Home   Google ARCHIVE SEARCH: Date:

Pelosi: We have not kept our 9/11 pledge to make America safer

Press Conference transcript from the Office of Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi

September 8, 2006

Ms. Pelosi. Welcome back. Here we all are.

It has been five years since the tragedy of 9/11. On that evening, as you may recall, Members of Congress stood on the steps of the Capitol, sang "God Bless America ," and made a pledge together in a bipartisan way that we would work to make America safer.

Five years later, we have not kept that pledge. Huge gaps in our national security exist. Recommendations of the 9/11 Commission have not been passed. In fact, in December, the non-partisan, independent 9/11 Commission gave Ds, Fs and Incompletes to the federal government on the implementation of the 9/11 Commission recommendations.

I have written to the Speaker to say that this would be an appropriate week to pass those recommendations. Indeed, it is absolutely essential for us to pass those recommendations before we leave here for the election recess. What does that mean? It means that five years after 9/11, two years after the 9/11 Commission recommendations, and one year after Katrina, our first responders - our police, fire, and emergency services people - still do not have real time communication to prevent the loss of life. It means that our ports are not secure. How many times have we talked about the fact that only 5 percent of containers coming into our ports are screened, instead of the 100 percent that is essential to protect the American people?

Our borders are not secure. Our nuclear and chemical plants are not protected. The fissile material that we know we can purchase throughout the world to take out of the black market has not been secured either. The recommendations are specific and they all address making America safer. It is something we have to do.

Democrats are proposing a new direction. On the first day, God willing, that we control Congress, we will pass the recommendations of the independent bipartisan 9/11 Commission. I hope that we could do it sooner in this year, in this week, certainly within the next 30 days.

With that I would be pleased to take any questions you may have.

Q Madam Leader, there has been a lot made about what is going on in Iraq and Afghanistan, and people keep coming back to the theme "hearts and minds." What specifically do you think are the missteps? You say are we actually creating more terrorists, doing certain things to gin up anti Americanism overseas even it is just people not liking Americans. Maybe they don't like the bombs or something like that, but what specifically can you point to that is not winning those hearts and minds that is so critical?

Ms. Pelosi. The war in Iraq is a historic blunder. I have called it a grotesque mistake. It is the wrong war. It is not the war on terror. Listen to Ike Skelton, listen to other experts on national security and they will tell you that the war in Iraq is weakening our capacity, the readiness of our troops, to protect America wherever our interests are threatened.

So right from the start, it is a mistake. They didn't know what they were getting into. They didn't send our troops with the equipment that they needed. The reason to go in. The reception we would receive. The reconstruction, how long it would take and who would pay for it. And how soon it would take us to accomplish the mission and leave.

In the meantime, in Afghanistan , where the war on terrorism was actually taking place, we pulled our punch. Sure, we have troops there. But why would we turn our attention to another country, which is completely unrelated to the war on terror, instead of staying focused, destroying terrorism, capturing Osama bin Laden, capturing Mullah Omar, the head of the Taliban?

So when you talk about hearts and minds, this is a very important part of winning a war.

Now, not saying again, reiterating, the war in Iraq is not the war on terror, but it is a war that the President chose, a war of choice that he decided to go into. If you have a war of choice you better be ready in every way. Our military conducted themselves brilliantly. They did what they had to do. But unless you have diplomatic and political initiatives to go with it, you will never win the hearts and minds.

So if you want to go into Fallujah and you decide to send troops into Fallujah and you are going to overcome Fallujah, you are not winning hearts and minds. So in some ways the more successful you are militarily, unless you have the component of political and diplomatic initiatives, you're in a losing battle.

Q The post Katrina money or the money that was used for Katrina, how are you monitoring it? Is it possible that some of that money is actually going to pay for State troops and National Guard that actually may be helping the war in Iraq and not necessarily Katrina?

Ms. Pelosi. Well, I can't speak to your specific point. All I can say is the following. The President likes to boast that over $110 billion has been appropriated for Katrina relief. I just spent three days down there to observe the one year anniversary but also to try to gauge the progress since our previous visit or lack of progress. And the fact is that although $110 billion, which is a huge amount of money has been appropriated, only about $40 billion has been spent, which is again a large sum, especially when you consider that almost none of it has reached the victims of Katrina.

So Katrina is a completely clear example of waste, fraud, and abuse. It is an example of cronyism and incompetence, and it is an example of a natural disaster turning into a man-made disaster that is now compounded by the length of time that these people are still not in their homes.

Q Madam Leader, you mentioned Osama bin Laden, but that is a name we haven't heard in months, and now suddenly every time you turn around it is Osama bin Laden, Osama bin Laden. Now, not to throw you a real softball here, but what do you make of the idea that that is all in fact what we are hearing now? Do you think it is designed specifically to whip up fervor, fear, prior to the midterm elections?

Ms. Pelosi. You know, I'm never one to question the motivation of people. I just want to question their effectiveness. Five years after 9/11, Osama bin Laden, who was going to be taken dead or alive - you know what the President said at the time, and I wish that he had been - five years later he is still on the loose. The President said, "You can run but you can't hide, Osama bin Laden." Apparently he could. And even if he is caught tomorrow, it is five years too late. He has done more damage the longer he has been out there. But, in fact, the damage that he has done is done. And even to capture him now I don't think makes us any safer.

Q But do you believe that right before the midterm elections this could cause voters to say, "Well, Republicans are in charge of security and we know what they are doing, and Democrats, we don't know what they are going to do."

Ms. Pelosi. Let me say, in a larger sense, Democrats will not be Swift Boated on the national security issue. We take our responsibility, Democrats do, to protect the American people very seriously, to provide for the common defense. It is in the Constitution's preamble and in the oath of office that we take. As a mother of five children and grandmother of five, going on six grandchildren, I dare anybody to say to me as any other security mom or grandmom, that we do not stand ready to protect our children and the threat to them or to the country in which they live, our great country.

We have put forth, House and Senate Democrats working together, our Real Security Agenda: A military second to none; to be tough and smart in how we defend our country; diplomatic alliances to stop the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, to stop the terrorism, and to stop global warming. You have to have that diplomacy in order to do that. To have real homeland security where we enact the 9/11 Commission recommendations. And fourth, to honor our commitment to our veterans.

This is our commitment. We put it in writing. It is called "Real Security." The inference to be drawn is that we do not have real security now. There are huge gaps in our national security. So not only will we not be Swift Boated on the national security, we are going to take the fight to the Republicans.

The war in Iraq has weakened our military and has weakened our readiness, has cost us so much in lives, which is the most important, and in dollars, which is important but not as important. And it has cost us in reputation in the world to make the American people safer. Whatever we do internationally should make the American people safer, should make our military stronger, and should make the world a more stable place. This Administration has failed on all three of these. So not only will we not be Swift Boated by them, we challenge them to make America safer.

Q Good morning.

Ms. Pelosi. Good morning, welcome back. How are you?

Q Very well. Insofar as you have said that the New Direction will include implementing the 9/11 Commission's recommendations

Ms. Pelosi. Yes, the first day.

Q And referred to this morning the response to Katrina as cronyism and waste, fraud, and abuse and incompetence, and that vis a vis Iraq we went in for the wrong reason, didn't know how we would be received, reconstruction was flawed as well as the time we would come out. If Democrats take over the majority, will they conduct oversight hearings on those issues across the board? All of it?

Ms. Pelosi. I believe that the Republicans in Congress have abdicated their responsibility, their constitutional responsibility to be a check and balance to the Administration. So whether there is a Democrat in the White House, a Republican in the White House, Congress is the first branch of government. It has its responsibility to be a check and balance.

There has been no oversight on many of the things that you mentioned, and I think you will see oversight. But we are about the future. If your point is that we are going to be bogged down in the past, disabuse yourself of that notion. Democrats want a new direction because we believe it is important to take our country forward, to do so in a way that makes our country safer, makes our economy fairer, makes health care more affordable, college education more accessible, Social Security more reliable, and takes us to a place of energy independence. That is our Six for '06. That is what we are going to be about, a new direction for all Americans not the privileged few.

That is what our focus will be. So to the extent our research takes us down that path, then so be it. But it is about the future and it is not about the past.

Q Are you saying that there won't be hearings? Representative Waxman talks about the missing $9 billion.

Ms. Pelosi. I think we would like to know about the $9 billion.

Q And the intelligence leading up to the war and stuff like that, the Downing Street memo?

Ms. Pelosi. I'm telling you that our focus will be on a new direction, about change. The American people, now up to 70 percent or more of the American people, say that our country is going in the wrong direction. Democrats are proposing a new direction, and that new direction is not only about the 6 for '06 that I mentioned, it is also about integrity, breaking the link between lobbyists and legislation, breaking the link between special interests instead of promoting the public's interest.

Secondly, it is about civility, about a bipartisan administration of the House. I put it in writing. It is my pledge. Every voice in America will be heard on the floor of Congress, not just the voices of those in the majority. And it is about fiscal discipline. So that's our New Direction. And that's what our priorities are as we go forward.

Q Recognizing your commitment to move forward and not get bogged down in the past, there are Democrats who want to know if they will ever know for sure what happened. And insofar as you will have potential oversight - you would have oversight responsibilities if you have the majority - those Democrats want to know if you are going to actually go ahead and find out what happened?

Ms. Pelosi. Well, to the extent we need information to go forward, in terms of, for example, energy independence, we intend to achieve it within 10 years. We would like to know how we got the energy policy that we have. I think it would be instructive.

But make no mistake. This is about priorities. And while we're on the subject, perhaps I can give you a little example of what I mean. This week we could be passing legislation to implement the 9/11 Commission recommendations. Instead, we have one bill on the floor about the slaughtering of horses, however important that may be, but certainty there was time for us to do more to meet the concerns of the American people.

So with the finite commodity that time is, we intend to first use our time to go forward to the extent that research is useful in reaching the goals of a fair economy, a safer America, energy independence, and you know the list, then that will be useful. But make no mistake, our priority first and foremost is a very positive agenda.

Q Madam Leader, a number of business groups prior to Labor Day announced that they would be involved - and I can't say that they will campaign against Democratic candidates - but they are going to be involved in the campaigns, etc.

Ms. Pelosi. They spent what, $10 million? The Chamber of Commerce read "PhRMA, paid for by."

Q Would a Democratic takeover of the House and Senate be bad news for business?

Ms. Pelosi. Well, I certainly hope not. Democrats are putting further our Innovation Agenda, our commitment to competitiveness to keep America number one. Again, we put it in writing. There is nothing partisan about it.

It is about investment in education; innovation begins in the classroom. We have a strong commitment to research and development. But in order to succeed we have to have a hospitable business community, especially for small business, and it has provisions in it. We will be putting out a book called A New Direction for America . Stay tuned. You will get it any day. You saw it before because we released it almost one year ago.

Democrats have a full appreciation of the relationship between the public sector and the private sector. They must work together. The public sector provides the education, the infrastructure, the law enforcement, you name it, that is needed to conduct business in our country. And business, when successful, hopefully fills the coffers, which will enable us to do that for the American people and create the business climate.

So this isn't about us and them. It is about how we go forward and how we make the economy fairer. That is why we want to be hospitable to business, and Democrats are. We also want to increase the minimum wage. I don't think that is anti business. And we want to remove incentives that send jobs overseas. The marketplace is the markets' place. The global economy is that. But the taxpayer should not be subsidizing his job being sent overseas.

Q On immigration, the House Republican leaders are meeting with their chairmen to talk about where things are and the hearings they held over the recess. Whether or not they move ahead with a comprehensive bill, the Majority Leader said they are going to go ahead with border security enforcement measures. Are Democrats going to work with Republicans on the measure, narrow border security?

Ms. Pelosi. Let me say how proud I am of my House Democrats. In July, the Republicans announced how many, 35? How many hearings did they announce around the country and in Washington , D.C. ? It was hard to see what their rationale was because they weren't even in agreement themselves. But they went out there. And I told you in this room that we would meet them every place they went on [immigration]. To challenge them as to where they had been on all of the legislation we had put forth to secure the border. Over and over again and I can show you the chart and the votes over and over again along party lines they voted against border security. And the list goes on in that regard.

So August was a lost month for them. And, again, I am very proud of my Democrats for challenging them every step of the way all over the country. The President knows what is right: comprehensive bipartisan bill similar to what the Senate has put forth that addresses the concerns of security first and foremost, and then fairness to American workers so that they are not exploited, nor are the workers coming in exploited by a path to legalization. That's where we would like to work together. It isn't the bill I would have written. It is a compromise bill. It is a good bill. It is a strong bill because again it is about security, it is about enforcement, it is about managing this huge population in our country.

Q But if there is only time left to do these narrower bills, are Democrats

Ms. Pelosi. There is plenty of time to do that bill. Everybody knows the bill. It is not about time. It may be about something else, but it is not about time. We could have done something this week instead of just doing the horse slaughter bill, as concerned as I am about animal rights.

Q The CBO put a price tag on that bill of $127 billion.

Ms. Pelosi. The CBO I'm sorry?

Q They released a report on the Senate bill that estimated the cost in the next decade to be $127 billion. Are you comfortable with that price tag?

Ms. Pelosi. What is the cost? In other words, what are we talking about in terms of cost? What we would like to do, these people are in our country. One of the alternative proposals of our colleagues on the Republican side is to put 11 million people in jail. Who wants to pay for that? What does that get you?

So I don't know specifically how they have allocated the costs and what priority different provisions of the bill have that may or may not be judged as a good investment. But let me say that the alternative is far more costly.

Q If Democrats do take the House and win the election, assuming that the House doesn't get the comprehensive reform before the election, in a lame duck session, do you see the Democrats holding up or allowing to go forward a comprehensive immigration reform bill?

Ms. Pelosi. Let's be very clear. There is not going to be any comprehensive, bipartisan immigration bill unless the President of the United States weighs in, unless he inserts his leadership to do what he knows, which he has advocated for but what he has not been able to persuade his party to do. It is not a question of the Democrats. We will not have the majority in the lame duck. The President will.

But the fact is that the bill that is there is bipartisan. John McCain, Ted Kennedy, Luis Gutierrez. It is bipartisan, it is comprehensive, it does the job. But the Republicans have now said they are going to take it off the table, except they are going to do something on border security, which is long overdue. I don't know what it is because we haven't seen it.

I think we have time for one more question. We have a vote, however much longer I would love to stay.

Q There is indication that they're going to be bringing an earmark bill to the floor essentially requiring a listing of the earmarks that are in bills along with who is behind them. Can you give me your thoughts on what that will entail, whether Democrats will be behind that effort and whether that will play well with the kind of voters

Ms. Pelosi. Let's be very clear. We are in a game of smoke and mirrors when it comes to Republicans. The earmark bill they are proposing will do nothing to cut any of those earmarks out or to save $1 for the American taxpayer. And that is what the transparency should strive to accomplish in my view.

Democrats have been clear. We put it forth in our Honest Leadership, Open Government agenda that we must have transparency. You can't just have earmarks viewed on the appropriations bill unless you take up earmarks in tax bills and earmarks in authorization bills. We have to throw up the shades, open the curtains, and let the sunshine in on this. The earmarks are very harmless. They are good, some of them.

I myself come from the school of thought of 12 years on the Appropriations Committee, however long I was there, maybe longer. I wouldn't have any of them. I grew up in the Appropriations Committee when we didn't have earmarks. So I would get rid of them. But my view may not prevail in the Congress.

But if you are going to have earmarks and you are going to have transparency, you have to do it in the appropriations bill and in the tax bill and in the authorization bill. I would put it in writing.

Thank you all very much. I will see you next week.




The Hunger Site

Cooking Classes
in Buenos Aires

Buenos Aires B&B

Calitri in southern Italy

L' Aquila in Abruzzo

Health Insurance Quotes


Bruce Brugmann's


Civic Center

Dan Noyes

Greg Dewar

Griper Blade


Malik Looper






MetroWize Urban Guide

Michael Moore

N Judah Chronicles


Robert Solis

SF Bay Guardian





SFWillie's Blog



Sweet Melissa