Nancy Pelosi Should Listen to Karl Rove
Speaker Nancy Pelosi
By Medea Benjamin,
Special to Fog City Journal
September 5, 2007
Karl Rove might be a nasty guy, but he¹s no dummy. In a
press interview as he left office, he gave the Democrats some
free advice. He described his politics as building on the energy
of the base of the Republican Party and expanding it outward.
He mentioned that the Democrats could build on the energy of their
base, like the "Pink Ladies", he said, referring to
the Code Pink women who dogged him until the day he left office.
Instead of courting the "Pink Ladies" and the energetic
peace movement that helped put the Democrats in power and turned
Pelosi from Minority leader into Madam Speaker, Pelosi has alienated
CODEPINK and most of the peace movement. It started the day she
became Speaker, when she said that defunding the war and impeachment
were off the table. It worsened when she compromised with the
conservative "Blue Dog" Democrats on an Iraq funding
bill instead of supporting the Progressive Caucus. And it totally
fell apart in May 2007 when she allowed Congress to give Bush
another $95 billion for war with no timetable for withdrawal.
While Pelosi herself voted against the bill, many anti-war activists
held her responsible since she failed to put pressure on the conservative
Democrats to form a united front against another blank check for
war. They also pointed out that in the case of both the unrestricted
war funding and the expanded FISA wiretapping, she had the power
to just keep the bills off the floor.
With a Bush Administration request for even more war money looming
in September, CODEPINK and a coalition of 1,300 anti-war groups
called United for Peace and Justice have been pushing for a meeting
with the Speaker to see what her strategy will be this time around.
If she really wants to end the war, as she insists she does, what
lessons did she learn from the Spring defeat that will ensure
a different outcome this Fall? How can the peace movement work
together with the Speaker to make sure her new strategy works?
Despite countless requests, Pelosi has refused
to have either a private meeting with the peace community or a
public Town Hall meeting in her district. The last time she held
a Town Hall meeting was in January 2006 - almost two years ago!
During the August recess, while Congresspeople all over the country
held meetings on the issue most pressing to their constituents
- the war - Pelosi rejected a request from over 30 San Francisco
peace and justice groups, ranging from Jewish Voice for Peace
to Muslim American Voice, from the Labor Council to MoveOn.
So on August 12, CODEPINK took the request to her home, organizing
an encampment and hunger strike outside her Pacific Heights mansion.
It is a tactic that was successful with Senator Dianne Feinstein.
After six days of having campers outside her home, Feinsten came
out to have a cordial half-hour discussion with the fasters and
promised a longer meeting. Not Pelosi. During the two-week campout
and hunger strike, Pelosi¹s only interaction with the activists
was her hostility toward them. Arriving home late one evening,
hunger striker Toby Blome asked "Why won¹t you meet
with us?: "I'll never meet with you," the Speaker screamed.
"Get away from my house." When Blome asked her about
the homes of all the Iraqis whose privacy we invade, Pelosi snapped
and called her "a nut."
Hoping the Speaker would change her mind, the activists kept
up the vigil, sleeping on the hard cement, drinking only liquids,
and trekking to her downtown
office every day singing (to the tune of Row, Row, Row Your
Boat) "Nancy, Nancy you¹re our rep, It¹s time to
end the war, Meet, meet, meet with us, That¹s all we¹re
On Day 5 of the hunger strike, Pelosi¹s San Francisco Director
Dan Bernal coldly told the fasters and their supporters that the
Speaker would not have the time to meet with peace groups in her
district anytime during the August recess, period. That very night,
CODEPINK in Arizona emailed us an article from the Ahwatukee,
Arizona paper saying the Speaker had made a surprise appearance
at a "Democrats and Donuts" coffee klatch in their little
town before going on to a fundraiser.
"I was amazed she took so much time to speak with us,"
gushed local organizer Pamela Jamar Wald in the Ahwatukee paper.
The next day, CODEPINK Los Angeles passed on the news that Pelosi
was meeting with high-dollar donors at the estate of Beverly Hills
political fundraiser Daphna Ziman. While Pelosi had no time for
her constituents, she spent the month of August jetting around
to fundraisers in seven states.
Meanwhile, it¹s not just passionate peace activists who
are disillusioned. An August Field Poll of California voters found
Pelosi¹s approval rating plummeted from a high of 48 percent
in March to 39 percent by August a tie with Vice President
Dick Cheney. The drop came primarily from Democrats and independents
disappointed that Congress has been unable to change policy in
Iraq. California voters' view of the entire Congress was a disastrous
20 percent approval, 66 percent disapprovalthe lowest rating
since the Field Poll started asking the question in 1996. It¹s
even worse nationally. An August national Gallup poll found 18
percent approval, 76 percent disapproval-the worst since the group
started asking the question in 1974.
Nancy Pelosi is not only blowing it with the peace movement -
turning those who should be her base into her adversaries and
paving the way for "peace mom" Cindy Sheehan to make
a spirited run for her Congressional seat - she¹s also blowing
it with the majority of Americans.
Our advice? Stand up to Bush. Don¹t allow Congress to give
another blank check for war. Force the conservative Dems to follow
your lead. Don¹t only vote the right way, but use your power
as Speaker to only allow bills to the floor that include a fixed
timeline for withdrawal or stipulate that funds only be used for
the safe and speedy withdrawal of our troops.
And one more thing. Take a clue from Karl Rove. Build on the
energy and passion of the anti-war movement. Make them your allies.
If you can meet with Syrian strongman Bashar al-Asad, you can
surely meet with the peace-loving Pink Ladies, the Quakers, Veterans
for Peace and others who have been the heart and soul of our nation¹s
efforts to end this shameful war.
is the cofounder of CODEPINK: Women
for Peace and Global