In an exclusive interview on "This Week with Christiane Amanpour," Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., struck a confident tone on the electoral prospects for Democrats this November, despite predictions by many, including at least one top White House official, that Democrats could lose control of the House.
"I'm not nervous at all," Pelosi said. "I never take anything for granted. And our agenda now is ... we're not going back to the failed policies of the Bush administration. We're going forward," she said.
"So what does it make you feel then, when the president's own spokesman said that you might lose the majority?" Amanpour asked her.
"With all due respect," Pelosi shot back, "I don't spend a whole lot of time thinking about what the president's employees say about one thing or another."
"So we feel very confident about where we are," the speaker said, "whether that's well known to that gentleman or not," she said, referring to White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs.
Pelosi Says Partisanship is "Philosophical Difference"
Taking a step back, Amanpour asked Pelosi about the big-picture issue of deep partisanship in Washington, D.C. "Looking in from outside," Amanpour said, "it just seems [there is] never-ending partisanship."
"What is it you can do for the people in this highly polarized situation?" Amanpour asked.
Pelosi disputed the premise of the question. "First of all, what you define as ... a highly polarized situation is a very big difference of opinion," Pelosi said. "The Republicans are here for the special interests, we're here for the people's interests," she insisted.
"This isn't about inter-party bickering. This is about a major philosophical difference as to whose side you're on. You don't like to think that. We come here to find our common ground. That's our responsibility. But if we can't find it, we still have to move," she said.
"I wish it were not so stark. I wish the elections weren't so necessary for us to win. I really do, because there should be more common ground," Pelosi said.
Pelosi Hopes for Tax Vote Before November
Amanpour also asked Speaker of the House Pelosi about a big political issue: the impending expiration of the Bush tax cuts. Pelosi said she hopes to hold a vote to extend the tax cuts for those making less than $250,000 a year before the elections in November. But she scoffed at the idea of extending the tax cuts for the rich. "I don't see any reason why we should renew a tax cut that only gives a tax cut to the wealthiest people in America, increases the deficit and doesn't create jobs," Pelosi said. "That doesn't make any sense."
"Draining the Swamp"
Amanpour asked Pelosi about embattled Congressman Charlie Rangel, D-NY, who faces a looming public ethics probe. How does Pelosi's affection and respect for Rangel square with her promise for the most ethical Congress in history?
Pelsoi said ethics trump personalities. "When I came in, I said we're draining the swamp. And we did," Pelosi said. "We have passed the most sweeping ethics reform in the history of the Congress. ... Any personal respect and affection we may have for people makes us sad about the course of events, but we have to pull the high ethical standard and none of our personalities is more important than that," she said.
"Attack of the 50 Ft. Pelosi"
The speaker gave some free campaign advice to Republicans: don't use her as a foil; it doesn't work.
During her wide-ranging interview with Pelosi, Amanpour showed the speaker an ad that was used against the Democratic candidate in a special House election held in Pennsylvania's 12th district. It shows a huge animated Pelosi crushing houses and rampaging through a town.
"What do you think of you being the boogeyman?" Amanpour asked.
Pelosi said she hadn't seen the ad, but knew the strategy well. "What I know about that is that they tried this. This is their campaign in Pennsylvania 12," she said. "Their whole campaign was an attack on the president and on Pelosi."
"But it was you [in the ad]," Amanpour interjected.
"I said to the President I think they may have gotten more focus here than you for this one time," she with a smile. "And they fully expected to win the race and we won by 8.5 points."
"Because this is funny, it attracts attention, but they have nothing to say about what they want to go for. What they want to do is privatize Social Security. And as they have said, their agenda, if they win, is to go to the exact agenda of the previous administration and people will look with fondness on the Bush administration," Pelosi said. "We welcome that campaign."