Washington, D.C. – Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi participated in a moderated conversation with Professor Michael Cox, Chair of the Department of International Relations at the London School of Economics. Below is a transcript of the conversation:
Professor Cox. I’m bringing – first of all the book, just to prove that I’ve read it. And I’m – do you need some water?
Leader Pelosi. I’m good. Thanks.
Professor Cox. You’re good. Ok. Well, welcome…
Leader Pelosi. Do you need some?
Professor Cox. I think I do, yes. Yes. You can see why she became Leader, don’t you?
Professor Cox. Always upstaging academics, there you go – quite right, too, quite right, too.
Well, welcome everybody to what we hope will be an informative and enjoyable evening. And, but most importantly, I wonder if we could put our hands together to welcome Nancy Pelosi to the London School of Economics.
Professor Cox. That’s good. I’ve done this job a lot, Nancy and that’s very good. That’s very good. That’s very good.
Leader Pelosi. Ok. How about we welcome Professor Cox?
Leader Pelosi. That’s good. That’s good professor.
Professor Cox. That’s not bad. That’s not bad. I’ll take that as a “yes.” Well, Nancy, welcome to the LSE, to “the school” as we prefer to call it, with a long tradition of public engagement and public service. It’s a school, I think, very much in your domain, in your thinking about the world of politics. The school, as you know, has a long relationship with the United States. John F. Kennedy was a student here and I know you’re a great admirer of JFK.
Americans are now – I’m now told by a great fellow, who now, Director, are now the second largest group, the second largest group here. The Chinese students are now the first. So, I don’t know if there is an indication of a power shift, but nonetheless.
American students are very large here. LSE is also very tolerant towards Americans, we’ve even given an American the top job to run the place here – you’re very welcome, but behave yourselves.
Now, what I would normally do at this stage is go through a very long introduction to outline the great achievements and anything else of the Speaker. I’m not going to do that, because this evening is a conversation and I thought rather than doing the normal intro, we’d try to bring out some of Nancy Pelosi’s interesting, extraordinarily interesting life of achievement over many years – through this conversation, Nancy, if you don’t mind. And I read your autobiography, and I’ve done the background but not everybody knows, so, I wonder if we could start with a little bit of biography. I’ll take you back to Baltimore. You were born in Baltimore in World War II, of Italian-American roots, background. Your father was a…
They love that. They love that.
Leader Pelosi. He told me I could call him [inaudible].
Professor Cox. Your father was an FDR Democrat, became Mayor of Baltimore. I almost got the impression reading your book, Nancy, that this is a genetically Democratic family, very close to being so at least. I suppose the first couple of questions I want you to kind of, in your own words, obviously, is: in looking back on your life, going back a long way, what would you say were the main influences, going back that far? And more importantly, who influenced you most because in your book I get a very interesting sense that both your father and your mother and the differential kinds of ways that they shape your early life? I wonder if you could say a few words about that, too – to the audience here.
Leader Pelosi. Well, thank you, Professor Cox. Thank you, LSE for the invitation to be here. Thank you to Director Calhoun for your leadership, and we are very proud that you are where you are. And I’m very excited to be here.
One of the influences for me as a student, and the rest, was President John F. Kennedy. And when I read in his background that he had studied here, it always peaked my interest. Now, that’s going back a long way. Many of my colleagues have come here. My – Drew Hammill who’s with me on my staff, Director of Communications, has a Master’s from here. So, I feel very, very comfortable coming to hear what you have to say – but Professor Cox wants me to go first to say how I, what influences got me to be involved in politics, to become the first woman Speaker of the House.
The – for my family growing up, when I was born, my father was a Member of Congress from Baltimore. When I was in first grade, he became the Mayor of Baltimore, and when I went away to college he was still the Mayor of Baltimore. And so…
we were in our family, christened in, really, a deeply religious Catholic, Roman-Catholics, proud of our Italian-American heritage, fiercely patriotic Americans, and staunchly Democratic. So, that was the background. The – but in those days the Democratic, Republican, it wasn’t about politics of personal destruction, it was debate about ideas. And these ideas largely centered around the economy. This pre-dates any discussion, in the public domain, of environment, women’s rights, LGBT, any of those issues which would later emerge as defining issues between the parties, but in those days it was about the economy.
The message that I had from my family, that public service was a noble calling, that we all had a responsibility to people in our community; I saw that in my parents, my father as an elected official, my mother as a, really, if she lived in another time, God, I don’t know what heights she would have reached, but with a very strong commitment to the community.
So, it was that, again, that value of public service of not necessarily running for office, or being an elected person, or any of that, but at least playing a role to weigh in, recognizing that important decisions are made all the time in the public arena that affect the future of families and children and we all had a responsibility to play our role – whatever that would be. I never intended to go into politics, but you’ll probably ask me about that now.
Professor Cox. I will. Well, once it came out in your book, and we talked briefly before we came down, on the question of Catholic faith and the importance of Catholic faith. Can you just elaborate a bit more on that on how – that seems quite central to defining both you as a person and also your political commitment as well and your social commitments.
Leader Pelosi. Well, that, we are all familiar with, well, many of us who are Catholic, or Christian are familiar with the Gospel of Matthew – the least of my brethren – in the words of Christ, about his recognition of what we do for people as being done, really, for him. And so that was always a driving force. It also, taking it from the scripture to another place is that, I believe that in politics a message of hope is a really important message to convey to people and that’s what many of us have built our agendas around: what is hopeful to people to – I’ll talk more about it in a moment, but from a standpoint of faith, when people are almost in despair because of their economic situation, or challenges that they face and that – so, where is hope? I always say the same thing: hope is where it’s always been, sitting right there between faith and charity. People have faith, it gives them hope that someone will have the charity, the kindness, the love to have policies that affect all people, respecting the dignity and worth of every person from a religious standpoint, recognizing the spark of divinity that exists in every single person and how worthy they are of respect. And also, in our religion that we are, have responsibility – have a free will, but we have responsibilities to take responsibility.
So, well, it gives me hope every day. And what is our hope that working together we can give other people hope who need to be lifted up.
Professor Cox. You went to college, you went to Trinity College, the main women’s Catholic college, I think, in the United States where you…
Leader Pelosi. We thought so.
Professor Cox. You thought so?
Leader Pelosi. Two of my college roommates – Rita Meyer…
Professor Cox. We know the LSE is better than Oxford and Cambridge. So, we get that part. And there you met your husband – I read again, about his proposal, “come and have a beer.” And then you said: “get lost” and he said: “come do my shirts.” I think he also said get lost, but let’s not go into detail about it.
You lived in California, you did, and then you had a family. I thought, again, what comes out in the book was really interesting is, you used the term at one stage, “when a woman is asked, what are you?” She says: “just a housewife.” And you say: “Just?!” And I think you – this kind of relationship between the personal, the family, and the political – I can, took very strongly from your book, that building a strong family, having the family, was not only a great – anybody can run for Congress after having five children, that’s nothing.
But also, the kind of ways in which, one should not see a separation between family and public sphere.
Leader Pelosi. Well, you would probably never hear it today. But, years ago, when I was a young mom and the rest, and if you met somebody, you’d hear somebody say: “what do you do?” I don’t even know if people say that anymore – but, and somebody would say: “I’m just a housewife.” I think: “Why do you say that? That’s probably one of the most difficult, challenging job to be a mom, and be at home, and raise a family, instill values, instill confidence in children. You’re building the future of a country in addition to, more importantly, personally loving your family.”
And I say to women – because this is really important to me to have many more women involved in politics and in every aspect of our lives, but my responsibility is more into the political and government arenas. I say to women, “when you take inventory of who you are, to present yourself, put yourself on the line; do not let the other side, as they will do, and as the other side” – just those who are uncomfortable with that idea of many more women, this is growing less and less, but nonetheless – “trivialize what you do.” Well, she was at home through all these years or for the past few years, no – that is a major accomplishment. I’ll put it up against any other challenge in terms of diplomacy, interpersonal skills, discipline, management of time, caregiver, health care provider, and so many different ways. So, just the idea that you would be that organized, that dedicated – it is a long-term commitment to America’s future. That’s a big badge of honor and you build upon that.
Now, for me, one of my motivations to lead that idea of I should help others fulfill their public service and take responsibility myself was that I really – when the opportunity presented itself, I didn’t seek it, but when it presented itself, I really had to think about what motivated me and to say “yes.” And that is I – Paul and I had five children, we saw all the opportunity, all the love, all the confidence building, all the rest that they had, all the esteem that is so important for kids – and we wanted that for every child. And to see the disparity in our own country, much less in the whole world, of kids having some opportunity or not, just by accident of birth – who decided this? Who decided this? When I see a little child in Darfur with no sparkle in their eyes, in his or her eyes, or whatever. So, that is why, so I saw my role in politics as an extension of my role as a mom, as far as making the world a better place for all children, including my own, so that they would live in a society that was more fair and had more opportunity for all children.
There are many other issues that go into it. But, when people ask me, I say: “the one in five; the one in five children in America who lives in poverty; the one in four now that will go to sleep hungry at night in America.” That is an immorality in my view. And so, that’s, that’s what keeps me up at night but that’s what drives my engine in the morning, to end that disparity.
And one – when I talk about involving women and the confidence they should take from their own experience because whatever contribution they make, it is a unique one – it is a very special contribution in every woman and every man should feel very confident that nobody can do it quite the way you do.
So, so one of our successes is making a decision to do this, one of our successes is now, as I will lead the House Democratic Caucus, which is over 50 percent women, minorities, and LGBT. That is a remarkable thing in the history of the world. That a party in a parliamentary, well, our congressional government is a majority of women and minorities – it’s so dazzlingly beautiful. The beauty is in the mix. It doesn’t mean we’re smarter or better, it just means that decisions are based on much more legitimacy because it has much more diversity at the table.
Professor Cox. Now, you went into formal politics in the 1980’s. I mean that – the transition, one of the chapters in your books says: “From Kitchen to Congress,” I believe, if I got that right. Now, in the 1980’s there was a certain woman in this country…
Who was buried this week. Did Mrs. Thatcher have any influence on you at all? If I might tease that little bite out?
Leader Pelosi. Probably.
Leader Pelosi. But as I said, let me just say first that of course I extend my condolences to the Thatcher family.
Professor Cox. Yes. Of course.
Leader Pelosi. Baroness Thatcher was a great lady. Imagine her personal story: grocer’s daughter becoming the Prime Minister of England and for a long time an articulate spokesperson for her point of view, an effective leader for her point of view. And…
Professor Cox. This is very good. You’re very compelling.
Leader Pelosi. And in terms of, and really, whether it was her intentional message or not, really lifting women up because she proved that she could do the job very well. So, she’s a force in history and I admire and respect that.
When you ask me if she had any influence on my involvement – well, I’ll give you the same answer I gave when they asked me if Ronald Reagan did.
He affected many, bringing many people into politics, including me.
Some on one side, some on the other.
Professor Cox. Sure, sure. Ok. Well, I think we’ve gotten our answer on that one.
Leader Pelosi. But many people in America – everybody respects Baroness Thatcher.
Professor Cox. But there is no – I mean, you know, one thing that one notices in the states, at least in certain parts of the political spectrum that there is this huge admiration for Thatcher.
Leader Pelosi. That’s true.
Professor Cox. This is for sure…
Leader Pelosi. That’s for sure.
Professor Cox. This is for sure – certainly in the Republican Party, not necessarily in the California Democratic Party. I think I understand the difference.
Leader Pelosi. No comment.
Professor Cox. No comment, ok. That’s fine.
Leader Pelosi. No, no, no really – all praises to her.
Professor Cox. Sure. A remarkable, historical.
Leader Pelosi. I refer to her as a great woman. I refer to her as a great woman. One difference, though, I want to say, because I was reading a lot about her on the way over this morning, and one statement that she made that I think is really a telling one. She said: “I am not a politician of consensus; I’m a politician of conviction.” I really think you can be both. I think you can be both. And I – it was interesting that, that distinction was made because in our diversity of what we do, if you’re not building consensus around your conviction, it’s really hard to get something done. But we’re not a parliamentary system and yours is and perhaps that’s why we have a difference of opinion.
Professor Cox. Well, we certainly have Meryl Streep as well.
And sometimes think I preferred Meryl Steep to Mrs. Thatcher.
You moved into politics, I say, firstly through – you came up from the bottom, from the bottom up. You didn’t get flown in at the top.
Leader Pelosi. The Democratic Party.
Professor Cox. You did all the stuff. You handed out the leaflets, you did all the things, pushing the buggy around, did it all. And then you began to move up in the Democratic Party, and then you got elected in San Francisco. And then I noticed when you made your first statement in Congress, I think ’98 – ’88.
Leader Pelosi. Eighty-seven.
Professor Cox. Eighty-seven, right. And you’re always meant to say nothing aren’t you? Basically say: “I’m here; thank you very much” and sit down. But you said something about AIDS.
Leader Pelosi. Well, when…
Professor Cox. Why did you do that and how did it go down?
Leader Pelosi. Well, let me transition from the kitchen to the Congress.
Professor Cox. Sure. Ok.
Leader Pelosi. So, this opportunity presents itself to run for Congress – I never intended, right Paul? I never intended.
Professor Cox. Did you see – right, Paul?
Leader Pelosi. I never intended to run for public office. It was just – I was shy and all that. So…
Professor Cox. I can’t believe that.
Leader Pelosi. So, in any case, the opportunity presents itself. So, we have five children. Four of them in college, because they are very close in age, and one at home, one of them was going to be a senior in high school. So, I go to Alexandra – of course you know Alexandra Pelosi, she’s a film-maker – she, I said: “Alexandra, mommy has this opportunity to run for Congress, I don’t know if I’ll win or not, but it would be better for one more year from now because you would be in college, but nonetheless this is when the opportunity is here. Any answer is fine with me.” Said with the depth in my soul, with all the sincerity and truthfulness, I really didn’t care what the answer was. If she said – and I said: “I love my life and if you want me to stay this transition year for you, that makes me very happy. However, I’ll be gone three days a week if I were to win,” and this and that. And she’s listening to all of this and she looks up and says: “Mother” – well I should’ve known right there when she was saying “Mother – Mother get a life.”
What teenage girl would not want her mother gone three days a week?
And so, I had a life, but I got another life. So anyway we go to Congress and in 1987 San Francisco, which I am proud to represent, is taking the biggest bite of the wormiest apple called HIV/AIDS you can imagine, we were going to two funerals a day. We were holding loved ones in our arms, who were robust and now skeletal. It was, well – so, when we went to get sworn in, I was advised: “when the Speaker swears you in” – this a special election, so I was the only one getting sworn in that day cause the Congresswoman had passed away – “so, when the Speaker swears you in, don’t utter a word, just say yes.” Do you solemnly swear, bah, bah, bah, bah? Just say “yes.” So, I said: “okay, I won’t say a word; I won’t say a word; I won’t say a word. I want to do this right, it was my first.” And then my father, who had been a Member of Congress, who had floor privileges, my family – Baltimore, San Francisco, all the rest – “I’m not going to say a word.” So, the Speaker swears me in and then he says: “Will the distinguished gentle lady” – that’s how you talk – “from California wish to address the House?”
Nobody ever turns down a microphone, right – shy as you may be?
So, I went to the microphone, thanked my family, constituents, etcetera and then I said: “I’m here; I told my constituents that when I came here, I would tell you that I came here to fight against AIDS and HIV.” Bah, bah, bah, bah, bah. Not one minute, almost longer to tell you than to do it.
Well, I look over at all these people who had told me: “don’t say a word” thinking: “wasn’t that brief?” And they were like: “oh my God.”
“Oh no, why would you ever want to be known – the first words out of your mouth in the Congress of the United States about HIV/AIDS? – why did you say that is what you came here to do?” I said: “Because that is what I came here to do.”
And that really was very interesting to me because it speaks to not only to the challenge we have scientifically, medically, and everything, personally but in a discriminative, about discrimination against people with HIV/AIDS. So, that was my first words on the floor of the House. The more they complained about me saying it, the more sure I was that I had said the right thing – now that’s very self-serving to say. But, I never knew – and I just was at an AIDS event yesterday morning in the Capitol – I never knew then, almost 26 years ago, that 26 years out we still would not have a cure. We have prevention, we have maintenance of life, we have many good things. But, it’s been a long time. And hopefully any scientific breakthroughs will make AIDS something that you put in a museum and say: “this is something that came through, but we’re over it now.”
Professor Cox. You mention in your book too, the creation of the quilt, the famous quilt. I noticed, this is my own personal story – my wife, I was then teaching at the College of William and Mary – we went up to the ‘maul’ – or mall, sorry for the pronunciation – we felt, an extraordinarily moving statement. If you could explain to the people what the quilt was because it had a quite profound effect on both of us at the same time.
Leader Pelosi. Well, the quilt – when I was first elected, some constituents came to me and they said: “we want to have a press conference at your home to announce an idea that we have, which is to make a quilt of all of the people – everybody will make a quilt in memory of somebody who died of AIDS.” And now, I have five children, I went to Catholic school, a convent school. I could knit, I could crochet, I could hem, I could make a dress, I could tape, I could do anything. And I said: “and I don’t sew.” In other words, if I don’t – if with five kids and all that I know how to do these things, I said: “who’s going to sow? Nobody sews anymore.” And they said: “no, people will sew.” So, I want to outright say that I did not see what the prospect would be. But, we had the press conference. They proved to be right, everybody was sowing, including me, I made a quilt, a patch. And this enormous – it’s like an ever growing organism, it continues to grow, we keep having ceremonies about it. It’s just overtaking any venue that you want to store it in, much less show it in. So, we took it to the Capitol – now, I’m a new Member. We go to the Capitol, they come to me and they say: “we want to show it on the mall. But we’re have a little trouble with the Park Service.” So, I said: “well, we’re not taking no for an answer.” The Park Service said: “why don’t you just take a few patches, find a street corner and show it and people can go there and see it?” I said: “you’re not hearing what we’re saying.”
“We have a quilt that’s going to cover the mall – this is huge – “you know where millions of people were when President Obama took the oath of office for the first time and the second time? Well, this is going to cover, cover all of that. It was so spectacular. You needed a roadmap to find your patch in the quilt. “No, we can’t do it because you’re going to kill the grass with that much weight on the grass.” “People are dying and you’re telling me about killing the grass? – what is your problem?” I said.
“How do we keep the grass alive?” I said: “Well” – now mind you, I’m totally new, but I used every name that I – “I know that I can get this person, I know that I can get that person to agree, that person to.” They said: “Every 20 minutes, you have to lift it up.”
I said: “maybe 20, but done.” We have volunteers galore – who do you think made those patches? Volunteers galore. So every 20 minutes – this thing weighs tons, tons, but it was really an organizing tool, and actually a ritual that people would stand around, and at the given signal – which maybe wasn’t exactly every 20 minutes.
Maybe not even every hour.
But nonetheless, on regular intervals, we picked it up.
Professor Cox. Probably the grass did die too actually.
Leader Pelosi. No, no, no – the grass survived. And what’s it there for anyways? So picked it up.
And the news helicopters – now mind you, we’re talking about, talking in my living room just shortly before about who’s going to make these – it’s international news, Cleve Jones, who was the originator, he became the newsmaker of the week. And you saw how magnificent it was…
Professor Cox. It was.
Leader Pelosi. But it was so consoling and it was also the breaking down of walls. There were quilts, of course, of people who were – gay men who took the first hit on this, but many other people and it was a unifying, bonding, beautiful, therapeutic way – and the grass is still growing on the mall.
Professor Cox. Yeah, it is. It was an extraordinary memory for us as well. In the subtitle of your book, of course, “A message to America’s daughters,” and you describe arriving in Congress, in the House in 87-88, it sounded like an old boys club – with kind of whiskey-drinking, bourbon-drinking, smoking, a lot of men. How many women were in Congress in 1987?
Leader Pelosi. Well, there are 435 Members of the House. And there were not two dozen women. So, it would be like this whole room – maybe just that little group over there – of women. But, it wasn’t very many. I don’t know about the Bourbon, but they did smoke.
And when I became Speaker, I said: “no smoking in the smoke filled rooms; that’s over.” They really loved that. We stopped smoking in the Capitol.
Professor Cox. How can this be a change though, in the House, considerably over the years?
Leader Pelosi. Well, you see we’re majority in our Caucus – majority of women and minorities and LGBT. Yeah, it was a funny thing because I always thought – now, look, going back 25 years – that the easier, it would be so far easier that we would ever have a woman President because the American people are so far ahead of the politicians in accepting women in leadership roles. Whereas in the Congress, it was such a male-dominated institutionalized, pecking order of, you know, going back 200, over 200 years. So, it never was a thought that we would ever have a woman Speaker – almost impossible. But a woman President, that would be much easier. And that’s why it was kind of surprising to some that we did get a woman Speaker before a woman President. But I don’t think it is going to be too long before we have a woman President.
Professor Cox. You would like to name names, or…?
[Laughter and applause]
Leader Pelosi. Well, I was speaking to the Cleveland [City Club] on Monday of this week, and they said: “how long do you think it will be before we have a woman President?” I said: “just as long as it takes Hillary Clinton to make up her mind that she is going to make a run.”
[Laughter and applause]
Professor Cox. Moving on, you became…
Leader Pelosi. I thought we were talking economics here tonight.
Professor Cox. You became [Democratic] Whip, you became [Democratic] Leader, then you became Speaker [of the House]. You experienced a number of Presidents and three two-term Presidents. You’ve experienced Bill Clinton, who’s been here, of course, George W. Bush, a President whom you found personally charming, but politically problematic. I put that in English form.
Professor Cox. And then President Obama. Maybe – I’d just like to ask some very general, almost impossible to answer question. I know.
Leader Pelosi. I can’t wait to hear it.
Professor Cox. I know which one of those you kind of, politically, have had more problems with than the other two, but as leaders – as kinds of leaders – this is a very difficult question – as leaders, as a kind of leaders, what strengths – what strengths do you think they brought to their jobs, different kinds of strengths?
Leader Pelosi. We’re talking about all the Presidents? Well, I started with Reagan.
Professor Cox. Yeah.
Leader Pelosi. And then President.
Professor Cox. Yeah, because you talk about leadership a lot and I think this is an important point.
Leader Pelosi. Well, obviously in our country, who is – the President of the United States is a very, very important position. Whether it’s justified or not, we think that person is the “leader of the free world,” to use an old expression. That is a responsibility that is so, so fraught with how we respect people’s different views, how we try to bring people together and that means domestically, as well as globally. I wasn’t there that long with President Reagan and I wasn’t in a position, so much, that I interacted with him. He was Californian and a lovely gentleman and the First Lady, Nancy Reagan, just a beautiful, lovely person.
I had more interaction with President George Herbert Walker Bush and I respected him a great deal. We had our – I was really, a very junior Member of Congress but we had a disagreements on human rights in China at the time of Tiananmen Square. It was a big fight that we had. But in the course of that, we got to know each other and one of the, really, privileges of my life is that last year when, my actual 25th anniversary [as a Member of Congress], I was honored to give the President’s Day presentation in February – that’s our President’s Day – at the George Bush Library and School of Government at Texas A&M University. And for him to invite me there was really an honor and I sang his praises.
He was very courageous, you know, in his campaign – we’ll just go one President at a time – in his campaign he said: “Read my lips, no new taxes.” And then he, in his book he says: “who would I have been as a leader if I saw, once I became President, that we needed to do something and I said ‘I can’t do it, because I had a slogan during my campaign.’” And so when we went to, when they all went, the leadership went to Andrews Air Force Base to have the budget agreement, of course taxes were raised. The President was like at seventy percent in the polls because he had just come victoriously out of the first Gulf War. The tax thing hurt him on his own side of the aisle and as you know he was not reelected President. But he is a lovely, lovely gentleman and Mrs. Bush, I admire them so much.
So, again, we had our fight over China, he ended up doing by Executive Order, what we wanted to do by law, but nonetheless.
Professor Cox. Yeah. On the human rights issue, yeah.
Leader Pelosi. He was, in my view, well, we had a different approach on China but I had that same disagreement with President Clinton on China. So – and I didn’t hesitate to criticize him, even though he was the President of my own party, on the subject.
President Clinton was masterful, you know. When you think of the Democrats, you think, Jimmy Carter – Presidents of the Modern Era – Jimmy Carter, who ever heard of Jimmy Carter four years before? Right? Just people in Georgia. Bill Clinton, Governor of Arkansas. Barack Obama, at the convention four years before he was the nominee to be Senator, he wasn’t even in the United States Senate. So you never know who among them in the, in the country, where the leadership will spring from. And here came Bill Clinton, just absolutely masterful and really a type of personality who liked to have an exchange of ideas on government. Courageous and made some mistakes.
But nonetheless, so popular in our country. And then President Bush – we got a lot done. When I was, under President George W. Bush I had the opportunity to serve as Minority Leader and then as Speaker, we won the election in between there. And so I served with him in two capacities. He was always a gentleman and very respectful in that we worked together, we did the biggest energy bill in the history of our country, we did the TARP, the some would call “bank bailout,” we don’t see it that way, but for shorthand, the – we did things about mental health parity, we did things about tax policy that benefitted very poor people and the rest.
One major, major, major, major disagreement we had was on the War in Iraq and the premise under which it went in. And that will always be a problem. We went in on a predicated, on a representation that was not true, there was no evidence, no intelligence to support the threat of a – of what was said about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. Now today, we just observed the ten year anniversary of the War in Iraq. We have over a million more veterans than we would have had. When we go to war, we’ve got to think of the war and what happens after the war. A million veterans, many with mental health challenges that, physical disability. It really, really was a tragedy that first decade because we went into Afghanistan; ok, everybody agreed; 9/11, go into Afghanistan. Oh, oh wait a minute, I’m going to go over here into Iraq on a false premise. So, that was sort of a – a little bit of a barrier, but as you said, that President George W. Bush was a very amiable person. I might add, he would not have had as much to go into Iraq had it not been for the support of the U.K. That’s really a very sad thing.
Professor Cox. Well, I thought so too.
Leader Pelosi. Well, since we’re being family here and just sharing our thoughts.
President Obama, he is a magnificent leader and it’s the problem with him, that the opposition sees in him is: he’s a very bipartisan leader. He is not a partisan person. I don’t even know if he likes politics to tell you the truth.
He is a public service, policy, making the future better, taking responsibility for the future, respecting other countries, their cultures, their priorities, their challenges. And that’s really what the other side fears most. A President that could be perceived as not being very partisan. If you put bipartisanship on the ballot, it would score higher than anything. And that’s who he is. So, they don’t want him to have any bipartisan success. And that’s really a tragedy, I’ve never seen anything like it. As I mentioned, we cooperated very much with President Bush when we had the majority and we had a Republican President but this obstruction is something that, hopefully, will just be an anomaly at some point and will go away.
Professor Cox. Which kind of brings on just my two last questions before we open up to the audience for Q and A, Nancy. I mean – you mentioned that the President is bipartisan, but every indication seems to me, and I think many in the audience, many of you share the same view, that the United States is extraordinarily divided. It is reflected in the ability, inability to kind of forge consensus in Congress, as I see it, over issues such as health, welfare reform, huge problems over the, over the fiscal cliff, getting the deficit reductions sorted out, huge problems. We’ve seen the rise of the Tea Party, which has clearly had some influence on the Republican party. I mean, from afar, at least, and I don’t know what it feels like inside the beast, but outside the beast it looks like gridlock and an ideological divide which is so deep that getting things done is going to prove to be very, very difficult, in very tough times. What do you think?
Leader Pelosi. In our country we’ve always had a debate between one party and another about the role of government. Nobody wants a government, any more government than we need, but we have to have public-private partnerships, referees, cops on the beat, referees in the marketplace so we can avoid what happened in 2008. So, this is not a new debate in our country. The technology and the communication in real time about things that are factual, or not, just feeds the flame. But remember what I told you: the minute this President was elected things changed because the Republicans, if I may use a partisan word here.
Professor Cox. Please.
Leader Pelosi. They just decided and they proclaimed: “The most important thing we can do is to make sure he doesn’t succeed,” and that is who they are. Now, how do they do that? Because they are, many of them are anti-government ideologues and if you’re an anti-government ideologue you don’t want anything to happen anyway. So, “Nothing; does nothing work for you? How about the timing; never? Does that work for you?” Because it’s nothing, never and that’s their agenda. And they think that the sequestration, which is horrible, mindless, and reckless is a home-run. Shutdown government? Make my day; because they don’t believe in government. So, every day, if you look at their budget and then the manifestations of their budget, almost every day we’re voting against initiatives, the law, you know, to not implement the law on clean air, clean water, food safety, public safety, public education, public housing, public transportation, public health, Medicare, Medicaid, which they say should wither on the vine, Medicare should wither on the vine, Social Security has no place in a free society, they want to voucherize Medicare and privatize Social Security.
So that, that, so when you say: “Well, how can you stand in the way of jobs for the American people?” and the President has put forth these initiatives. It’s not about that. It’s their philosophy that there is no government role and at the same time if we cannot compromise to enable this President to have bipartisan consensus; all the better, but all worse for the American people.
Now, I’m going to take a moment because I know we’re going to do questions but I want to put this in a historical context because I’m here at LSE and I’ve been reading up on my Arnold Toynbee. And as one whose education is about politics; history and political science. If you go back to his stories of history, or histories, or study of civilization that he’s made, he said basically that when civilizations, you could substitute the word ‘society,’ ‘economy,’ ‘country,’ were new, there was a, the leadership, political, etcetera in the country was the creative, what he called, minority – didn’t mean minority, more people or less, it meant the few who were in those leadership roles. They were a creative minority and they wanted what they were forming to enable civilization to flourish, the people to succeed, and that’s what their decisions were about: using power for the people to succeed.
Civilizations got in trouble when that governing few became what was called the “dominant minority,” which would exploit the power for power and for money but not for the people. And that path has caused schisms in countries, societies, economies that are what we see in the spirit of the debate in our country. There is an attitude of it’s all trickle down, if it doesn’t trickle down that’s too bad, if it does that’s the free market, if it doesn’t trickle down, I’m really sorry. That says we have budget deficits, so we must cut our investments. Why do you think we have budget deficits because we cut our investments. You’re seeing the cause and effect in the wrong order. And that is the philosophical context. Now, America is a great country we will prevail, our values will carry it, when I say prevail, prevail to our own, I’m not saying against another country, prevail for the good of the people but this is not, these schisms, this tearing apart of the soul of the country, whether it’s about social issues or whatever, a lot of it comes back to: do you use power for the people, create a flowering of civilization – the creative few – or the dominant few to exploit for power and for money. And that’s the fight that’s going on in our country.
Professor Cox. Timing. Sorry. You also made one other point too, Nancy, about, how I’d know, because I – I actually once had the extraordinarily boring experience to read all eight volumes. And so I was…
Leader Pelosi. I’m waiting until it’s made into a movie.
Professor Cox. It would be longer than Lincoln. Let me just say that – in movie form. But he also made another point, was that civilizations also internally can decay and decline without an external challenge.
Leader Pelosi. Well that’s the…
Professor Cox. It’s kind of an interesting question, you know, so there is another dimension to that.
Leader Pelosi. Well, what he also…
Professor Cox. Does America need a threat therefore to be a civilization?
Leader Pelosi. No, no.
Professor Cox. No, you don’t think so?
Leader Pelosi. No, what he also said: “civilizations thrive that decide to address the challenges that they face” and that is what we will do, we will address the challenges. And this is; respectful, they have a right to not believe in government, but the fact is the American people have to decide if that’s the path they want to go on. And our first President, President George Washington cautioned in his departing from public office, saying beware, he cautioned against parties that were at war with their own government. And President Lincoln, with all the challenges he faced he said: “Public sentiment is everything” and that is where we have to take the debate. And that’s why in our budget fights we are talking about transparency – let’s go to the table, let everybody see what these choices are, let’s see where we can find common ground, or we can’t, we must find our ground and I’ll close with this – I’ve said that twice now.
Professor Cox. I asked you a second question.
Leader Pelosi. No, it’s been a long time since we’ve all recognized that the middle class is the strength of a democracy. Justice Brandeis, long before he was on the court, but a revered figure in America said: “You can have wealth in the hands of the very, very few, or you can have a democracy but you cannot have both.” Now, we begrudge no one their success but the fact that the disparity of income that is happening in our country now is almost immoral, and we can talk more about that if you ask, but Aristotle said – I don’t know, do you have that quote for me – Aristotle said that, that: “communities are governed best where the middle class is strong and large” – and maybe somebody will hand me this card, because I didn’t, haven’t memorized it completely, thank you – he said: “Thus it is manifest, that the best political community is formed by citizens of the middle class and that those states that are likely to be well administered,” – those states that are likely to be well administered – “are those where the middle class is large and strong.” Aristotle – we’re talking about thousands of years. And right now we have policies which are weakening to the middle class and those aspire to the middle class, to make it larger and make it stronger. So, we feel very responsible for where our places in history, and in addition, to where we are on certain issues in the debate in Congress.
Professor Cox. Great. I think we’ve had enough conversation, I’ve had enough conversation. I think it’s about time for – they want to hear you, not me. So, I see about a hundred and fifty hands going up. But – and my glasses, I should have gone to Specsavers – I can’t see all of you so – I’ll take a couple together. There’s a lady here and there’s a gentleman over here who looks very enthusiastic. The lady first, if you could, please one and two, please, thank you.
Q: Hi, Tommy Jackson from Chicago, I think we have a lot of Americans in the room. I had the privilege of working for a U.S. Senator, Carol Moseley Braun, in what we thought was going to be a historic wave of women flowing into the Senate. What I’m concerned about now, and while I’ve lived here for eleven-years, I’ve been watching from abroad – so I really miss it some days, is it seems as if when the country gets scared, or things get, there’s turmoil, we turn into the, men turn into the Taliban. And suddenly instead of jobs, jobs, jobs, abortion, and contraception, and no wanting of equal pay – is there some point, do you think, that we will get, where women will not wind up, in whatever it is – total war – that women will have been the victims who have paid the price for it. Thank you.
Leader Pelosi. Well, I thank you for your question. If you all heard, it was about what the prospects are for women as we go forward and what some of the challenges are we face now. I want tell you something totally flat out and it is a promise and it is, it will be true if we can make it happen.
Professor Cox. Good. I like it. That’s good. That’s good.
Leader Pelosi. So.
Professor Cox. Good. Lot of agency there.
Leader Pelosi. I promise you that if we reduce the role of money in politics and increase the level of civility in the political debate, we will have many more women elected to public office in high places in government and decision makers. I know that is absolutely true. And it holds for minorities and for young people too. We just have to open the system up. The system we have now, the environment we have now is 200, over 200 years old – except with an overlay of huge, unidentified, special interest money coming in and that money is used to just slam people, you know, just politics of personal destruction. Ask me, I’m victim of it – I mean, I’m not a victim of it, but they’d like me to be victim of it. But the thing is this, women, you know, we want people in public office who have options. This is not about: “well you’re not doing anything, how would you like to run for Congress?” This is: “I know you have plenty of options. We’d like you to consider this.” You have public sector, you got non-profit, academic, options, whatever it is, military, we’d like you to consider this.
Now if you have plenty of options you’re thinking: “I can put myself on the line, be subjected to millions of dollars of unidentified money mischaracterizing who I am, having my children coming home from school crying each day for what somebody about their mother that they saw on TV, or I can have a normal life.” Now, so, this is not for the faint of heart. This is really tough for men and women to put themselves on the line, but if you have a civil debate, women will prevail. If you take out that club of special interest, unidentified money – just money in general. I’ve issued a DARE on this: disclose; who’s this money is coming from? Amend the Constitution to overturn Citizens United. R; reform the whole system to take down the role of money in politics and empower, stop these people who suffocate the airwaves with their endless, undisclosed money, and then use the power they gain to suppress the vote. This is what’s happening and that’s just not, that’s just not democratic and it’s not right and it’s not it’s not conducive to the opening up of the system to young people, to minorities, and especially to women.
So, I think we just have to make our own environment. Kick open the door. I’ve been trying for years to increase the number of women, it’s probably increased on my side of the aisle ten times, well maybe eight times, or something, since I was there. But I’m realizing that incremental, incrementally it’s not good enough. We have to change the whole dynamic. And it’s a beautiful thing when it happens. Yeah, they resort to, see one of my issues, one of the crusades I’m on is child care: quality, affordable child care for all Americans to unleash the full power of women, their intellect, their talent, their opportunities, whether it’s in the military, whether it’s in academic world, whether it’s in corporate America or whether it’s at home, or whether it’s in the House, or in the Senate, or in the White House. Wherever it happens to be. And so you have to make some changes that make it easier and better for women’s voices to be heard and women’s voices to be, I don’t want use the word ‘feared.’
Leader Pelosi. But acknowledged.
Professor Cox. Acknowledged.
Leader Pelosi. Acknowledged. Respected, ok, respected.
And I’m – I’m very excited about it because generationally young boys see their moms in the workplace, young boys see their sisters with opportunity. When I became Speaker, the letters I received – even when I became Whip, Leader, the letters I received from dad’s all over the country, fathers of daughters saying: “now another avenue is opening to my daughter.”
Professor Cox. Well, I’ve got to bring it up – there’s a man over here, you know.
Leader Pelosi. There’s a man over here, he says.
Professor Cox. There’s a man, yeah.
Q: With your belief in consensus, why did President Obama and the Democratic leadership not accept the 2010 proposals of the bipartisan Bowles-Simpson fiscal commission? And what do you think of their latest proposals – that’s if you had time to study them.
Leader Pelosi. I don’t know what their latest proposals are but I will say this: we agreed that there would be a bipartisan commission and I said as Speaker at the time: “When they have a proposal, we will take it up in the House.” I could only speak for the House. The fact is, they didn’t have a proposal. It didn’t pass. We wanted it to be a commission that was legislated by Congress, that is to say had the force of law, the Republicans who always wanted this then said: “Oh never mind.” So the President, by executive order, established that commission. They never, the Republicans, they had bipartisan disagreement on the proposal. There are many good features in the, in that proposal, one that I did not agree with was their proposal on Social Security but I said, “you know, we can handle that separately” but they had many good proposals there. But they – it isn’t a question of President Obama, or the Democrats, Republicans on the committee voted against it. They never got the fourteen votes on the committee that it was required to submit.
Q: Erskine Bowles and Alan Simpson agreed. Erskine Bowles and Alan Simpson.
Leader Pelosi. Yeah, but it, yeah but this was not the two people. This was a commission. We didn’t say: “two guys go in a room, if you come out, we’re going to vote for it in Congress.”
We said: “we have a representative group of people at the table, come up with a proposal.” But they wrote it themselves, that’s a little known fact, it was not something that was a consensus document. So, you started your question with consensus, it was not a consensus document. It was exactly what it was called: Simpson-Bowles. But again, it had many good features and a lot of what we’re talking about now have some of the strains of what was in there.
Professor Cox. Right. I’ve got another hand over here, I’ve got lots of hands. I’ll take the hand. Ok. Oh, you. Ok, yeah.
Leader Pelosi. I’ll try to be briefer.
Professor Cox. Yeah. Yeah, we – that’s fine. That’s fine. That’s good.
Leader Pelosi. Ok, Professor Cox?
Professor Cox. I’m looking at you. That’s’ fine. That’s good. Sir, please.
Q: I was wondering if you could comment, you were talking about your fight, you know, to tackle HIV and AIDS. And also about your conviction as a Catholic woman. I was wondering: is there ever a conflict between your Catholic faith and tackling HIV/AIDS?
Leader Pelosi. No, no. I thought you were taking it to another place.
Professor Cox. So did I. Marriage, I think, thought we were going to get into that. You can answer that as well.
Leader Pelosi. Yeah, no. Let me just say this: there is everything, everything that I learned growing up, and you have to remember, I was in an Italian-America neighborhood, very Catholic and it wasn’t that, it was conservative in terms of personal, liberal in terms of politics, but conservative in terms of personal life. And whatever it is, however, I always have to thank my parents and God for what they instilled in me but what they instilled in me is that and I get this question all the time, they say: “As a Catholic, how can you support gay rights?” I mean, not anymore, but as I was going along I thought: “What a dumb question.” For them, not for you.
Professor Cox. Don’t be offended.
Leader Pelosi. But the fact is, the fact is, is that, that is exactly, exactly, what our faith is about. It’s exactly about what the bible teaches.
Professor Cox. Extend it into marriage though, into the gay marriage.
Leader Pelosi. Into gay marriage? Ah, well, the gay marriage issue – I’ve not believed in discrimination of any kind, I don’t believe in discrimination when it comes marriage. I – I had this view for a long time and any time I was to be, like on a talk show, especially what might be perceived as a conservative interviewer and he’d start off by saying: “So, you support gay marriage, right?” Which meant: “I’m going to paint you with this brush and nobody will ever respect anything else you say after that.” And of course, I would proudly say that I was support gay marriage because I’m against discrimination.
I had the privilege of being in the court for the oral arguments of DOMA, the so called ‘Defense of Marriage Act’ and it was really quite thrilling. I feel quite certain that the court will strike it down because it is unconstitutional, but even this court will strike it down – it remains to be seen. But, no, I find all of these things, whether it’s treating people with HIV/AIDs or whatever, to be completely consistent with the way I received the message of Catholicism growing up.
Professor Cox. The gentleman here. And, yeah, yeah please if you could be quick in the question, we’ll be quick.
Q: One of the things that I hear Speaker Boehner say a lot is that, that President Obama needs to show more leadership. And…
Professor Cox. Stand up.
Leader Pelosi. There we go.
Professor Cox. Good looking fellow.
Q: So, Speaker Boehner says a lot that President Obama needs to show more leadership, which I think is funny because he can’t control his own Caucus.
Q: The thing that I think people talk about, but don’t talk nearly enough about is your ability to take courageous votes to lead your caucus and one of the most courageous votes was cap and trade. A lot of people don’t realize how close America was to addressing climate change and that is because of your leadership. I was wondering if you could talk about your ability to keep the Caucus together, take those courageous votes, as well as your thought on that final climate change vote.
Leader Pelosi. I appreciate your saying that. Well, with all due respect to my colleague, the distinguished Speaker of the House, he knows better.
In any case, they – yes, the President is a great leader. And that’s why he has to be stopped; in their view. On the subject of climate change, this takes me back to your question, I, along with many of the Evangelicals who support our initiatives on climate change believe that this planet is God’s creation and we have moral responsibility to be good stewards of it. Even if you don’t believe that, you must believe that we have a moral responsibility to future generations to pass on the planet in a – a serious way. That’s why were able to build a really interesting coalition – scientists and evangelicals, business and labor, concerned scientists, you know – all across the way. Actually, the creative community in every…
Q: And veterans.
Leader Pelosi. Hmm?
Q: And veterans.
Leader Pelosi. And veterans, the veterans have been magnificent in this because a lot of what we do revolves around our national security.
So, we put forth, really, what was a compromise bill, consensus bill, a compromise bill, but if you want to see the power of Big Oil, come down in a big – Big Oil, well Big Oil, ok, we know that they have endless money to spend. Big Coal? I mean, clean coal, the oxymoron of all time, weighing in on this issue. Now, I’m respectful of our colleagues who represent those areas, we had massive amounts of money for carbon capture and sequestration and the rest. In any event, it was really a force that was shock and awe, take no prisoners, scorched earth, you name it, to go after the people who voted for that. But you know what; some of us who are there have other options, most of us, and we were there to make a difference. It was about survival for some people, success for others – transformation. The transformation for how our economy would be and how it would lift people up.
I mention President Bush because he signed our bill, which was the energy bill that we passed in 2007, which was groundbreaking. He wanted nuclear, I wanted renewables, we came together and we passed a bill that is spectacular in terms of protecting the environment but it wasn’t climate change, you know it didn’t take us to the next step. A lot of the initiatives that the President is using on climate sprang from that Bush-signed bill in 2007. So, it, we have to recalibrate, you know we have a new coalition to go forth to do more on climate but I’m really very, very proud of our Members who understood what the Secretary General of the United Nations, what the President of the World Bank, what the EU, what everybody else realized long before the policy of the United States reflected this. We have important challenges to face. I met with the Energy Minster of China the other day to hear all the things that they are doing since I visited them a couple of years ago. It’s really – anybody who is thinking about this knows that we have to make change and it comes back to its God’s creation. It’s, it’s a moral, moral responsibility.
Professor Cox. I’m having real trouble here getting – there, there is a person in the middle here with a scarf on, with a turquoise scarf on. That’s only way I can identify you. Ok.
Leader Pelosi. You described the scarf very well, but it doesn’t look like you’re pointing to her.
Professor Cox. Yeah, I…
Leader Pelosi. I was confused.
Professor Cox. Yeah, it’s because I am suffering the worse jet lag any human-being has ever suffered.
Professor Cox. The person in the middle.
Leader Pelosi. Good, you had that scarf.
Professor Cox. Yeah – well, I got that right. Ok, please.
Q: Hi, I am Caitlin Murgh and I’m from New Jersey.
Leader Pelosi. Hi Caitlin.
Q: And you’re a real inspiration.
Leader Pelosi. Aren’t you nice. Thank you.
Q: Given the failure of the Senate to pass any kind of reasonable gun control, the other day. What are your thoughts on that and do you have any hope of that it can be done in the near future?
Professor Cox. Ok, that’s a nice simple one.
Leader Pelosi. Thank you. This is so, this is so, so sad.
Professor Cox. Yeah, this is tragic.
Leader Pelosi. We had a ceremony the other day dedicating a room to Gabe Zimmerman, who took the bullet – when Gaby Giffords when she was hurt. Present that day was the mother of Christina [Taylor-Green], the little girl, nine year old girl who was killed. Other people who had gotten shot were there including my colleague, Ron Barber, who worked for Gabby [Giffords], who now serves in Congress. So, it was really so moving the Vice President came, but it was also stunning to us, was that in another room, for another purpose we had some of the family from Newtown. And so I took Christina’s mother in to meet the parents and siblings of some of the Newtown victims and to see the bonding, her telling them: “you’re going to get better – it’s never going to be good – but you’re going to get better.” And to see the hopes that they, the hope that that they had because right then we had the Vice President right there, thinking we had 58 and we have four more possibilities. That was Wednesday, that was Wednesday – when did they take the vote, am I losing track? Yeah, that was Wednesday.
So – I’ve took the redeye, so I’ve lost track of days. What more would it take, I mean, you know, there are thousands of kids, I mean thousands of people who have been shot by guns since Newtown. That happened to be, in the aggregate, 20 little angels shot down – and that this bill, mind you, this bill was the least that we could do. This wasn’t about a ban on assault weapons, a ban on high-capacity magazines – boom, boom, boom – it wasn’t about – it was only about a compromise on the background checks. Now, if you’re not going, if you’re going to say: “olly, olly I’m free” for every assault weapon ban, every high-capacity magazine – that is even more reason to have background checks, right? And that they could not bring themselves to vote for it. You have to wonder, you know, who do we think we are, each of us? How important do we think our political survival is, compared to the survival of a child who is getting shot by some high-capacity magazine in the hands of the wrong person. It’s a stunning thing that they would think their value was such that they could be afraid of the NRA and not care about the fear in the eyes of children confronted with such a situation. It’s really stunning; the President I think spoke very...
Professor Cox. He was angry. He was angry.
Leader Pelosi. Perfect. He was very angry. I mean, we just, we had, you know I went with him to Tucson, when Gabby was shot, and we visited with the families and all the rest of that and he spoke there in the same vain as he spoke the other day. He and Michelle were very moved by a nine year old, well the whole thing, but a nine year old girl just getting caught in the crossfire like that and that just – and I talked, I talked to him on Wednesday about the budget, about another subject and I said: “I told Christina [Taylor-Green]’s mom how single focused you are on this,” she already knew that and it’s a real comfort to her that you are acting the way you are, really to those families it means so much that the President of the United States cares so much. So, where does that take us? I think we have to, in our Caucus, in the House Democratic Caucus, we don’t have the majority, as you well know, but we are highly energized.
Yeah, highly – does anybody ski here? You know, I always say to my kids, used to say to my kids: “Moguls are our friends, you get to come to a bump, you plant that pole, you go down that hill even faster.” This is a mogul, we’re planting our pole and we’re getting more highly energized. We were always highly energized, but you can see the need for something so extraordinary. Abraham Lincoln: “Public sentiment is everything.” They took a poll recently: Mother Teresa got 83 percent, Jesus got 90 percent, and background checks got 93 percent. What is it that these people don’t know?
Professor Cox. Daniel Day-Lewis got 96 percent, I think.
Leader Pelosi. So, so what that tells us is: we know what the public sentiment is, we know there is some kind of a screen in the minds of some of these people about their own importance, the public has to – their constituents have to let their views known. Nothing is more eloquent to a Member of Congress, or an elected official than the voice of his or her own constituents. And so, we’re not stopping, we cannot stop until we get this addressed. It may take – for, for, some of those people, it is inconceivable that we will have more gun safely laws, for us it is inevitable and we have to shorten the time between the inconceivable for some and the inevitable to others, but we are not going to rest until this gets done.
Professor Cox. I’ve – I’ve, I’ve got – everybody, nearly everybody in the room now has their hand up. So, I’m pointing, I think, in the right direction here, Nancy, the man with the microphone in his hand. That’s you, yeah. Great.
Leader Pelosi. Maybe he will have some questions for you.
Professor Cox. Yeah, yeah.
Q: My name is Eric and I’m a student from China. And I…
Professor Cox. Could you please speak up, sir? Sorry. Louder. Louder.
Q: Ok. My name is Eric and I’m a student from China and I would like to ask a question with respect to yourself, Congresswoman, and your response to the Chinese government, which has been reported as “hawkish” by the Chinese official media, and your actions seem to justify that description: you boycotted the Olympic Games, and you met the Dali Lama in 2008, and you recently met Chen Guangcheng on the 4th of June of last year, which was the anniversary of the Tiananmen incident. On the other hand, such actions did not seem to be taken well by the Chinese government to which, repeatedly, it has been portrayed in the official media.
So my question is: can you explain the why you started this hawkish, sort of hawkish status towards the Chinese government and do you foresee a change in your stance, either your stance or strategy? Thank you.
Leader Pelosi. So what is the word you used to [inaudible].
[Audience cross talk.]
Professor Cox. Hawkish. Hawkish.
Leader Pelosi. Hawkish? Hawkish, oh yeah, yeah. My hawkish…
Professor Cox. You’re a hawk on a China. You’re a hawk. Are you a hawk on China?
Leader Pelosi. My hawkish attitude, as you describe, but whatever you want to call it, began when they started rolling tanks over demonstrators in Tiananmen Square. I thought that was outside the circle of civilized human behavior.
Leader Pelosi. And I had, and I had, as I mentioned, this disagreement: where do we go from there on it? I thought it was important to impress upon our own government that this was unacceptable. As you may recall, it wasn’t a week, or ten days after Tiananmen Square that National Security Advisor Scowcroft went to China, raised a toast, and said: “we will not let people stand in the way of our relationship,” meaning the people who care about human rights in China – toasted the regime, that wasn’t two weeks after the massacre.
So, we thought that this gave us an opportunity to focus on human rights violations in China and Tibet. I have been, I have met with his Holiness, the Dali Lama, so I knew something about the situation in Tibet and his initiative for autonomy, not independence, for autonomy. We thought: “well let’s take a look at the tax code,” I mean the trade deficit. At that time, say about – that was ’89, let’s say about ’91, when we started, you know, recovering from the shock of these people, not recovering fully, but moving on to do something about what happened in Tiananmen Square. The trade deficit with the United States and China – about 21 or two years ago, was $5 billion a year. We thought: “$5 billion, this is really going to give us leverage, we’re going to get the students freed from prison who were arrested at the time of Tiananmen Square, we’re going to have market access for our products into China, and we’re going to stop their intellectual property violations, and we’re going to stop the transfer of technology to Pakistan, that was about weapons of mass destruction.
There were three things: trade, human rights, and proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. And so we had a big coalition, with big, strong votes in both houses, bipartisan, to do that. President Bush vetoed that and then President Clinton eventually vetoed it. But the point is, is at the time those who were against our position said: “oh, you have to believe in peaceful evolution, just let things go, democracy” – they don’t have a democracy, but “democratic reforms will emerge and the trade situation will improve.” Well, all of these years later, you know the $5 billion a week, I mean a year, $5 million – billion a year in trade deficit in ’91, $5 billion a week today. So, strictly on the basis of trade argument didn’t work, right? Our trade deficit increased 50 times or 52 times.
Professor Cox. Can I jump in here? Let me go back to Aristotle and the middle class, if I might? It’s a great quote, but there’s now 200 million members of the Chinese middle class. Is this not a good sign?
Leader Pelosi. It’s a very good sign.
Professor Cox. Is this not what’s the way forward? Now I think the input of what our friend was saying was being tough, just against China won’t get you anywhere necessarily. You got to state your principles, but see the evolution economically and socially. Doesn’t that give you some hope?
Leader Pelosi. Well – well, let me, let me – certainly we salute the growth of the middle class, it’s probably – well, between China and India, I think, it’s a contest between who has the bigger middle class. But when I – a few years ago, the Chinese government came to me because I went to India and I visited the Dali Lama there and I know that torture goes on, you know, we can have our state dinners, we can do this or that but there are terrible human rights violations being committed by the Chinese, in China, and in Tibet. And if you look at China, you can see anything you want: you can see the growth of the middle class, you can see the formation of a market economy – that’s all positive – you can see some of the best work being done on climate change and the rest, but there are some other things that are going on there too. And one does not eliminate, so then we’ll ignore the rest.
So they came to me a few years ago and said: “We are here to recalibrate our relationship. We want to invite you to China as a head of state,” this was a – was it four years ago, or three years ago? “As a head of state, we will give you a head of state welcome to China and we want to show you what we are doing in this or that.” I said: “As long as you understand that I must say something about human rights – I can’t go to China without saying that – on the other hand, let’s have another purpose to our visit” and we made it climate change. So, we have built many bonds with the Chinese on the subject of climate change. Our interests are mutual, there size is huge as you know, their development is rapid, and in fact, even though they made great strides on climate, they are still a net emitter because of the development, and that’s what has to be overcome. So, we have to work together on that.
Sometimes when you fight long enough with an adversary, you get to know each other and try to find out where your real differences lye and where you can find common ground. But they never hesitate, when I went to see the Dali Lama, to say that I was the most disliked person in China. A compliment to me in terms of if they want to predicate it on my respect for his Holiness, the Dali Lama. But nonetheless, China is a great country; we do have to work together on many issues, but out of respect; we have to be candid with each other and we cannot, I will never let any prisoners of conscience, or people arrested for expressing their views, not on overturning the government, just expressing their views and being a – like we had the blind dissident now, in New York, or what’s happening in Tibet. The most exquisite form of torture for a political prisoner is for the prisoners to tell, the prison guards to tell the prisoners: “nobody cares, they’re not even talking about it anymore, they’ve left you, nobody even remembers why you are in jail.” So, this is a big thing for us; the issue of human rights, it’s a value that is very important in the United States, I know it is in the E.U. and I hope that there will be growing opportunity for people to express themselves in China. But we have more going on between us, as I said, the Chinese Energy Minister just came to my office the other day. We had a very, very, very positive meeting.
Professor Cox. Yeah, yeah. There is a lot of economic intercourse between countries.
Leader Pelosi. And we are. We’ve got the issue of North Korea that we are working with.
Professor Cox. Yeah. Oh. Yeah, yeah. We’ve had – we’ve had our own issues with North Korea.
Leader Pelosi. LSE? Oh I see.
Professor Cox. Right? You may have noticed. But however let’s not mention either Libya or North Korea. Was the – this will have to be, I’m afraid, because we are reaching – I know everybody else wants to ask a question. We’ve come to about eight o’clock so, I’m sorry but we do have to bring it to conclusion. Ok, thank you. You’ve stood up. And you’re looking really good, let’s get the question, great.
Q: Thank you. Good evening Nancy Pelosi, my name’s Christian Hadwig and I’m a fellow Californian and my…
Professor Cox. Sit down. We don’t need…
Q: My – my uncle had the privilege of serving with you for Congress for over a decade, Congressman Filner.
Leader Pelosi. Really? He’s your uncle?
Q: But my question to you is, since the House Republicans introduced their bill for the budget last month and so did the Senate Democrats – will the House Democrats introduce any bill at all in terms of creating a budget? Because obviously, constitutionally, it has to originate from the House.
Leader Pelosi. Yeah, we have introduced our bill. Now, the Republicans won’t allow it to be on the floor, but that doesn’t mean we haven’t introduced it in the committee and we’ve proposed it in other parliamentary ways. But they – it’s a, I guess a bill – now, we don’t have the votes for it. But we have introduced it. And it’s almost a mirror image of the Senate bill, we worked closely with them on the bill. But I’m glad you asked about how well, you know, we talked earlier about leadership and this or that. And the budget, for us, I’ll only take a little minute on this answer.
Professor Cox. I’ll be here.
Leader Pelosi. Michael.
Professor Cox. Michael. I like it. I like it. Both, both work.
Leader Pelosi. Here’s the thing – the budget is a statement of your values as a country. What is important to you should be where you allocate your resources and I’ll come back to the middle class. President Obama’s budget is a beautiful budget, it is a budget about – and it’s very much like our House and Senate budgets as well. Although he does us one better and I’ll tell you how. It is a budget that says we are going to reduce the deficit, lower taxes on the middle class, create jobs, and do so in a way that builds the infrastructure of America, invests in the new green technologies and the rest of that. It is also is a budget that, unlike ours, and the President is ahead of us on this, although we have been proposing it, he has it in his budget – universal pre-K. This is really important. Universal pre-K, that these little children get an opportunity to learn and that their parents get a chance to earn. Children learning, parents earning.
So, the President’s budget cuts defense by $150 billion dollars. It takes us in a course, a course of deficit reduction of debt to GDP, lowering that. It is really a beautiful budget. A real statement of values that gets the job done for job creation, deficit reduction, and respect for the middle class – protecting the middle class. As opposed to that, the Republican budget is just the opposite. It is predicated on a false premise that the reason we don’t have growth is because we have a big debt, well that has been disproven, but you don’t even have to be an economist to see that when you have investments in growth, you create jobs and you bring revenue to the Treasury. Nothing, nothing – flat out statement – nothing brings more money to the Treasury than the education of the American people. Early childhood, K-12, higher ed, post-grad, lifetime learning and the President’s budget makes a very strong commitment to all of that, to all of that. So when you have a budget, a Republican budget, that cuts these things, or sequestration that doubles, or a budget that doubles the interest rate for students on their loans and the rest of that, you are increasing the deficit no matter what they tell you.
So, we have, we have said: “ok, the House passed its budget, we don’t believe in it, it doesn’t share our values.” But they passed a budget. They have been saying: “we want,” what is called, “regular order,” this is more on the subject than you want to know, but it’s what you’re going to hear, regular order, that means that you go through the process. Ok, we passed ours. They said: “well Senate, if only the Senate would pass a budget, we would have regular order.” Well, the Senate passed a budget. So, now it’s time for us to go conference – to reconcile, that’s called reconcile; the differences. The Republicans have said, who have been beating the drum for regular order, regular order, regular order and we echo that call, have now said: “Well, I don’t know about going to conference” because what conference means is; we’re sitting at a table in broad light, day or artificial light, where people can see what the budget decisions are, and they can decide if they represents their values on one side or the other. The idea that because we have a deficit, we’ve got to cut our investments in education and the rest, is such a false idea and you can see the impact of it throughout.
So, that’s, that’s what the fight is now. We are calling upon the Speaker to say let us appoint appointees, let us go to the table to have the debate, let us do it in the opening, open day light. Public sentiment is everything – let the public decide, they may decide on this other antigovernment, ideological, suppress the middle class approach, or they may not. Or they may not. But the fact is, they will know better what the difference is. And let me say, when we’re talking about growth, how important the relationship of the U.S. is to the U.K., and to all of you Europe. Europe’s success is our success and vice versa. We’re very excited about TTIP, the initiative for trade, improving trade and financial services, and other areas that is being debated now. And hope that that will go forward. We see the E.U. as an important entity in all of this economic recovery. We want to see a strong E.U. We’d like to see a strong U.K. in the E.U. That’s up you to decide.
Professor Cox. Excellent, well done.
Leader Pelosi. But, but understand this: in all that we do, in all of the, shall we say, off-hand remarks we make about one thing or another and people’s attitudes, we all have to see the value of what everybody brings to the table and respect all these organizations for what resource they may be for consensus building, rather than judge them for something we don’t like about what they do. And whether that’s the Republican party, or the E.U., or whatever it happens to be – or the Democratic party – whatever it happens to be, we have responsibilities to the future. We have responsibilities to that middle class, we have responsibilities to the next, this generation, and the next, and the next, to find the consensus, respecting different views to get the job done. And some of the features of what’s happening now with these budget decisions and these altitudes of the creative few, or the dominant few, creative for the people, dominant for power and money, is manifested in the growing disparity of income in America. I can just speak to that.
If you go back to the ‘70s, or just beginning of the ‘80s, the difference between CEO, the average CEO and the average worker was about 40 times different. Now, according to the studies out there, it is over 350 times – CEO to worker. This is not a constructive direction. This big jolt is not in furtherance of a growing middle class. And some of these people, God bless them for their success and their wealth, we don’t begrudge them that. We just want the workers to have a shot. In the ‘70s it went like this, it went like this.
[Leader Pelosi raises hands to demonstrate income between average CEO and workers in the 1970s.]
CEO, worker pay, productivity: all going like this. At one point the CEO pay went like this. Productivity went like that. And average workers went like that – not even keeping up with productivity, much less the growth.
[Leader Pelosi adjusts hands to demonstrate income disparity between average CEO and workers after the 1970s.]
The person, a person, no less a person than the head of Standard Oil in New Jersey, his name was [Frank] Abrams; he said, he talked about stakeholder capitalism. He talked about, in a corporation, to make decisions in a balanced way, that balanced the various entities: shareholders, employees, the community at-large, customers. And that’s how decisions were made.
We have, in that 20 year period; come from stakeholder capitalism to shareholder capitalism and forgetting the consumer, the customer, as he said: “the public at large.” And that has caused a change in attitude. Tom Peters, writing about excellence, said: “You look to the companies that are the best managed. They are those that respect their workers, even keeping them employed in time of recession.” A lot of this political philosophy that says what it says about deficits and what it says about laissez, laissez, laissez, laissez, laissez, laissez faire are the same who do not want to increase the minimum wage, who disparage people on food stamps, and other income support from the government, where that – all that important, all of that is subsidizing a very low wage that enables those profits to increase and that CEO pay to go up.
So, it’s a big difference on these subjects. And we think we’d like to return to a stakeholder capitalism model. And we think that’s better to increase the size of the middle class and bring people who aspire into it, into it. And I know that you all have many ideas on this subject, which perhaps I can invite you to write to me about, or email me about.
Professor Cox. Hey, these are our guys. You know – you, you can’t get them you know.
Leader Pelosi. But in any event, I thank you for your interest in the, in the way – and where you are attending school, that you have attended this evening, I am honored to see all of you. I thank you so much, Mr. Director, for the hospitality to be here with LSE. It is, it’s a remarkable time in history and if we could just get ourselves back on track, we would all be, whether it’s for religious reasons, to respect the dignity and worth of every person, whether it’s the respect for the middle class, where we know we have to lift everybody up. Our attitude in the Democratic Party, it’s about the American Dream we need to reignite it, we need to build ladders of opportunity so people who work hard, play by the rules, take responsibility have a chance. And we would hope that, that would be a non-partisan attitude as well.
So, thank you all very much.
Professor Cox. There is not a Republican in the room, I think.
Leader Pelosi. Well, I don’t know. I had some guess.
Professor Cox. Well, there are a few. We do allow quite a few into the LSE, you know.
We are non-partisan when it comes to that. Look, thank you so much Nancy. I’ve just got one request for you, when you next meet President Barak Obama, please tell him he’s got to come here, come here very quick, and we will have him here soon.
Leader Pelosi. Ok. I will extend that invitation to him.
Professor Cox. Thank you everybody.
Leader Pelosi. Probably Tuesday. Tuesday or Wednesday.
Professor Cox. Please extend it, please extend it. Oh, Nancy – we have. I should – I should have said, before you all go, the great LSE tradition. We’re very generous. We hand out baseball caps. So, Nancy, you’ve got to have one.