Monday, May 07, 2007

Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Mayor Rudy Giuliani: A virtual power debate

Jeff Berkowitz: Madame Speaker, what do you say to Rudy Giuliani when he argues that withdrawal of U. S. troops from Iraq may result in a safe haven for Al Qaeda, especially in the Sunni portion of Iraq?

Speaker Nancy Pelosi: I say that he is wrong. We are not saying we are not going to-we will fight terrorism. There is absolutely no question about the Democrat’s commitment to fighting terrorism. We do that in a bi-partisan way. And, the point is—is that there were no Al Qaeda in Iraq before the President decided to initiate hostilities there. Now, they are [there]. They are a small percentage of the insurgents and militias and those who are fighting there and the Iraqis will take care of the Al Qaeda—and we will fight terrorism wherever it exists. But, that doesn’t mean that we have to have our troops dying in a civil war that is not making our country safer. Thank you all [the Press conference concludes].

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi [D-San Francisco, 8th CD], answering questions at a joint press conference with former Congresswoman and 1984 Democratic VP candidate Geraldine Ferraro and 9th Year Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky [D-Evanston, 9th CD], May 4, 2007, held prior to 6th Annual Ultimate Women’s Power Lunch, Chicago Hilton [Attendance of 2,062, including Michele Obama, Cong. Rahm Emanuel and speeches by Senator Dick Durbin, Governor Rod Blagojevich, Cong. Ferraro, Cong. Schakowsky and the featured Guest--Speaker Nancy Pelosi].

The above question/answer exchange was the last at the press conference. Berkowitz is often the closer, whether it be a City Club of Chicago lunch or a Pol Presser. If Berkowitz had the opportunity to ask a follow-up or two, as he might on the show, “Public Affairs:”

--He would have been interested to know the basis for the Speaker’s assertion that “they [Al Qaeda] are a small percentage of the insurgents and militias and those who are fighting there.”

--Moreover, when the Speaker argues, “the Iraqis will take care of the Al Qaeda,” what is the basis for her confidence in the Iraqis being able to do so?

--Are these the same Iraqis for which the Speaker and her fellow Democrats appear doubtful of the Iraqis’ ability to meet various U. S. set “benchmarks.”?

--Aren’t those somewhat inconsistent positions?

--How many Al Qaeda would have to be in Iraq for the Speaker to become convinced that the U. S. should stay and fight them in Iraq?

--Will Al Qaeda eventually follow the Americans back to the U. S., as Giuliani contends?

--Is the above the core of the difference, now, between Democrats and Republicans on Iraq? Irrespective of whether it was wise in 2003 to go into Iraq and whether as Senator McCain argues, the War was terribly mismanaged by the Bush Administration, the Administration now seems to argue that Al Qaeda is a significant presence in Iraq, and that presence will only grow if the U. S. exits, leaving the U. S. with a situation of terrorist training camps in Iraq similar to Afghanistan in September, 2001.

The Democrats, as Speaker Pelosi says above, believe that Al Qaeda is a small percentage of those who are fighting in Iraq now and that the Iraqis will take care of them.

Who has the better of that debate? Indeed, shouldn’t that have been a significant focus of the Democratic and Republican Presidential candidate debates/discussions that MSNBC hosted in the last few weeks? Perhaps that task is now left to the network hosting the next debate. Either that or the U. S. Congress could sponsor its own, real debate. Just a thought.
For a somewhat more detailed summary of the above presser, including Speaker Pelosi's above answer to Berkowitz's question, see the Chicago Tribune's report by Rick Pearson:

Of warnings from the White House and Republicans that Al Qaeda is actively working in Iraq and threatening the country's stability, Pelosi said that Al Qaeda wasn't present before the U.S. invasion. She said Al Qaeda represents 'a small percentage of the insurgents and militias and those who are fighting there.'

'The Iraqis will take care of Al Qaeda and we will fight terrorism wherever it exists,' Pelosi said. 'But that doesn't mean we have to have our troops dying in a civil war that is not making our country safer.'

Jeff Berkowitz, Show Host/Producer of "Public Affairs," and Executive Legal Recruiter doing legal search can be reached at