Pelosi in DSM: I’m being used as a lightening rod

UPDATE:  House Speaker Nancy Pelosi spent a few minutes this afternoon answering questions from a small group of reporters in Des Moines, Iowa, after she attended a private fundraiser and a public discussion about education staged in a junior high school library.  I asked a question and for context, you should know that Congressman Leonard Boswell, a Democrat from Des Moines, Iowa, served on the House Intelligence Committee at the time when Pelosi said she was "misled" by the Bush Administration about interrogation techniques being used on terror suspects.

Henderson: "Madam Speaker, you have said you don't wish to discuss the CIA interrogation techniques and the water boarding issue. Congressman Boswell is on the House Intelligence Committee. Could you step to the mike.."

Pelosi: "He used to be."

Henderson: "…And respond to that question?"

Pelosi: "Let me respond to you.  I have said I won't speak to that issue, well let me say this about it.  Our success on all that we are doing — education and energy and we will have a health care plan on the floor of the House before the end of July and what we are doing to reduce the deficit and create jobs – our success in the congress is driving the Republicans to distraction and this is what that's all about, a distraction from the creation of jobs, which is our responsibility, education of our children, preservation of our planet."

Boswell said a few words about the matter, then I followed up.  "Congressman Braley his week said…"

Pelosi:  "If others have a question first (Pelosi looked at the other reporters; none offered up a question; she looked back at me) unless this is a follow up to what you just asked."

Henderson:  "Back to your comments about Republicans choosing to use this issue as a distraction, Congressman Braley said, in fact, you have become a lightening rod because President Obama is so popular."

Pelosi: "No, he's saying the Republicans are trying to use me as a lightening rod, but that's the role of the speaker. You want to be the leader?  You have to be there to take whatever comes at you and so as speaker of the house, I knew when I assumed this responsibility that those who did not agree with the new direction that we want to take the country in, the change that the American people asked for, would try to distract the public from the focus that we have. It is the arena that I have chosen to be in and I, you know, I understand what that is, but it will not take us off our course of action." 

At 2:37 p.m. on this Saturday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was sitting in a middle school library in Des Moines.  It's her second and final stop in Iowa.  Her first stop was a private midday fundraiser at the home for Des Moines attorney Roxanne Conlin — the money raised goes to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

In this public event, Pelosi is speaking to a small crowd of Iowans involved in education — hence the setting in a public school.  "From our standpoint…in our recovery pkg, (education) was a central issue," Pelosi said, adding the budget included "the biggest initiatives in education in our country's history, since the GI Bill of Rights in the 1940s."

Pelosi also reminisced about her November, 2007 appearance in Iowa as the emcee of the Iowa Democratic Party's Jefferson-Jackson Day Dinner which featured all the presidential candidates.  Pelosi noted she event began at 5:30 p.m. and "I introduced the next president of the United States Barack Obama at five to 11."  After mild giggling, Pelosi added: "now, mind you, I introduced all the candidates as the next president of the United States."

Someone from Hiatt Middle School is speaking now.  In a few minutes, after the discussion (one cannot describe it as a roundtable as the folks are seated around rectangular tables fashioned in a horse shoe), Pelosi will step to the rear of the room and stand in front of a set of bookcases to be questioned by the small group of Iowa reporters who have gathered for this event.

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About O.Kay Henderson

O. Kay Henderson is the news director of Radio Iowa.