By Jason Leopold and Alan Breslauer | The Public Record
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi’s appearance Monday at a West Los Angeles college to discuss her recently published book was marred by dozens of protestors and several angry outbursts by audience members who demanded Pelosi immediately authorize a House committee to hold impeachment hearings against President George W. Bush.
The Speaker made it clear she would not support any effort to hold impeachment hearings against President Bush saying that the president “will be gone in a hundred days.”
Chip’s Note: Be sure to watch the commercial at the end – twice I got John McCain. Now, on to the rest of the article by Jason Leopold and Alan Breslauer.
Halfway through her discussion at The American University of Judaism, where more than 300 people paid $30 each to hear Pelosi speak about her upbringing and her family’s impact on her political career as detailed in her book Know Your Power: A Message to America’s Daughters, the topic shifted to Congress’s historically low approval rating and how it reflected on Pelosi’s tenure as Speaker.
American University of Judaism’s Rabbi Robert Wexler, who moderated the 75 minute discussion, asked Pelosi to analyze a recent Rasmussen poll that found nine percent of voters dpolled believed Congress was doing a good job, far lower than President Bush’s overall approval rating.
According to the results of the July poll, 72 percent of voters believe Congress is more interested in furthering their own political careers. Fourteen percent believe members of Congress are genuinely interested in helping people.
Pelosi responded to the statistics by defending her performance and the performance of her Democratic colleagues in Congress.
“I preside over the greatest collection of integrity and idealism,” Pelosi said.
Prior to her appearance in West Los Angeles Monday evening, CNN’s Larry King interviewed Pelosi. She told King she was willing to drop her staunch opposition to offshore drilling and would likely allow the House to vote on the issue.
She said, in her opinion, the reason behind Congress’s historically low approval rating was largely due to the fact that Democrats could not muster up the votes to end the Iraq war, which the Democratic Speaker from San Francisco said she could not do much about because of the Democrats’ razor-thin majority in both Houses.
Wexler, however, continued to press Pelosi to elaborate on her response given that the Rasmussen poll suggested that a wide-range of issues beyond the Iraq war was responsible for Congress’s single-digit approval. Pelosi, visibly flustered, said she was well aware that “much more work needs to be done.”
In November 2006, Pelosi explained the significance behind the record voter turnout that helped shift the balance of power in Washington for the first time in 12 years.
“People voted for change and they voted for Democrats who will take our country in a new direction,” Pelosi said during a victory speech in San Francisco on Nov. 8, 2006.
But Pelosi, who became House Speaker, never managed to exact the change she promised. She explained that she and her colleagues tried vigorously to pass legislation to end the war in Iraq.
“The public doesn’t want to know about process and 60 votes, they want outcomes, they want results,” Pelosi said, explaining why Democrats could not end the war as promised prior to the midterm 2006 elections.
But Pelosi’s comments appeared disingenuous to many, since she was largely responsible for crafting an appropriations bill in backroom discussions with House Democratic leaders, passed in June, and then worked secretly with the White House budget director offering up concessions on Iraq war benchmarks if Bush would agree to the domestic spending attached to the final bill with little debate preceding a vote on the measure.
In fact, since the electoral victories in November 2006, the Democratic-controlled Congress has approved more than $300 billion in emergency spending bills for Iraq and Afghanistan without the benchmarks or withdrawal timetables that Pelosi and other leaders said they would demand.
When Pelosi launched into the reasons an administration led by presumptive Republican nominee Sen. John McCain would be dangerous for the country, identifying the candidate’s support for an endless war in Iraq and his intention to uphold many of the questionable constitutional interpretations relating to torture and civil liberties during the Bush administration, Pelosi said the only way to “dig our way out” is by electing Sen. Barack Obama, the presumptive Democratic nominee.
“Whether it’s the deficit or the challenges to the constitution we have to dig our way out,” Pelosi said, adding “this election is like death for life on this planet as we know it today.”
Her response led Peter Thottam, founder of the LA Impeachment Center, to demand Pelosi “do her job” and pursue impeachment hearings against President Bush for launching a war on false pretenses.
“Who gave you the right to take the constitution and shove it down the toilet? Who gave you the right to take impeachment off the table? Nobody told them to do this,” Thottam shouted at Pelosi moments before Secret Service agents removed him from the packed auditorium and turned him over to officers with the Los Angeles Police Department. “One million Iraqis are dead. Five thousand Americans are dead. You have destroyed the First, Second, Fourth, Fifth and Eighth Amendments.”
Pelosi seemed stunned by the outburst, but the way she addressed Thottam’s charges further fanned the flames and led to additional verbal protests over her decision not to hold the administration accountable for what many individuals in the audience believe are High Crimes and Misdemeanors by President Bush.
When a member of the activist group Code Pink stood up and insisted Pelosi brush up on her reading regarding evidence of the Bush administration’s long list of alleged constitutional violations, Pelosi reacted angrily.
“I take an oath of office to uphold the constitution of the United States and don’t tell me that I don’t do that,” Pelosi said, using hand gestures to emphasize her disdain over the impeachment demands. “Why don’t you go picket the Republicans in Congress that will not allow us to have a vote on the war. This is not very effective. Not very effective.”
“As Speaker of the house, the third highest office, first is the president, then vice president, and then Speaker, I take my responsibilities deadly seriously,” Pelosi said. “I try to promote bipartisanship but that’s not what the other side wants.”
Before Election 2006, Pelosi declared impeachment “off the table,” in part, to avoid alarming centrist voters. Now, with Democrats hoping to gain additional seats in Election 2008, a similar political calculation applies, fearing a backlash against a last-minute drive to impeach Bush and Cheney. Bush knows that Pelosi long ago rejected impeachment proceedings, the one instrument included in the Constitution for Congress to wield against a President who has abused his powers.
Pelosi’s refusal to consider impeachment hearings or cut off funding for the Iraq war prompted antiwar activist Cindy Sheehan last year to launch a campaign for Pelosi’s congressional seat. On Monday, San Francisco election officials said Sheehan has obtained enough registered voters on her petitions to be placed on the November ballot. Sheehan, whose son Casey was killed in Iraq in 2004, is running as an Independent.
At the conclusion of Monday evening’s presentation, Pelosi signed books but refused to answer questions about her policy decisions. The Public Record asked Pelosi whether she would authorize the full House to vote on contempt charges against former White House political adviser Karl Rove, who has refused to comply with a congressional subpoena to testify about his role in the alleged political prosecution of former Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman, a Democrat.
Immediately following his query to Pelosi, The Public Record’s Alan Breslauer was grabbed by Secret Service and dragged away from the table where Pelosi was signing copies of her book. The Speaker did respond to Breslauer’s question, however, saying a vote on contempt charges against Rove is “up to [House Judiciary Committee Chairman] Conyers.”