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Birmingham News (Alabama): Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi in Alabama for Democrat event, Lakeshore visit

By CHARLES J. DEAN

U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in a speech before Alabama Democrats on Friday night accused President Bush of leading the nation into war, into debt and politicizing the nation's Justice Department.

The charge that federal lawyers under Bush have played politics with the law sent a charge through the crowd of about 500 in a Birmingham ballroom that featured former Gov. Don Siegelman. He was convicted in 2006 and sentenced to almost seven years in prison in 2007 on federal corruption charges, charges that Siegelman and his supporters have maintained were politically motivated.

Siegelman was released from prison in March pending appeal of his case. He and Pelosi briefly talked and posed for photos before her speech Friday.

 While Pelosi never mentioned the specific charges against Siegelman, she brought most of the crowd to its feet when she said of Bush:

'He has brought a war without end, a budget awashed in red ink, a looming recession, assault after assault after assault on our Constitution, politicizing the Justice Department, and I'm so glad that Congress is looking into that - and I'm so proud we are joined by Gov. Siegelman.'

Pelosi then paused and called out for Siegelman who stood while the crowd cheered and some supporters walked over to embrace him as someone in the room yelled out 'God bless Don Siegelman.'

Pelosi praised the nation's military which she said has done all that has been asked of it.

But Pelosi had no kind words for the war in Iraq. She charged that the war has left the nation's military exhausted and in turn that has left the nation's security uncertain. She said the only way to help restore the nation's military forces is to withdraw from Iraq, something she promised that a Democratic president will do.

But, to assure that a Democrat sits in the White House after Jan. 20, Pelosi called on Democrats to unify after the primary battles between Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama.

'We have two great candidates and I'm convinced one of them will be the next president,' Pelosi said. 'But, for that to happen, we must value unity, we must come together.'

Before her appearance at the party's annual Jefferson-Jackson dinner at the Cahaba Grand Convention Center off U.S. 280, Pelosi visited with wounded veterans at the Lakeshore Foundation in Homewood, which has started new rehabilitation programs aimed specifically at returning war veterans.

Pelosi spent a little more than an hour at the Lakeshore complex accompanied by U.S. Rep. Artur Davis. Following her meeting with the vets, Pelosi briefly talked with Lakeshore supporters and officials. In an abbreviated news conference, Pelosi took one question and sidestepped it. The question was about the recent decision by the Air Force to award a $40 billion contract to build air force tankers to a firm including American and French companies that will do the work in Mobile.

Pelosi has been critical of that contract and called for an investigation, saying she is concerned about national security implications of awarding such a critical military contract to a foreign firm.

In her comments at Lakeshore on Friday, Pelosi would say only that she is in Alabama gathering information on the deal.