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October 13, 2006

Optimistic Pelosi in Seattle for Darcy Burner

Posted by David Postman at 2:55 PM

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi is in Seattle today to help Democrat Darcy Burner raise money for her race against Congressman Dave Reichert, R-Auburn.

In an interview this morning Pelsoi said Democratic congressional challengers around the country need to differentiate themselves from incumbents and the Bush agenda but after "you plant that doubt in people's minds" the candidates must also talk about the "positive side," too.

She said that the scandal surrounding former Congressman Mark Foley has boosted Democratic hopes for November, criticized Bush for his policy toward North Korea and said if she becomes speaker in January the House will pass reforms, a raise in the minimum wage, a cut in student loan interest rates and a stem cell research bill within the first 100 legislative hours of Democratic rule.

Pelosi said she's "not measuring the curtains" in the Speaker's office yet. But she's as optimistic as she has been and has nothing good to say about Republicans.

"This is a very tough election. Right now today, we'd win. I won't be coy about that. Right now we'd win. But we're up against Republicans who are unconcerned about money, truth or decency. They will say anything."

Pelosi has a slick brochure called "A New Direction for America." It's 25 pages of an outline of what Democrats say they would do in power, from screening 100 percent of cargo containers to developing "groundbreaking technology and policies" to combat global warming.

She said the plans represent a consensus of the Democratic House caucus. She said that the caucus is very diverse and "some people make jokes about it" but that it forces Democrats to reach consensus.

Democrats make much of Reichert's votes with Republican leadership. They portray that as a sign that he is an empty suit doing the bidding of GOP powers. As they are doing around the country, Democrats wants to nationalize the election as much as possible.

But interestingly, Pelosi boats about unity within the Democratic ranks. She said the party has the "highest rate of unity" since the legendary Texan Sam Rayburn ruled the House in the 1950s.

There's a difference, though, she said.

"That's not because of discipline from on-high, but from consensus."

Local Republicans used Pelosi's visit to try to tie Burner to her as Democrats do with Reichert and Bush. A press release from the state Republican Party this afternoon said:

Will Burner do Pelosi's Bidding in Congress? Left-wing Pelosi wants Burner as protégé.

That is just what former House Speaker Newt Gingrich said needed to be done when he was in town to campaign for Reichert in July.

He said voters need to be told "how weirdly San Francisco these guys are voting" and Democrats will "collapse in defeat."

Since North Korea's increased nuclear threat, Pelosi has come under fire from some Republicans for her opposition to the Administration-backed missile defense system. Pelosi has no qualms about her opposition.

"They are trying to use North Korea as rationale for missile defense. They're allocating enormous resources on technology that isn't there, for a threat that is unidentified, at the expense of our multi-lateral agreement on non-proliferation. And we're saying that's not a good use of money.

"There is absolutely no assurance that it was likely to work. there's no guarantee on anything. But this wasn't even likely to work. It's like having an umbrella full of holes and hoping when the rain falls it'll go where the holes aren't."

Pelosi, who spent 14 years on the House Intelligence Committee, said that the Bush Administration has mishandled North Korea and its leader, Kim Jong Il. She said Bush wouldn't negotiate directly because that's what former President Bill Clinton did and for Bush it was "ABC, anything but Clinton. But the Clinton people were on the right track."

She said that the current nuclear threat with North Korea is an outgrowth of issues not covered with the agreement Clinton reached. But rather than continue the Clinton-style of diplomacy, she said, the Bush Administration shut down any direct talks with Pyongyang.

"We've got to talk to North Korea. We are the power. We make too much of them by saying we're not talking to them. We make them too big. We are the biggest power in the world and certainly we can talk to North Korea."

She said the U.S. should be tougher on China and Russia in pushing them to push North Korea. She said non-proliferation needs to be the most important element in the U.S.'s political alliances.

Pelosi, who have visited North Korea but never met with the country's dictator, said the United States underestimates Kim.

"He's very shrewd. He has the greatest power in the world wondering what he's doing."

She said it's unlikely that North Korea would do anything with a nuclear weapon because "they would be destroyed" in return.

"They're not suicidal," she said. As for Kim, "Everyone likes to call him a kook. He is an eccentric. But he is not without his deep thinkers around him and we have to deal with that."

I wrote in the paper today that the Foley scandal has boosted Democrats in a way that other issues, including the war and Congressional corruption, has not. Pelosi did not disagree. She said that prior to Foley, "We felt very much on course" and the polls were cause for optimism.

But this is different.

"All that we've said about the stranglehold of special interests, cronyism, corruption, the war and Katrina; it all resonated with the American people. But it didn't come close to this, which strikes people right in their homes, right with their families. It's something they wouldn't tolerate for a second."

The scandal and the subsequent investigations "expands the universe of seats where we have opportunities," Pelosi said. that includes obviously Foley's seat in Florida, other Florida seats and has "intensified the races where corruption is an issue." That includes, she said, "all of Ohio."

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