House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) held another one of her regular conference calls with Progressive bloggers on Thursday, addressing topics across the national agenda and emphasizing her commitment to keeping pressure on Republicans to do the right thing on Iraq, bolstering national security and forcing George W. Bush to start obeying America's rule of law.
Asked by writer Dave Johnson of Seeing The Forest about the blatant lawlessness of the Bush administration and their apparent belief that they're above the rule of law, Pelosi reinforced the difference a Democratic Congress has made on executive-branch oversight and said that we only see part of just how bad the Bush White House really is.
"The American people really don't even know the half of it," said Pelosi in discussing what further oversight efforts might ultimately uncover. "In every aspect of the rule of law, and respect for the Constitution and checks and balances and how they conduct themselves, it's impossible to exaggerate how bad they have been."
"But we are trying to build the record and that's what we have to do. They had been going for six and a half years with no oversight, just absolutely zero accountability. And when people talk about this Congress, they have to recognize that there's a big distinction between this Congress and previous Congresses in terms of shedding the light of oversight and accountability on this administration. But with many of these things, you have to build a record so the public sees what it is."
And, of course, the House Speaker was asked at the top of the call, which went on for almost 45 minutes, about ending the Iraq war. Pelosi talked about her commitment to getting it done, the slow progress based on a slim Democratic majority and her resolve to not give up pushing for strict withdrawal timelines over and over again.
"I am determined to end this war -- it is my top priority," she said firmly. "But I also, in order to end this war, have to take the heat when it doesn't go well. Because this is a strategy that is more than one event, that's for sure."
"We are preparing legislation and will announce it either today or tomorrow, depending on the House schedule, that has our original language about the timelines, the timetables. That is to say no goal, but a definite date of departure. Within 120 days the Secretary of Defense must begin a redeployment of the troops out of Iraq to be completed no later than April 1, 2008. Not a goal -- a timeline."
"It makes it harder every time for the Republicans to vote in favor of this war," she said in pledging to stay in the Republicans' faces on the Iraq occupation.Asked about the frustration she must feel over the ongoing Republican stonewalling of the 9/11 Commission recommendations, Pelosi blasted the GOP leadership as concerned less with national security and more with protecting their friends, who may have a financial stake in the Commission's recommendations remaining on ice.
"It's almost six years after 9/11, it's three years since the 9/11 Commission made the recommendations. As recently as yesterday afternoon, the Senate said they would not allow us to go to conference. It has passed both houses, it is what the Commission recommended and they have stood in the way.
"If there's a key to breaking open the obstructionism, I think the 9/11 Commission recommendations hold that key because the American people understand how important that is -- it's way up there with Iraq in terms of the concerns of the American people, maybe not with Iraq, but just behind Iraq and it's a national security issue.
"How if you're a Republican Senator you can justify 'I will not allow this bill to go to conference,' a bipartisan bill recommended by the bipartisan 9/11 Commission, supported by many others and by the 9/11 families. And it is frustrating because this is as easy as it comes for them to cooperate for the American people, but they have to always be protecting their friends -- whatever the issue is -- they just do not want mandates in terms of any costs to their friends even at the expense of the security of the American people."
Finally, after asking her about the 9/11 Commission recommendations -- and while still on the subject of Team Bush's all-talk-no-action national security posture -- I followed up by asking Speaker Pelosi if she believes the Bush administration is still even looking for Osama bin Laden.
"Well, if they are they're not being very successful, are they?" said Pelosi, who strongly favors more focused action against al-Qaeda. "This president said about Osama bin Laden 'you can run but you can't hide' but apparently he could."
You can read more from Bob at BobGeiger.com.