliminate judicial review from law. In other words, in order to amend the Constitution, you know the process. But what they want to do is to say, by simple majority, you can amend the Constitution and at the same time, eliminate the Court’s ability to have judicial review of that law as to whether it’s Constitutional. That’s who they are.
I think that if you ever listen to the speeches of Sandra Day O’Connor, you will find that even she was appalled by the treatment that the courts received from the Republicans. They didn’t even know it – this is an inside thing – we went to lunch one day – the leadership, with the judges – right before Rehnquist died... so what would that be? Two years ago? Around this time... And she sat with Tom Delay at the table – there were three tables with three justices at each table, so she was at the table with Tom Delay. And he just blasted – he said, "you know if we don’t like your decisions, we’re not gonna fund or we’re gonna withhold funding for implementation of those decisions... you know... she was stunned that he would talk that way about the separation of powers and the rest...
So she (unint) when she got off the Court, she spoke out against this. So it’s about the rule of law about how corrupt they have been; the rule of law on how they refuse to be accountable; but also the rule of law on how they don’t respect... you know, the executive branch doesn’t respect the oversight that Congress has, but they don’t want judicial review – when they were in power, they don’t want judicial review over their laws even though many of these Courts were appointed by the Republicans...
Even Barry Goldwater spoke out against it. Did you know that they have said in the debate on the subject that Marbury v. Madison, which established Judicial Review, was wrongly decided. A 200 year old decision was wrongly decided.
So as I said, in every aspect of the rule of law and respect for the Constitution and checks and balances and just the rule of law and how they conduct themselves, it’s almost impossible to exaggerate how bad they have been. And again, even Justice O’Connor was stunned, herself philosophically aligned with them, but was stunned to see how far they were willing to go.
Dave: Just a quick follow-up. What are you going to do about it?
Speaker Pelosi: Well, as I say, we’re exercising our oversight on it and pursuing these things with subpoena... first to just invite them to testify, then to issue the subpoena, then to build the record – in terms of the executive branch now – to build the record so that we can be effective in how we deal with it, but the most effective thing of course is for us to win the White House and just say "this isn’t what our country is about, and we will restore the rule of law" and this should be a campaign issue. This should be a campaign issue. It is absolutely stunning.
But I’ll tell you some of the things we would have liked to have done with for example, Cheney... Cheney and the secrecy of his energy policy development. That went to court – we lost in court and everybody said we should take it to the next level – to the three judge court. Well, so did I. But the fact is that the judge at the first court level – they didn’t do precedent. They established that but it wasn’t precedent. If we went to the next court, which was very unfriendly to us in terms of its membership – the three judge court – and they won, it would have established precedent. So we had to carefully consider whether we wanted to establish that decision as precedent and we did not.
So you know, some of these things are not as cut and dry as you might think, but very, very involved in it... and I proudly say that our oversight, if anything, has been so intense that some people think it’s political, but it really isn’t. It’s patriotic and it’s about our Constitution. So again, build the record, make it known to the public, understand that this flies in the face of everything our country stands for, and use it in the campaign and then do it right when we are in power, which I am absolutely certain we will be – I’m certain we will win the White House.
But we need your help on these things. You know, everybody says "What are you doing about it?" What we need to do is make sure that the public is aware of these issues, what we are doing about it... and I thank you for the question so that perhaps we can communicate on how we can communicate with you better so that you can help us with this, but this is as fundamental as our country. I mean, and then you go to habeas corpus and things like that, it’s embarrassing!!
Mike Stark: Speaker, when we do tell the public about it, they say one word. The say "IMPEACH". And I respectfully suggest that if you let this administration out of office without impeaching even Abu Gonzalez, er... Alberto Gonzalez, you will have set a precedent. The next republican administration that takes office will know that they can get away with anything they want because Democrats won’t stand up for the Constitution. That’s what millions of people are saying.
Speaker Pelosi: I appreciate your point. I think that the Gonzalez vote of confidence, as you saw, did not carry. But uhm... yeah, I understand your point, but it’s a choice that has to be made, that is to say "what is the price they are paying for the exposure?"... Look, nobody knew any of these things about Gonzalez. Let’s remember how we got to where we are – and that was by the oversight activities of the Congress of the United States. I made a decision a few years ago, or at least one year ago, that impeachment was something that we could not be successful with and that would take up the time we needed to do some positive things to establish a record of our priorities and their short-comings, and the President is... ya know what I say? The President isn’t worth it... he’s not worth impeaching. We’ve got important work to do... If he were at the beginning of his term, people may think of it differently, but he’s at the end of his terms. The first two years of his term, if we came in as the majority, there might be time to do it all...
Mike Stark: Respectfully, that’s not the question. Respectfully, the question is whether or not the Constitution is worth it.
Speaker Pelosi: Well, yeah, the Constitution is worth it if you can succeed. But I think that we are, in asserting the checks and balances that were missing, are honoring the Constitution. I take very seriously the pledge, the oath of office that we make to the Constitution – as does every person in our Congress. (unint) Our Democratic Congress is their worst nightmare because of the power of subpoena. I think that the President’s credibility now, whether its immigration – whatever it is – is so low because of a great deal of the oversight that we have done. But we are in disagreement – I’m not going to try to budge you on that – on whether the President should have been impeached. That’s a different question from "Are there grounds for impeachment?" But should he have been impeached? Should we have gone down that road? I don’t think it would have resulted in a Democratic victory that would have – in a campaign that would have resulted in a Democratic victory that would (unint) the oversight that we have now that will build the record that will allow us to get rid of them in a major way. So I believe that we are on the verge of an election that will be a decision for greatness...
From here, the Speaker went on to speak about energy, health care and other issues...