Capitol Hill Bureau Chief
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was the guest speaker Friday night at Harvard's Institute of Politics, where former White House adviser David Gergen quizzed her about everything from the war in Afghanistan to health care reform.
Gergen began by referencing the Washington aphorism, "If you want something said, ask a man. If you want something done, ask a woman." He then asked her a series of questions about her experience as House speaker, about her views of the legislation moving through the House, and about how she gets her job done every day. Below are Pelosi's answers in her own words. On health care generally:
"I tell my members, 'You were born for this moment. This is our responsibility.'" Read the bill?
"I have, I have . . . Our members are quite informed about it. They had many questions and they know what they voted for." On the public option
"Nothing is non-negotiable . . . but I would have a hard time passing a bill in the House if it did not have a public option in it." On the Stupak Amendment, which restricts direct and indirect federal funding for abortion in health care reform
"It goes beyond (the status quo), and that's why we have concerns about it.
We were in a situation where the Republicans would have brought this up anyway. It would have been part of the bill in a very destructive way. So we said, you can have your amendment, and we can all vote against it and then vote for the bill. The people who voted for the bill were voting to advance the ball down the field.
We could not allow it to take down the bill. We have to defer that conversation for when we go to the table." On requiring women in the exchange to buy supplemental abortion insurance
"We do not consider getting a rider as an option for women. We might as well give out big 'A's' and put them on people. How do you get a rider for an unintended event with an unintended consequence? We consider that something that is really unfair to women." On Afghanistan:
"This is what is clear: It would be very hard to get many Democratic votes to support a big increase in troops in Afghanistan.
Of all the things I have done this year as speaker with a Democratic president -- the recovery package . . . the budget . . . health care . . . the hardest of them all was passing the supplemental funding for Afghanistan and Iraq, the hardest sell I had with the members.
From September 2001 until the president came into office, there was no plan in Afghanistan. We went in, we routed the Taliban, but we did not defeat them. They headed to the hills and then they came back.
It's about the security of the American people, how we can provide for that security, but in a way that has a beginning, a middle and an end to how we bring our troops home." How being a housewife prepared her to run the House.
"I went from the kitchen to the Congress, from being a housewife to House speaker . . . What greater task is there than raising children? What better prepares you to be organized, to use your time well, to have interpersonal skills, to be a disciplinarian and a diplomat?" Following the event, the Harvard Crimson
reported that students gave the House speaker mixed reviews. While students praised her for coming to campus, Ryan A. Hanley, who asked Pelosi about gay rights initiatives in the House, said, "She had a lot to say, but it was kind of evasive and not really to the point."
You can decide for yourself by watching the full video at the Institute of Politics Web site HERE.