The Target: Nancy Pelosi

By Eleanor Clift
Monday, December 21, 2009; 9:00 AM

Conservatives love to hate Nancy Pelosi: for them, she personifies the grasping hand of big government in the Age of Obama. Now, some liberals are disappointed, too--over the troop surge in Afghanistan, and compromises on health care. The House speaker talked to NEWSWEEK's Eleanor Clift about what it's like to be in everyone's sights. Excerpts:

CLIFT: You are seen as this far-out liberal, when you actually are quite traditional in your lifestyle. I feel like the country doesn't really know you.

PELOSI: I don't choose to spend my time countering perceptions and mischaracterizations that the other side puts out there. I choose to do my job. Because we are effective, I continue to be the target.

CLIFT: Speaking of the overall popularity of Congress, it was higher when you were in opposition to a Republican president.

PELOSI: But we weren't the target then.

I think a lot of people thought that once President Obama was elected, we wouldn't see the traditional bargaining and compromising and things taking so long.

Let's say this: the president became president with a nation in crisis--an economic crisis, a budget crisis, two wars, and a climate crisis. People want change, but they are menaced by it; they are cautious about it. I don't spend a lot of time thinking about the ratings of Congress. I really don't.

If you look at liberals these days, they are restive, disappointed, and as we speak here today, the president is ready to send more troops to Afghanistan. You've got a health-care bill where the public option may or may not survive, you've got some challenges on the reproductive-rights front.

We'll get those done.

CLIFT: How do you deal with the liberals, your people?

PELOSI: Well, we have a big tent in our party. And I was elected to represent my district and others were elected to represent their districts. [But] I always say, what are the three most important issues facing Congress? Our children, our children, our children. So, if you look at it that way, we are a pretty homogeneous group.

The passage of a health-care bill was a major victory, but it was clouded a bit by the compromise on reproductive rights. [This] was an issue that you and your generation fought for, and a lot of the women serving in Congress remember [that], and they felt betrayed.

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