Read a Pacific Northwest, liberal perspective on world, national, and local politics. From majestic Redmond, Washington - the Northwest Progressive Institute Advocate.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

LIVE from Austin: Ask the Speaker

There are probably a lot of people here in Austin who wish that the Netroots Nation organizers hadn't scheduled Nancy Pelosi to talk with us at 8:45 AM in the morning. But nevertheless, a fairly large crowd of us are here in Exhibit Hall Four to have a conversation with the third most powerful elected official in the United States: the Speaker of the House of Representatives.

Congressman Lloyd Doggett is currently introducing the Speaker and thanking the netroots community for being a beacon of hope in America.

UPDATE: Speaker Pelosi has just taken the stage to a loud and friendly welcome. You can watch live from home if you'd like.

Pelosi acknowledged the presence of Congresswoman Donna Edwards of Maryland, Congressman Brad Miller of North Carolina, and our very own Darcy Burner. She also thanked the community for allowing her to speak at Netroots Nation.

"God bless the impatience of youth," Pelosi said, acknowledging that young Americans are hungry for change in America and unwilling to wait to invest in renewable energy and end the occupation of Iraq.

Please know how much I appreciate what you do... You make America more American," Pelosi said. She urged the netroots to be "relentless" in holding her and other elected officials accountable.

The first question concerned inherent contempt and impeachment.

Pelosi didn't tackle the question head on, but she did say that she approved of the work that her Judiciary Committee Chair, John Conyers, was doing in pursuing contempt of Congress charges against Bush administration officials.

Pelosi also slammed the Bush White House for its disrespect of Congress.

"What the administration is doing is tearing up the Constitution and saying: We rule. This is a monarchy," Pelosi said.

The second question concerned FISA and telecom immunity.

Pelosi pinned the blame on the Senate for the recent "compromise" bill that Congress sent to George W. Bush. The gist of her answer was that once seventeen Democratic senators voted for the bill with the Republicans and sent it over to the House, Pelosi's hands were tied because she was then pitted against not only the Bush administration, but a significant number of the Senate Democratic caucus.

This answer didn't resonate with the assembled community, but almost everyone remained respectful and allowed Pelosi to make her case.

The Speaker seemed somewhat hesitant and unsure exactly how to word her answer at times. And that's understandable. It's a tough, informed crowd that expects Pelosi to be as candid as possible.

The third question was about governing vision.

Pelosi's answer seems to be a tour of the issues: environmental protection and energy, economic security, civic planning/transportation, education, technology, and healthcare. "Our strength cannot just be measured [by] our military might," Pelosi observed. She went on for about twenty minutes about all the priorities that the Democratic Congress would address under an Obama administration.

(We can't really do anything now, apparently, because Congress is doing very little to stand up to Bush).

The fourth question: Should the U.S. government bail out General Motors?

Pelosi's answer: In short, no. We need to innovate. The government is not obligated to relive shareholders of the risk they took in investing in an automaker.

Pelosi did say that universal healthcare was needed to ensure that autoworkers have secure pensions after they retire.

The fifth question: What about sex education? Aren't abstinence-only initiatives a waste and a dangerous step backward?

Pelosi agreed wholeheartedly, condemning the Republicans' stance as dangerous to young women. She promised to continue that conversation in the House caucus.

The sixth question: How do we deliver Internet access to more Americans?

Pelosi didn't necessarily answer the "how", but she did talk about bringing broadband to areas that don't have it. She also brought up net neutrality, declaring that America needed government regulation to keep the Internet open.

She criticized telecoms for opposing net neutrality, pointing out that the telecoms were opposed years ago to the very innovations that have made today's digital economy necessary.


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