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ABC News: 'This Week' Transcript: Speaker Pelosi

HOST CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR: Madam Speaker, thank you so much for joining me.

SPEAKER NANCY PELOSI: My pleasure.

AMANPOUR: Can I ask you about some of the important news that's been made this week, particularly in -- in the House and that would be on Afghanistan. Last year, 32 Democrats voted against the funding of the war in Afghanistan. This year, 102 Democrats voted against. That seems to be a dramatic rejection from the president's own party of his major strategic goal.

PELOSI: Well, not quite. You have to put the votes in perspective.

Our president came in. He was president maybe two months, three months, by the time we took the vote last year. And the Republicans said they weren't going to vote for the funding. And so it took all Democratic votes.

I persuaded my members to give this president a chance, to give him room in order to have time to implement his plan. And in -- and in the course of time -- now the Republicans said they would vote for it, it gave my members the freedom to express themselves on the war in Afghanistan.

AMANPOUR: Now, you didn't vote.

PELOSI: No.

AMANPOUR: I know the Speaker doesn't have to vote.

PELOSI: Right.

AMANPOUR: But how would you have voted?

PELOSI: Well, we brought the bill to the floor. And that was a statement that said that we knew that our troops needed to have what was -- what they needed to have would be provided for them. So we will never abandon our men and women in uniform. On the other hand, it gave our members a chance to express their view.

AMANPOUR: How long do you think you can keep your skeptical members, as you call them, on side?

PELOSI: Well, again, we have a -- varying degrees of expression here. We are there, we've taken an oath to defend the constitution and therefore the American people. And that's what people will be looking at -- how does this figure into our protecting the American people?
Is it worth it?

AMANPOUR: Well, is it worth it?

PELOSI: Yes.

AMANPOUR: Is it worth it?

PELOSI: That's the question.

AMANPOUR: But that's my question to you.

PELOSI: Well, we will -- as I said, we will see the metrics as they unfold in the next few months and certainly by the end of this year.

AMANPOUR: But what does your gut tell you?

PELOSI: In my visits to Afghanistan, the last time I was there was over Mother's Day weekend to visit the troops, and the four metrics that we have always used year in and year out on these visits have been about security. And the military tells us this cannot be won militarily solely.
Secondly, governance and ending corruption.....

AMANPOUR: I'm just trying to figure out, for instance, you know, what you think is the right thing to do in Afghanistan at the moment. Look, 'Time' magazine, this week, has this as its cover -- a girl whose had her nose and ears cut off by the Taliban.

You know, to put it right down to its basics, is America going to abandon the women of Afghanistan, the people of Afghanistan again?

PELOSI: Well, first of all, we're in Afghanistan because it's in our strategic national interests to be so for our own national security, to stop terrorism, to increase global security. The women of Afghanistan have been a priority for many of the women in Congress -- and men, too, but the women have taken a special interest.

When I was there in -- around Mother's Day, I went to a province in Southern Afghanistan and visited with women.

And we talked about the education of their children, the health of women and the rest. And they -- especially their daughters -- they said we want that, but that can't happen without security. And these women in this remote province told us and that can't happen without the end of corruption.

So what we would like to see is for President Karzai be a more reliable, a stronger partner, ending the corruption, increasing -- improving the governance

AMANPOUR: Vice President Biden, talking about the dead line for the transition, which is summer of 2011, he said on this program a week or two ago that there's going to be a drawdown of forces

BIDEN: “It could be as few as a couple thousand troops it could be more. But there will be a transition.”

Does that square with -- with what you think, that it could just be a couple of thousand troops?

PELOSI: Well, I hope it is more than that. I know it's not going to be turn out the lights and let's all go home on one day. But I do think the American people expect it to be somewhere between that and a -- a few thousand troops.

AMANPOUR: Let's go to something much closer to home right now at the moment and that is the ethics conundrum with Representative Rangel.
How does your affection and your respect for him as a colleague square with what's going on right now and what you said and declared, that this is going to be the -- the -- the most ethical Congress ---- that you're going to drain the swamp of any kind of wrongdoing and corruption, etc.?

PELOSI: When I came in, I said we're draining the swamp. And we did. We have passed the most sweeping ethics reform in the history of the Congress. Any personal respect and affection we may have for people makes us sad about the course of events, but we have to pull the high ethical standard and none of our personalities is more important than that.

AMANPOUR: Can you see Congressman Rangel ever returning as chairman of the Ways and Means or in any position of leadership in -- in the House?

PELOSI: Well, the -- the Ethics Committee is working its will and…

AMANPOUR: No matter what happens?

PELOSI:  It's an elementary discussion, because what we have done is to wait and see what the Committee decides. I respect what they do. I'm totally out of the loop. It is independent. It is confidential, classified, secret, whatever. We don't know what it is. But we do respect the work that the members of the Committee do.

AMANPOUR: Let me ask you about the mid-term elections. You are, by all accounts, one of the most -- if not the most -- powerful and successful speakers of -- in the history of the United States. You've passed so much legislation. The president was elected with a significant majority.

You had control of both houses of Congress. And yet now, people are talking about you might lose your majority in the House. The gap seems to be growing wider between what's achieved and what's making an impact with the people. How did this happen?

PELOSI: Well, that's one version of the story. And --
(CROSSTALK)
from outsiders perspective....

AMANPOUR: -- because many people are asking that --

PELOSI: Yes.

AMANPOUR: ... how did you get to this place where, perhaps, you might lose your majority?

PELOSI: We don't see it that way. We are very proud of the agenda that we have put forth to the American people. our recovery package, as the economists have said, we've had twice as many people unemployed as there are now if we had not moved forward. These actions are all controversial because we were digging our way out of a deep ditch.

So we've been legislating for the past 18 months. The other side has been in campaign mode for 18 months, saying no, stopping job creation and the rest. But our members are the best salespersons for their own districts. They've been elected there. They know their constituents.

AMANPOUR: Are you nervous about November?

PELOSI: No, I'm not nervous at all --

AMANPOUR: Not at all?

PELOSI: No. I'm -- I'm --

AMANPOUR: Because people say I know you're putting on a great face --has you have to

PELOSI: -- that's not.

AMANPOUR: -- going into an election. But people say there's been considerable worry about what will happen in November.

PELOSI: Well, let me say this. I never take anything for granted. And our agenda now is we're not going forward -- we're not going back to the failed policies of the Bush administration. We're going forward.

AMANPOUR: So what does it make you feel, then, when the President's own spokesman said that you might lose the majority?

PELOSI: Well, I -- you know, I --

AMANPOUR: well how do you feel about it

PELOSI: -- with all due respect -- I don't spend a whole lot of time thinking about what the President's employees say about one thing or another.

AMANPOUR: But it directly impacts --

PELOSI: Well, the -- they must realize that.

But you know what, I'm speaker of the House. I have a great chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, Chris Van Hollen. We have a solid plan of messaging and mobilize -- mobilizing at the grassroots level and management of our campaigns. And we have a two to one advantage money-wise.

So we feel very confident about where we are, whether that's well known to that gentleman or not.

AMANPOUR: Let me ask you about the tax cuts.

Are you going to take that issue to -- to a fight before the elections, letting the tax cuts for the -- for the two -- 250,000 expire and then keep them on for the middle class?

PELOSI: Well, the -- the tax cuts for the wealthiest -- of the $250,000 and above -- were the -- the Bush initiative. I don't see any reason why we should renew a tax cut that only gives a tax cut to the wealthiest people in America, increases the deficit and doesn't create jobs. That doesn't make any sense.

AMANPOUR: But I know that's your position, but…

PELOSI: Yes.

AMANPOUR: -- to the middle class --

PELOSI: But to keep the middle class tax cuts--

AMANPOUR: Would you take this to a vote before the election

PELOSI: It would be my hope. But let me just say, on the Recovery Act, nearly $300 billion of the Recovery Act were tax cuts for the middle class. most people don't realize that
The Republicans want to have the tax cut and they want it unpaid for -- $700 billion added to the deficit for an initiative that does not create jobs.

AMANPOUR: Can I show you something?

PELOSI: Sure.

AMANPOUR: there's so much polarization, so much partisanship, so much -- not just amongst the politicians, but in the press, amongst the people. You talked a little bit about what, you know, us and them, in your view. I want to show you this, which is a Republican commercial.

TV AD//RIGHTCHANGE.COM.

AMANPOUR: Oh, you haven't seen it?

PELOSI: I have not seen that, but I have seen that in campaigns there is…

AMANPOUR: So what do you think --

AMANPOUR: -- you being the -- the bogeyman?

PELOSI: Well,-- what I know about that is that they tried this. This is their campaign in Pennsylvania 12, the 12th Congressional District of Pennsylvania. Their whole campaign was an attack on the President and on -- on Pelosi.

AMANPOUR: But it was you

PELOSI: ...... and I said to the President, I think that I may have gotten more focus here than you for this one time. And they fully expected to win the race and we won by 8.5 points. Because this is funny, it attracts attention, but they have nothing to say about what they want to go for.  What they want to do is privatize Social Security. And they have said, their agenda, if they win, is to go to the “exact agenda” of the previous Administration, and people will look with fondness on the Bush Administration....we welcome that campaign.

AMANPOUR: For me, looking in from outside, it just seems -- that's seems to be a never-ending partisanship. What is it you can do for the people in this highly polarized situation?

PELOSI: Well, first of all, what you define as, you describe as a highly polarized situation is a very big difference of opinion. The Republicans are here for the special interests, we're here for the people's interests. The President said we will measure our progress, our success, by the progress that is made by America's working families. That is our priority. That is not their priority.

This isn't about inter-party bickering. This is about a major philosophical difference as to whose side you're on. You don't like to think that. We come here to find our common ground. That's our responsibility. But if we can't find it, we still have to move. I've never voted for a perfect bill in my life. I don't think anyone has. I wish it were not so stark. I wish the elections weren't so necessary for us to win. I really do, because it should be -- there should be more common ground.

Are we unhappy that our not -- the -- the job creation has not gone as fast as we would like? Well, we were digging out of a very deep hole. But we will continue to fight.

AMANPOUR: Speaker Pelosi, thank you very much, indeed, for joining us.

PELOSI: Well, I look forward to welcoming you back soon again. And congratulations to you and much success.

AMANPOUR: Thank you.