At the exact moment Speaker Boehner was dealing with yet another defeat at the hands of his calamitous caucus, I and a bunch of other opinion writers were huddled with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi in her suite of offices not far from the House floor in the Capitol. She wanted to talk about the Democrats’ message of a middle-class jumpstart. We asked her about impeachment, the border crisis and the general functioning of Congress.
A former speaker herself, Pelosi knows the pressures Boehner is under. And given her past actions and his present ones, her view of the sad situation at the Capitol was a trip down memory lane to a time when governing the country was paramount.
When Democrats took control of the House in 2006, there were calls for the impeachment of President George W. Bush. “I have said it before and I will say it again: Impeachment is off the table,” Pelosi said at a press conference the day after election day that year. She was asked today if it would have been to her advantage to encourage those efforts then in the way Boehner appears to be doing today.
I just didn’t think it was right for the American people. And people had a legitimate call to complain to me [asking] why are you protecting the investigation from going forward to see what the cause for impeachment might be. And, okay, if somebody has something, they’ll bring it forward. They don’t need me to go send people out for it. But I think it was self-evident to the American people that a bill of goods was sold to the American people based on false, some have called it a lie, that there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq….
Having said all that, what is our responsibility to the American people? What is it that we are here to do? Somebody wants to make the case and develop it, but that’s not where we’re starting our new majority by impeaching the president of the United States. They’d just, in the previous presidency, impeached President Clinton. And now we are finally getting the majority and the first thing we’re going to do is impeach President Bush? I think history will make its own assessment and indictment on what they did. But I just didn’t think it was right.
And I will tell you….in certain segments of the left, I will never recover from having said that….But the fact is, you just have to say that it’s off the table. Somebody brings some other thing forward then they bring it forward. But, as far as I was concerned it was off the table. And that’s what the speaker should say about this….
Pelosi has never had confidence in Boehner’s ability to control his caucus. When she was asked if she thought the speaker could hold off calls for Obama’s impeachment, Pelosi pointed to a portrait of a young President Abraham Lincoln hovering over us in the conference room. “This president, he said, ‘Public sentiment is everything,’” she began. “And the public knows, and they’re not reacting positively to this, that this is not what we are here to do.” Pelosi then launched into a defense of the legislative branch that revealed exasperation at the current environment.
We are legislators. We are here to deliberate, legislate, make a difference in the lives of the American people. This is silly in its content, but serious in its purpose. So, some would pass it off as frivolous or this or that. Well, it’s frivolous in the nature of it, but it is not frivolous in what they are doing. This is the Congress of the United States. Come on! This is the first branch of government, the legislative branch, Article I. What are we doing but wasting the public’s time, the public’s money and the public’s opportunity for us to do something great. So, I don’t know what they do over there. But I think if we make the public aware that this is a path that we could be on then maybe they’ll turn back from it. And this isn’t about protecting the president [Obama]. I protected President Bush. This is about the American people and what our responsibility is. And everything that was ever done in terms of the Nixon impeachment was deliberative, bipartisan, careful, serious. That was not the case with President Clinton. And this lawsuit is not that.
Several times, Pelosi made it clear that her objections were not with conservatives but with “the radical right wing” that is not “anti-government” but “anti-governance.”
Even in the worst times in the ’90s and they were impeaching the president, at least they had something they wanted. These people want nothing. If you’re negotiating with somebody who wants nothing, you have very little leverage. “Nothing is our agenda.”….
Pelosi came back to this theme at the very end of the meeting as she headed to the House floor to vote in the wake of the latest Boehner vote calamity.
The American people deserve better than this in terms of hearing what people stand for rather than how it was mischaracterized. And how, when they really don’t have a shot, it’s just about the politics of personal destruction. How they go after, well, they go after me, it’s, but I don’t care about them. How they go after the president and just try to stop any interaction that way. This is stunning.
We did not do that to George [W.] Bush. We opposed him on the war. We opposed him on privatizing Social Security. We worked together on one of the biggest energy bills in our country’s history. He wanted nuclear. I wanted renewables. We took the equivalent of millions of cars off the road, raising the emissions standard, doing so many things. We worked together, Barney Frank said one of the most progressive bills ever to pass the country, out of the Congress, was our bill working with President Bush to have refundability for the low-income tax credits and child-tax credits. I wanted infrastructure. He only wanted to do the tax code so we did the tax code. But we had a refundable [tax credit for poor people] which increased their purchasing power, injected demand into the economy. It really was a stimulus. We worked with him on a number of things …. AIDS drugs in Africa, all the rest of that. He wanted to do it and wanted it big.
Where you agree, you agree. Where you differ, you differ. You want to find common ground, you do. And if not, as I say, you stand your ground. But this is cowardice…because they don’t have confidence in what they believe in because they really don’t believe in governance and so, what do they have to do but take down, try to take down the president in that regard in everything they’ve done so far in rejecting any of his ideas.
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