House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi
Take Back America 2006 Conference
Washington Hilton Hotel
Washington, DC
Tuesday, June 13, 2006
Prepared Remarks

“Good morning. Thank you, Bob Borosage, and thanks to all of you who have come here to Washington, D.C. to take back America for the American people.

“Are you ready to take America in a new direction? I thought so. Have you had enough? Have you had enough of a war that is failing to make America more secure? Have you had enough of burdening our children and grandchildren with billions in debt to pay for tax cuts for the wealthy? Have you had enough of paying higher prices for gasoline and prescription drugs in order to increase the profits of pharmaceutical and oil companies? Have you had enough of seeing America led in the wrong direction? I thought so.

“Enough about the Republicans; let’s talk about the Democrats. Democrats stand united today – perhaps more than ever before – in our belief that we must take America in a new direction. Yesterday, you laid out an impressive agenda for the common good. And, over these three days, you are focusing on innovative ideas for solutions to critical challenges, from energy independence to health care and national security. On behalf of the House Democrats, I want to salute the Campaign for America’s Future and Bob Borosage for his great leadership, and thank you all for what you are doing.

“Tomorrow, House and Senate Democrats are coming together to present a new direction for America. It’s a new direction that benefits all Americans, not just the privileged few. A new direction to help America’s families overcome day-to-day challenges from jobs to health care, from education to retirement.

“In order for us to accomplish that we must win the election. In our first week in power, Democrats will make America safer by passing legislation to enact the bipartisan, independent 9/11 Commission recommendations. Democrats will expand economic opportunity for Americans by passing legislation to raise the minimum wage. This is all in the first week. Democrats will provide affordable health care for all Americans and we will begin by making prescription drugs affordable. Democrats will broaden opportunity and we will begin by cutting in half the interest rate on student loans. Democrats will energize America by declaring energy independence, and we will begin by rolling back the multi-billion dollar subsidies for Big Oil. That’s just the first week.

“We will plant the seed for our energy independence agenda. Democrats will energize America. America’s farmers will fuel America’s independence on foreign oil. We intend to achieve energy independence within 10 years.

“Democrats will accomplish this with civility, honesty, and fiscal responsibility because on the very first day, we will pass a reform package, Honest Leadership, Open Government, to make the most corrupt, closed Congress in history into the most open and honest one. We will pass our civility package, which will turn the Congress into an arena of ideas instead of an auction house where legislation goes to the highest bidder.

“We will pay-as-you-go; no new deficit spending. If American families are expected to balance their checkbooks, so too should the Congress of the United States.

“I come to you today as the House Democratic Leader and make this commitment to you about the first day and the first week in Congress. I hope in January to honor that commitment as the first woman Speaker of the House of Representatives.

“As we talk about a new direction for America, I think one place that a new direction is needed is the war in Iraq. The President continues to say that the situation in Iraq is improving.   But just because he wishes it does not make it so. This week, we have reached the tragic milestone of having lost more than 2,500 of our brave troops. This is in addition to more than 18,000 of our troops who have been wounded, more than half permanently, and that doesn’t even count the mental health needs that our troops will have. Improving? I don’t think so.

“During the debate on the war almost four years ago, I was the senior Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee and I saw all the intelligence. My statement then was that, ‘I will not vote for this war because the intelligence does not support the threat being claimed by the Bush Administration.’ I am proud to say that 60 percent of House Democrats voted against going to war. Whether there was faulty intelligence or not, there was never anything in the intelligence that said that Iraq posed an imminent threat to the United States. Never.

“I have long said that the war is a grotesque mistake. It is not making our country safer, it is not making our military stronger, and it is damaging America’s reputation in the world. The cost in lives, reputation, in our readiness – what about the money? Over $300 billion and growing and that does not count the additional cost for our veterans. And by the way, shouldn’t veterans’ costs be considered as a cost of war? Shouldn’t we be treating our veterans the same way? The military says that, ‘No soldier will ever be left behind on the battlefield.’ We cannot allow our veterans to be left behind when they come home.

“In total costs, this will probably be a $1 trillion war. Think of the opportunity costs of what we could have done to promote freedom and democracy, alleviate poverty, give hope to people throughout the world. Think of what we could have done at home. And reconstruction, where some of that money goes, has been a total failure. Recent reports said that $9 billion of reconstruction money is totally gone – no one can account for it. In fact, another report said that the U.S. contracting there is so corrupt that it might as well be turned over to Iraqi corruption because at least the money will stay in the country.

“That is what we are dealing with, my friends, a grotesque mistake. That is why more than two years ago, I first called for the resignation of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. He has been dismissive of international law, of world opinion, and the opinion of the American people. He is the architect behind our failed policy in Iraq. Rumsfeld must go. We should never forget in calling for his resignation, that this is George Bush’s war. This is the President’s war; these are his policies and he should be held accountable.

“Aren’t we proud of those brave, retired generals who are speaking truth to power? How courageous are they? They have fought for our country on the battlefield, and they are fighting for our country again by speaking truth to power.

“I have met with many of our brave soldiers in my travels both here in Bethesda at Walter Reed Army Medical Hospital on a regular basis, and in Germany, Kuwait, Iraq, and Qatar. I always thank them for their courage, their patriotism, and the sacrifice they are willing to make for our country. I listen to the stories of their lives. I ask them about their lives back home. So many of them are National Guardsmen, and they tell me about being firefighters, teachers, and mechanics.

“But one response moves me to this day. I asked the question, ‘What did you do before you came here?’ A young man responded, ‘I was in high school, ma’am.’ We have sent our children into war, without a plan to go in, without a plan to prevail, and without a plan to come home. A long time ago in this war Marine Corps General Anthony Zinni said, ‘The level of sacrifice has not been matched by the level of planning.’ How can we do that to our troops?

“Congressman Jack Murtha has a plan, and I quote, ‘that the forces involved [in Iraq] are redeployed at the earliest practicable date.’ That is not cut and run, that is at the earliest practicable date, and I am proud to support the Murtha plan. The Murtha plan has been endorsed by more than 100 of my House Democratic colleagues.

“There are only two directions to take in Iraq: Bush’s plan of staying the course to let a future President to sweep up after, or the Murtha plan to change the direction of that course. I support the Murtha plan.

“In order for us to take America in a new direction at home and in Iraq, it is urgent that we win the election. If we’re going to take America in a new direction, we must work together. The Campaign for America’s Future is key to our success for victory for the American people. The Campaign for America’s Future is at the core of this new direction. Your agenda for this week shows that you understand the needs of the American people.

“I want to leave you with this thought. When President Franklin Roosevelt passed away, my understanding was that he didn’t want a state funeral if we were at war because of the pomp and circumstance and the cost. So they took him by train from Warm Springs, Georgia, to Washington, D.C., where he lay in state at the White House, and they took him to Hyde Park in New York where he was buried. Along the way thousands of people lined the tracks, so many people wept – migrant workers, families – you could see these people paying their respects. A reporter went up to a mourner and said, ‘Why are you here? Did you know Franklin Roosevelt?’ The mourner replied, ‘No, I didn’t know President Roosevelt, but he knew me.’

“The Campaign for America’s Future knows the American people. As Democrats we must convince the American people that we know them. We work for them every day, we understand their hopes, their dreams, and their aspirations they have for their children, and the challenges that they face. That’s why it’s urgent that we win the election, that we take the country in a new direction for every one of those people, for working families in America. Let us go forth then as the Democratic Party that is known as the champion of working people in our country. Onward to a great Democratic victory! Thank you very much!”

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