By Felice J. Freyer
PROVIDENCE -- Nancy Pelosi, speaker of the U.S. House, appeared before a cheering crowd of nearly 100 people in a steamy union hall yesterday to denounce the record of failure of the Bush administration and promise a better America under Barack Obama.
We absolutely must win, she said, urging everyone to work for the election of the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee.
Pelosi said she was counting every minute of every hour of every day until President Bush leaves office. Mentioning the declining economy, the federal deficit, the price of gasoline, the health-care system, and the loss of life in Iraq, she said: Things can be different and they will [be].
But she added later, There s a long road back from the damage the Bush administration has done to our country.
Speaking at the United Food and Commercial Workers hall on Silver Spring Street, Pelosi was flanked at the podium by Frank Montanaro, Rhode Island AFL-CIO president, U.S. Rep. Patrick J. Kennedy and Steve Jennings, associate director of the AARP in Rhode Island.
She celebrated congressional action this week to override President Bush s veto of a bill changing aspects of the Medicare health program for the elderly, including eliminating a 10.6 percent cut in physician pay.
As Patrick Kennedy nodded, she described, in dramatic terms, the arrival of his father, Sen. Ted Kennedy, to cast the 60th vote in favor of the Medicare bill. Nine additional Republicans then joined the Democrats in supporting it. Senator Kennedy is undergoing treatment for brain cancer.
We had the support of every organization except the health insurance companies, Pelosi said of the Medicare bill. People cheered across America. And the president vetoed the bill. What kind of value system do you have that you are against everybody and you re in favor of health insurance companies? He is so wrong.
Pelosi touted a Democratic plan to stimulate the economy by rebuilding roads, bridges, schools and other aspects of the country s infrastructure. Let s just spend as much on infrastructure in America as we are spending on infrastructure in Iraq, she said to applause.
If we could get the infrastructure bill, dirt would fly immediately, she said. It would provide the jobs immediately.
The speaker, a leading opponent of offshore drilling, also criticized President Bush for not releasing any of the nation s strategic petroleum reserve to help lower gasoline prices. The president says that s for emergencies. This is an emergency, Mr. President, she said.
None of what we can do will be possible unless we end the war in Iraq, Pelosi continued. That war has cost us our military readiness. There is not one combat-ready unit in our country. It s the biggest historic blunder -- national security blunder -- that you can name.
Pelosi, a California Democrat who said her grandparents met in Pawtucket -- My mother talked her whole life about her cousins in Rhode Island -- heaped praised on Patrick Kennedy and on the event s sponsor, the AFL-CIO and its Working Rhode Island coalition. We owe a deep debt of gratitude to the AFL-CIO, she said. People who may never join a union benefit from what you do.
After leaving the union hall, Pelosi headed to Jamestown, where she was to be the featured attraction at a fundraiser for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, the political arm of U.S. House Democrats. The event was closed to the media. Money raised is used to support campaigns of Democratic House candidates in close election contests.