Pelosi: We have not kept our 9/11 pledge to make
Press Conference transcript from the Office of Congresswoman
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
Q But if there is only time left to do these narrower bills, are
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
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
Thank you all very much. I will see you next week.