tv To the Contrary With Bonnie Erbe WHUT October 15, 2010 8:30pm-9:00pm EDT
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additional funding provided by the:. >> the first woman speaker of the house sits down for a one-on-one interview and takes us on a behind the scenes tour of the speaker's offices. that's next on "to the contrary". >> welcome to this special edition of "to the contrary". the midterm elections are just about two weeks away and if the polls and predictions turn out to be right, the democrats may lose control of the house of representatives. if that happens, an historic figure in american politics loses her post as well,
house speaker nancy pelosi. as the architect of the 2 006 democratic take back of the house from the gop and as the most powerful female elected official in politics, speaker pelosi casts a long and impressive shadow whether you are on the right or the left. despite the conventional wisdom nancy pelosi remains confident the democrats will retain control of the house after all the votes are counted on election day. for pelosi, who is being called the most powerful woman in american politics, it's the same confidence and strength that brought her to the pinnacle of power. >> it's now my privilege to present the gavel of the united states house of representatives to the first woman speaker in our history, the gentle lady from california, nancy pelosi. (cheers and applause)
>> she is not only the first female speaker, but also the first woman in american history to lead a major party in the u.s. congress. she explains the obstacles she surmounted and how she got there. >> one of the reasons i became the leader and one of the reasons i became the speaker is because i had a plan to win. i was really pretty tired of democrats losing at the polls. again, i wake up every morning thinking of the one in five children who live in poverty, the risk to the middle class of policies that are not in their interest. and so my appeal to my colleagues to elect me leader was that i believe that i have a plan to win the house. and it's gonea be a little bit different from what are you used to. and it's gone a be a focused disciplined plan, cold
blooded to win the house. and that's why they elected me. and then when i won, then they elected me speaker. that's why they elected me leader, i think, and then we went from there. >> pelosi says she was ready to lead for other-s too. >> i had no intention of ever running for leadership. i spent my time on the appropriations committee, on the intelligence committee. the ethics committee. my committee work was everything to me and i was very busy. but i learned the policy. i learned the policy. so now i'm very well equiped to make judgements about legislation because i do know the policy. so from that standpoint, i think from a policy standpoint, i was equipped to be leader from a political standpoint i was determined to be in the majority. and i had a plan. and they trusted the plan. and we won. >> "to the contrary" spent a typically packed day with
pelosi. the day began by calling the house into session. >> the house will be in order. >> followed by legislative votes and meetings, also on her agenda, pictures with interns in statuary hall. >> one, two, three. >> thank you, guys. >> more pictures. and a book signing on the speaker's balcony. >> i'm grateful for your enthusiasm for being here as pages or as interns. so thank you very much. right here is where the people exercise their first amendment rights. so on any given day we could have any rallies about any subject. sometimes more than one a day. and today seems to be pretty quiet. but we always say that washington is a city that has many monuments to history, to our past that we're very proud of. but what we do in the capitol has to be about the
future. has to be about our responsibilities to all of you. so that's why i'm so pleased that you are interested in being here because it is your future and i have to go because the president is going to sign the wall street reform and consumer protection act. (applause) >> after returning from the bill signing, pelosi discussed another controversial and risky piece of legislation that will be associated with her tenure as speaker. the passage of health-care reform. >> on this vote the yeas are 220, the nays are 211. the bill is passed. (cheers and applause) >> well, it took 100 years for us to get this health-care reform and health care for all americans as a right, not a privilege. it began with a republican president theodore roosevelt it was his original idea. and for a 100 years presidents and speakers and
party leaders have been trying to get this done. at this time we had a coming together of a president with a bold vision about health care for all americans. he said to me at the beginning of his term if this makes me a one term president, so be it. so important is it for all americans to have health care, access to quality, affordable health care. so we had a congress that was committed to this and a president who was insistent upon it. we had hoped to have bipartisan bill. we reached out for that, but there was a real difference of opinion as to whether quality affordable health care for all americans was a goal that we all sared. >> you make it sound as if the president did it, but every member of congress i've talked to said there's no doubt you did it. you did it in "the new york times" reported the story about, you know, seriess of conversations after scott brown's election as the
republican from massachusetts, the old kennedy seat and the president at that point was supposedly ready to give up on health care. >> well, i didn't see that. i saw a president, instead, that was committed to comprehensive health care. i thought he may have been getting advice from some in his add,, -- administration "to the contrary" but he always held fast. and those days when people wondered if we could pass it, some of your colleagues in the press said to me, how do you intend to do this. it's almost impossible. i said well we're going to go up to the gate and push open the gate. if the gate doesn't open we're going to climb over the fence. if the fence is too high, we're going to poll vault in, if that doesn't work we're going to parachute in. but we're going to get past any obstacles to this. after it was over, they said well, which one did you do. and we actually just opened the gate. we had so much force and determination from our members, such a sense of urgency that this was needed by the american people.
and that if we missed the opportunity, we might never have it again for another generation. >> request you not say i pushed this through. can you not say that? >> well, as i say, i pushed it through with over 200 house democratic members pushing it through with me, with catholic nones who signed letters in support of it, of grass roots activists whose work on health-care issues for decades, pushing it through with the ama and the aarp and the a to z in terms of alphabet groups organized around children's health, easter sales, march of dimes, you name it. so we had a lot of people pushing this through. >> we have a wonderful babys who are here to speak out for other children, to bear witness to the need for us to pass quality, affordable health care. >> the morning after the bill passed, the president called and said last night when the bill passed the house, i was happier then i
was when i was elected president of the united states. i certainly would have taken responsibility if it didn't pass. but there many people who should take satisfaction in the fact that it did. >> what you've been able to do in the last year or so, when you think about it, is pretty incredible. minimum wage, financial stimulus package, financial regulations, health-care system. i mean is it like the new deal around here or what? >> well, the enthusiasm and the boldness of the new deal, but with less government. and we are like to be thinking in entrepreneurial ways, more innovative ways, as then in previous recent memory. actually the new deal was very innovative in its approach. and that is the tradition of america. our founders were innovaters. they were advocates of an entrepreneurial system, of public private partnerships,
of thinking a fresh way. and from that came the industrial revolution and then almost 200 years later, the technological revolution. and now we'll have a green lefflution. and we'll have a revolution in terms of the way we think about our country as we go forward. >> how would you character your relationship with republicans? >> well, let me say this. i have personally a good rapport with my colleagues. i have complete respect for their disagreement with us on issues. we have disagreement within our own caucus. they make personal attacks on me and they think that's politically beneficial to them. let them do that. i know they have to do what they have to do. it doesn't even enter into what myra pore might be with them personally. >> pell os syno stranger to politics, wash don done-- washington, d.c. or the new deal. her father was a new deal
democrat. born nancy patricia delasandro she grew up in baltimore, maryland. the only girl and youngest of six children. her father thomas delasandro jury served as mayor of baltimore for 12 years after spending five terms in congress. >> you write in your book about being a little girl and coming here for the first time with your family and your father who was, of course, in congress. >> how did that prepare you for who are you today. >> probably not at all. it prepared me for being a little girl in baltimore, maryland. but it was something i never did forget, that i would be driving up to the capitol with my brothers and i was a very little girl, not even in school. and they were saying nancy, nancy, look, there's the capitolment and i kept looking for a capital a, a capitol b and a capitol c and i said i just don't see it they said it is right in front of you. one thing or another
eventually i realized that this bufl domed building that they were pointing at was not a capitol letter but the capitol, with an o of the united states. beautiful lum necessary ent. and i don't -- -- don't ever see it today without being in awe of what it stands for. >> and you're the first daughter elected of a former member. and you did it, i know you said in the book your father was so proud of you because you did it without his name from a whole different area of the country. >> that's right. >> what would your dad say if he could see you today. >> he'd cry, i think, he'd cry. he was so in awe of sam rayburn. when he served in congress, he served with these giants in the congress. he was a new deal congressman. and then became the mayor of baltimore when i was in first grade. and when i went away to college he was still the mayor of baltimore. and speaker of the house, that was really very important to him.
so he would be wondering how this all happened. but he did, it was interesting that i would be the first daughter. there have been many fathers and sons who have served in congress, but the first father and daughter. >> i mean there was a lot of hoopla, i recall, around the sanchez sisters and the levin brothers. >> yes. >> but i don't remember that much hoopla around you when you first came, being the first daughter. >> i know. i think it took us all awhile to dawn. i didn't even know that i came that i was the first daughter. and then when i was here somebody said i think maybe you're the first. there was no big fuss made about it since then we've had a number of daughters succeed their fathers in congress and i'm very happy about that. >> as speaker pelosi showed me around the speaker's offices, she spoke of another man who had a profound influence on her life. you were talking about how president kennedy influenced your life and your career
here. tell me about that. >> well, i went to the democratic convention with my parents in 1960. and as you know, the president won in november and as the world knows and then was sworn in in january. and that was 50 years ago. so for decades our country has been blessed with the inspiration that president kennedy was to our nation. but as a young person, i was very inspired by him and his presidency. and honored to be at the inauguration, actually wednesday pelosi has represented california's 8th district in congress since 1987. she won a special election after her good friend congresswoman salah burton who had terminal cancer asked her to run for the seat. pelosi was 47. and the mother of five. >> so a mother of five to a to member of congress, only woman in the room a lot of times, you talk about in the
book. was it just her saying to you, you're the one i want to take my seat? how did all that happen. >> it's pretty much that. i had really not entertained the thought of runing are for public office. i was a volunteer in politics. i was chair of the california democratic party which i thought was the greatest honor that anyone could have to chair the biggest democratic party in the country and work with my republican counterparts. but when sala became sick and she asked me would i run for her seat that she wasn't going to run again, i didn't realize that her illness was terminal, but she said i'm going to spend time with my family, so will you run. it was a completely new fresh thought for me. people had asked me to run for office over time but i had five teenagers, it would have been completely out of the question. but. >> they were by and large gone, my youngest was a senior in high school, she was going into senior year
in high school when i came to congress 23 years ago. when i went to her i said alexandra, sala whom we loved very much, and this was hard, sala has asked me to run for her seat. she's not going to seek re-election. little did we know that she would not even complete her term. but i said, any answer is fine. i love, you know, my, honoring my responsibilities as mom and it's more than responsibility, it's my first priority of things to do in life. and so with all the sincerity in the world, i approached her and asked her. i saidee and i have talked about this and we think that if you want me to stay here, i'm thrilled. if it's okay with you, then i will run. i may not win but i will run. she said mother, get a life. (laughter) and i had never heard that expression before, this is quarter a century ago, almost.
mother, get a life. and so i did. another life, a congressional life. and it's worked out great. >> you said in your book that running a household prepared you for politics. how did that work. >> well, certainly i grew up in a political household and i knew the the value of public service and that it was a noble calling. so i had that orientation in terms of a vacation. but in terms of the day-to-day, i don't think anything equips anybody better in terms of using your time well and having a sense of organization than being a mother of many children, especially very close in age, in my case. it takes all of your organizational skills, your diplomatic skills, your interpersonal skills. you are an executive. you are an executive, you are a manager. and it's something that women should value when they take inventory of their experience and their education and the rest. that experience is something
that-- it hones you. it disciplines you, it gives you strength. >> are there enough women in congress. >> no, absolutely not. we want more, as i always say. from the first day i got here, we warrant more. i'm very proud of the fact that our delegation from california, the democratic delegation is over half, over 50 members are women. and that doesn't include our two senators, senator feinstein and nor boxer. we have found each other to think in new, flesh ways about how we keep america number one. not by staying the same, but by changing and staying number one the same number one. and in that respect, and how we are again competitive, internationally and how we deal with issues like climate change and health care, big, overarching issues with a big vision. >> now how is that different with women doing it than how it would be with men dealing with those same topics?
>> well, i have a great deal of respect for men dealing with those same topics as well. i do think that women have something special that they bring to the table. i really do. i think that there is an intuitive sense of judgement and decision-making that women have that we should value. women have something quite special and quite different to bring to the table. and one of those things is to send a message, if you are a young, working woman in our country and you see a young working woman sitting at the table of power as a member of congress, i think there's a question as inspiring on both sides. >> when you took your office over, what did you do to make it yours? >> well, i lightened it up a bit because it was a le let-- pretty dark place. but it looks quite different now. but one thing is for sure it still has the beautiful
view. >> when i became speaker the curator of the capitol then restored the halls here and the rest. because they were sort of all painted over. and they were very happy because they wanted to get to the original and that's what they have now. and i think it's quite beautiful. and the capitol was-- is a great symbol of democracy. it's a master work of architecture. it's also very beautiful inside and so we wanted people to see what it was originally intended to be. >> what did this room look like, what color was it. >> to each his own. everybody has their own taste. but it was more leather and dark and heavy curtains. >> you wouldn't recognize it. but that's neither here nor there. what is important is that as we look out on the monuments to the past and the tributes to those who founded our country, we also recognize
that as we look this way, our responsibility is to the future. and that's what our work is about here. so it's a great honor to serve in the speaker's office. i have a number of gavels here, you see, but i have this waterford gaffe tale that was tip o'neills. i told the members i can only use this gavel once, become crystal. but mrs. o'neill gave it to him when he became speaker and they gave it to me, the o'neill family gave it to me. so i'm very honored to have that. because he also is an inspiration to me. >> from president kennedy when i was a teefern age-- teenager here to president obama when i was speaker there. >> out there is where president obama was inaugurated. >> we must pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and begin again the work of remaking america. >> when i attended president kennedy's inauguration it was on the other side. and this time, millions of
people can come for the inauguration of our president, the other way. but in any events's where the president comes to the capitol, a separate branch of government to be sworn in by a justice of the supreme court. another branch of government. >> and you can't beat the symbolism there, can you. >> no. >> of those three coming together like that, for the president's term. >> that's right. it does-- it does demonstrate that. but to be a speaker of the house is a great honor and i am standing on the shoulders of many people, certainly many women who worked hard to empower women, women had the right to vote. should have rolls in government in the professions or just in their homes. but now you know that others will stand on my shoulders. >> the last question, your legacy. i know it's early to start talking about that, but what
do you want americans to think of when you know, 20 years from now when are you no longer speaker? >> if you had asked me that question a year ago i might have had a different answer. but since the passage of health-care reform, that is the overwhelming initiative that i would like to be remembered for. if nothing else had ever happened in my career, that would be a source of such pride and satisfaction. when they asked me what are the three most important issues facing the congress. i always say the same thing. our children, our children, our children, their health, their education, the economic security-of-their families, jobs, the safe, clean neighborhoods in which they can thrive in a world of peace in which they can succeed. so it's always been about the children for me. so i would hope that when the time comes, my legacy will be about what a difference we made in the lives of america's children and health care is very central to that, to them and
to their families. >> for these children, our children, and for -- >> that's why when i got sworn in as speaker, i received the gavel surrounded by children, called the house to order in the name of all of america's children. >> according to a recent report in "u.s.a. today", independent analysts predict the number of women in the house of representatives currently, 56 democrats, 17 republicans, will drop for the first time in 30 years. we'll keep following the upcoming midterm elections and see what actually does happen on election day. whether your views are in agreement or to the contrary, join us next week. >> funding for "to the contrary" provided by, in the pursuit of automotive safety lexus developed an advanced driving simulator
where a real driver in a real car can react to real situations without real consequences. this is the pursuit of tomorrow this is the pursuit of perfection. >> the life technologies foundation is proud to support "to the contrary" on pbs. our foundation seeks to advance science education and to further society's understanding of the life sciences including the impact of genomics on the practice of medicine. >> and by sam's club, committed to small business and the spirit of the entrepreneur. and plowed to support pbs's "to the contrary" with bonnie erbe. >> additional funding provided by: is. >> for videotapes contact 1888-343-1940.