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Orlando Sentinel: In Florida, Pelosi lashes Bush on Iraq

By Anthony Man

Hollywood, Fla. - The nation's top Democrat rallied her party's
Florida troops Saturday night with a sharp critique of the way President Bush has managed the war in Iraq.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said the nation is weary of the war and the way it has been prosecuted by the Bush administration, both reasons voters put Democrats in control of Congress last year.
'Nowhere in their call for a new direction were Americans more clear than on the war in Iraq,' she told about 1,500 Florida Democrats gathered at the Westin Diplomat Resort for an annual state party conference.

'Whatever they thought about going into Iraq, the American people have lost faith in the president's conduct of the war. It is not making Americans safer, the Middle East more stable, or our military stronger. In fact, it is straining our military readiness,' Pelosi said.

Among her concerns, Pelosi said, is the effect on the National Guard, which may be less able to offer aid in the aftermath of hurricanes and national disasters because its resources have been devoted to the war.

Though critical of the Bush administration, Pelosi praised the troops on the ground and said Democrats are committed to them and to a strong military.

Almost half of Pelosi's remarks were devoted to the war, but she also touched on Democratic rallying cries such as support for Social Security, health care and a higher minimum wage.

Speaking earlier to reporters, Pelosi would not take a position on a key Florida priority, creation of a national fund to help ease high windstorm-insurance premiums. She said it's an important issue with many possible solutions.

She also steered clear of the big internal Democratic Party fight over the presidential primary. The state advanced its primary to Jan. 29, ahead of most other states, as part of a plan by both parties to increase the clout of Florida voters.

National Democrats are threatening to penalize Florida over the move, something state Democrats are scrambling to fend off. Still, echoing the arguments made by the people who pushed the earlier primary, Pelosi said Florida 'is a great state to go early. It represents the diversity of our country in every way.'

Pelosi became the first female speaker in January because Democrats won control of the House in the 2006 elections. She acknowledged the role played by South Florida voters when they replaced two Republicans with freshmen U.S. Reps. Ron Klein, D-Boca Raton, and Tim Mahoney, D-Venus.

Pelosi said Florida is fertile ground for Democrats and predicted more gains next year.

Saturday's events will help. The state Democratic Party took in $500,000 from the $150-per-person dinner and $1,000-a-person VIP reception. Pelosi also had a $10,000-per-person fundraiser for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, but a spokeswoman said she didn't know how much was raised.