Or read the transcript below:
(Transcription by J. C. Hendershot)
Interview with Rochelle Schweizer by Roger Aronoff
The “Take AIM” show on BlogTalkRadio, Thursday, September 30, 2010
ROGER ARONOFF: Our guest today is Rochelle Schweizer, the author of the new book entitled She’s the Boss: The Disturbing Truth About Nancy Pelosi, which details the political life of Ms. Pelosi from San Francisco to the Speaker’s chair on Capitol Hill here in Washington, D.C. Rochelle has said that Nancy Pelosi is the most powerful woman in American politics today—at least until the November elections—and that she has successfully maneuvered her way up to the top by working with moderates in the Democratic party. Rochelle, good morning, and welcome to Take AIM.
ROCHELLE SCHWEIZER: Well, good morning, Roger. Thank you for having me today.
ARONOFF: Before we get into your book here, I want to tell our listeners a little more about you. Rochelle is also the co-author of The Bushes: Portrait of a Dynasty and Riding with Reagan. Her writing has appeared in The Los Angeles Times, and she’s appeared on CBS’ This Morning, MSNBC, Fox and Friends, and CNN. So tell us more about you. What is your background that led you to write books about Presidents, and, now, the Speaker of the House?
SCHWEIZER: Well, Roger, as with many people, that’s not how I started out, thinking this is where it would end. I went to graduate school at Emerson College in Boston, and while there I heard about something called the National Journalism Center in Washington. I moved to Washington, and from there I started working at a placed called the National Forum Foundation, which was started by former Senator Jeremiah Denton and there I met my husband, who is Peter Schweizer, and we actually got married. I’d just started working, doing media consulting, and we just started working on some projects together, and that’s how it evolved.
ARONOFF: Okay. Peter, yes, tell us a little about him. What other books has he written? He co-wrote the Bush book with you. What is his background?
SCHWEIZER: Well, his background is, he’s written a number of books. He’s written books on Reagan. You may be familiar with some of them called Victory and Reagan’s War. He is a currently a fellow at the Hoover Institution. He also wrote a couple of recent books that have done quite well, Do As I Say (Not As I Do): [Profiles in Liberal Hypocrisy], and his most recent was Architects of Ruin.
ARONOFF: So how did you come to write this book about Nancy Pelosi?
SCHWEIZER: Well, interestingly the project really came to me. Sentinel was considering a number of people to write this book and I guess it just, in a providential way, worked out to be me. I just thought it was a great project and a great opportunity. Interestingly, as we know, there has not been much written about Speaker Pelosi, which I find very interesting—you look at the level of power she’s reached, and so little has been written about her. Of course Hillary Clinton is a former First Lady, but you would think anybody who’s reached such a high level of power, there would have been more information available on their background. Of course, there’s been a few biographies written but they’re pretty sympathetic, and I wouldn’t say any of them have become bestsellers or well-known. What I found interesting, too, was just the scant amount of information available that took, in any way, a critical look at Speaker Pelosi. I mean, if there were any conservatives at this level of power there would be just scads of information available about them.
ARONOFF: Right. So tell us about Ms. Pelosi. Give us a brief profile to start off here.
SCHWEIZER: What’s interesting about Speaker Pelosi is, most people aren’t aware that she’s actually a member of what you would call a political dynasty. The dynasty is not as well-known as, of course, the Bushes or the Roosevelts or the Kennedys, but her father was a former U.S. Congressman who had a seat at the powerful Appropriations table when he was in Washington, and then he went back to their hometown of Baltimore and there, Roger, he was there for twelve years—and if you research or look at his background, he ran his own well-oiled machine in Baltimore, and that’s really where I came up with the idea of “The Boss.” She was raised, really, under boss politics, and she’s gone on to really rule her House as The Boss.
ARONOFF: The subtitle of your book is The Disturbing Truth About Nancy Pelosi. So how would you characterize—what is that disturbing truth?
SCHWEIZER: What I would say is, first of all, Nancy Pelosi is a highly, highly operational woman. I would say she treats politics mostly as raising money and gaining access to resources. If you look at her background, she’s often criticizing people as not having the credentials, or the “depth”—I think that was both of the words she used for Sarah Palin. She herself, before she became a Representative, was really a fundraiser. She had access to vast resources that she was able to get through marrying her husband, Paul Pelosi, who was well-connected in San Francisco, and, of course, the Silicon Valley area. She just tapped those resources, and that’s really how she grew her power, by fundraising.
ARONOFF: Okay. We’ll come back to Paul Pelosi in a bit. Let’s cover a few other things. Last year there were reports, and a release of documents, that showed her use of military jets, and how she frequently would cancel at the last minute, and demand the finest jets with the most number of sort of business-class seats. Tell us about that. Was that common for other Speakers of the House in the past?
SCHWEIZER: I don’t think it was common. I mean, we don’t have a lot of information available, but what we do have available about Ms. Pelosi is that she did. Judicial Watch was able to get some documents, through the Freedom of Information Act, that showed that over just a two-year period the Air Force was sent bills totaling over two million dollars. Now I think if that had been the precedent before we would have heard more about that. A lot of these were for her Congressional-led delegations around the world, and over that time period, there was over $100,000 spent on in-flight expenses. So I do think this is unprecedented, and what’s so disturbing about that is that, at the same time, Ms. Pelosi wants to charge all of us for our carbon emissions, and encouraging us to cut down on our use of energy. Again, I just see in this just the whole hypocritical issue that surrounds Nancy Pelosi, and I think that has a lot to do with her low ratings.
ARONOFF: And what about her husband, Paul? There were stories about him, I believe, receiving money for leasing property and something about another issue—I believe StarKist tuna and his involvement in that. Were there any conflicts of interest that should have gotten the attention of the Ethics Committee? Tell us about him and how her position has benefitted him, and thus her. Give us some of that background.
SCHWEIZER: The key to Nancy Pelosi has been her access to resources. So I would say, in many ways, Paul Pelosi has benefitted her in many ways. We don’t hear much about him, or see much about him, but he is very wealthy. He owns a lot of real estate in the San Francisco area, and a lot of that real estate is near project areas that have been enhanced and developed through legislation that Nancy Pelosi has pushed. Now, there’s no direct link between those two, but there’s sure a lot if you look at the whole Presidio Trust and the whole Presidio area—they own property near that, and that was legislation she pushed for, and worked doggedly on for years, to have that turned over to the city as a trust. So, I would say that in many ways he has benefitted her more than she’s benefitted him, but he certainly has, because of her position, been able to protect some of his interests. She’s worth at least $25 million, and if you look at real estate, commercial holdings, and on and on, it’s well over $100 million. Of course, that fluctuates day by day with what’s going on in the market, so that’s not a firm number.
ARONOFF: How is that not a conflict of interest, when she pushes legislation that benefits him?
SCHWEIZER: What’s so interesting about Speaker Pelosi, she is very good—and this is what political bosses are very good—at skirting the lines of what may be legal, and what’s illegal. I mean, there’s no direct tie to say that that’s why this legislation was pushed, but we certainly can look at it and say, “This has the appearance of not looking like something that maybe should have been done.” So that’s the issue—she’s very effective at that, and that’s what political bosses are good at. They’re good at keeping people at arm’s length, they’re good at having loyalists around them who may not be completely clean themselves but they—somehow—always come out unscathed.
ARONOFF: So what about ideologically, politically—is she really, as many often say, the most left-wing Speaker we’ve ever had? How did she come to that world view?
SCHWEIZER: Again, I would say, Roger, she is more a product of her liberal base. Now, does she believe in the things that she espouses on gay rights, big government role, on and on? Of course she does. She believes that—but I would say, more than that, she at her core, I would say more she is a Boss and a machine politician. Now, what she does understand very clearly is that her donors, the people that have funded her and helped her get to the level of power she’s reached, these are clearly strong Leftist people, so her message needs to be clear and firm to keep the money rolling in.
ARONOFF: And people would say that they’ve actually been quite successful, some do—that they passed the stimulus bill, the health care bill, the financial regulation bill, various things like that. So what is the relationship like between Pelosi, Obama, and Harry Reid, the Senate Majority Leader? They seem to be working pretty well together to get these things passed.
SCHWEIZER: I would say, Roger, I would say, of the three that you just mentioned, the toughest of the three is Nancy Pelosi. I believe that President Obama did come out and say, at one point during the health care reform, that she is tough. He said, “Let me emphasize: Nancy Pelosi is tough.” I would say that she of the three is the one that really drove the train to get health care through at the point that it did. Back when Scott Brown took over the seat that was left by the late Senator Ted Kennedy—after that happened, it was reported that President Obama was looking at health care reform, wanted to possibly try to compromise with the Republicans, and Senator Reid and Rahm Emanuel wanted to do a scaled-back version, but Pelosi basically thought These guys don’t know what they’re doing, that’s kiddie-care, and she was ready to keep going full steam ahead, even though the polls were showing that more than 50% of the American public wanted to shelve health care reform. So I would say, of those three, that she is the toughest.
ARONOFF: Okay. And what does history tell us about the lengths that she will go to hang onto her Speakership? There’s a lot of people predicting that, after this November, the Republicans are going to take over the House.
SCHWEIZER: Well, I think that’s an interesting question. First of all, I would say that a lot of people are looking at this election as a referendum on President Obama—and it may be, to some extent—but I would say that if the Democrats lose in November, this is going to be much more a referendum on Nancy Pelosi and the Left’s agenda. I think, early on, if you look at the legislation that they worked with—minimum wage, and severing ties between legislators and lobbyists, and on and on—this was legislation that was pretty safe. The moderates could go and vote for this and receive cover, and not really have to worry. Once Obama got in the White House and they started overextending, I think that’s where she got into trouble. I think, if anything, that what we’re going to see here is that this is more a referendum on the Left and their willingness to go for these huge power grabs with cap-and-trade, with health care, the stimulus—I think that’s when she really started getting into some trouble. I don’t know if they thought that they would see as much opposition as they did, or if it’s just the situation with the economy, but I think the American people are seeing now that they do not want such a big government role as Pelosi and Obama have envisioned in their vision of Utopia for our country.
ARONOFF: How do you characterize her relationship with the media? What kind of coverage does she get? How would you describe her modus operandi when it comes to getting out her message as she wants it told?
SCHWEIZER: Well, I think she’s very savvy. It was interesting—it was something, too, if you look back at her father: He had kind of an on-and-off-again relationship with the media. Obviously the media protects her in many ways. I mean, she has said things like, “If you take the knife off the table, it’s not very frightening anymore.” Now, we can’t imagine Speaker Gingrich or even Speaker Jim Wright getting away with saying something like that—and so I think the media shores up for her, because they share the same agenda. They have the same liberal agenda she does. So they excuse the things she says, and a lot of what she does. I do think, though, she also does not receive any criticism well, and so that the media realizes they have to be very careful. I think she’s very guarded in what she says and what she shares. But, overall, I would say that the media has protected her very much. I can’t imagine if Sarah Palin were Speaker of the House, and she said anything like that, that it wouldn’t be front-line news for weeks, if not months.
ARONOFF: Is there anything that you would characterize as, say, a scandal, that the media have just sort of ignored, or overlooked, about Speaker Pelosi?
SCHWEIZER: About the Speaker herself, no, I wouldn’t say there are any scandals. If you look back at the historical background, and some of the things that went on in the family—I think if this were a Republican, some of those would have been reported. But as far as the Speaker herself, there are not—I did not find any scandals that were worthy of mention.
ARONOFF: Regarding the media, what has your experience been with this book? I realize its release date is this week, it’s just coming out, but do you have any appearances scheduled on, say, Larry King, or the Today Show, or Oprah?
SCHWEIZER: Oh, no. So far the book has basically been ignored by the liberal media. So far that’s been my experience. I’ve done a few more liberal talk shows, radio shows, but as far as the major media on the Left, no. It’s been basically ignored.
ARONOFF: How do they explain not covering a book about the Speaker of the House, here, two months before the election or so? What kind of reasons do they give for saying, “No, we don’t want to book her to come talk about this.”
SCHWEIZER: I find that really interesting. I don’t know what their reasons—I guess you can assume what their reasons are, and that is because, again, she is an ally, she shares their world view and their agenda. The book is highly unfavorable—I guess you would say it’s highly unfavorable. It points out, I think, that this was a woman who calculated her way to the top. She didn’t just fall into things the way that she would like us to believe—and, also, her agenda, what her agenda is about, is money, power, and control. I find it interesting that it would be ignored by them. If you look at her “Unfavorable” rating overall—yesterday, a poll came out showing that her “Unfavorable” ratings were as high as BP’s. They’re higher than former Speaker Gingrich’s ever were. So I’m surprised that they wouldn’t at least take a look at it, and maybe try to help understand why her ratings are so high in the unfavorability area.
ARONOFF: Who are her biggest financial backers? I know there was something that may not have risen to the level of scandal, but you wrote about her being kind of fast and loose with her PACs, her Political Action Committees. Tell us about that, and her financial backers in recent years.
SCHWEIZER: Her financial backers—I didn’t really get into a lot of specifics on names, one was Bill Hambrecht, who’s an investment guy out in the Silicon Valley. A lot of these—Steven—I believe it was Steven Kazan, who is an investments lawyer, litigation lawyer out in California—most of these really big donors, a lot of them are the Californians…California’s Silicon Valley has really, according to many reports, really has become one of the go-to places to raise money. There’s a guy by the name of Mark Gorenberg , who was Kerry’s chief fundraiser back in 2004—another Silicon Valley guy—and he realized that they would have, maybe, a chance to get the House in 2006, so he and a headhunter up in that area got together and decided they could raise a lot of money, and use that money to shuttle it to races around the country that were close. And they saw that, really, the go-to person was San Francisco’s reigning queen, Nancy Pelosi. So I would say that that’s been really the core of her fundraising. She made this money all around the country, though—a lot from the elitists, from Washingtonians—but I think the core of it, really the deepest well, has been out in the northern California area, which is a great place to raise money to shuttle around the country. I’d say she excavates California gold and shuttles it to races—wherever the money needs to go. And then we’ve just seen recently, too, she’s been charging her colleagues, those who are in safe places, to divvy up their money and start sending to vulnerable candidates to save her majority.
ARONOFF: And what about the matter of those PACs that you wrote about in the book?
SCHWEIZER: She had two PACs—and, interestingly, you would think that she would know how to run a PAC—one was “Team Majority,” one was “PAC to the Future”—and federal laws prohibit PACs from contributing more than $5,000 to a candidate, or from taking $5,000 from a donor. If you have two PACs, it has to be $5,000—excuse me—per both PACs. But her PACs function differently, and instead of considering them as one, considered them as two separate. So that’s where she got into some trouble with that. But you would just think, in her position, she would know how PACs should function legally.
ARONOFF: I think a lot of people were a bit puzzled recently, when the things came out about Maxine Waters and Charlie Rangel, and both of them received a lot of unwanted publicity. The Ethics Committee released these charges against them, and there was a lot of talk, maybe six weeks ago, that there were going to be trials, or at least hearings, in September, just before the election. I think the timing raised a lot of eyebrows on both sides—why would this be coming up right at that time? What is her relationship with, say, the Congressional Black Caucus in general, those two in particular? Why do you think that this came up now, even though, at the end of the day, they postponed any further action until after the elections?
SCHWEIZER: I think why it came up now is, these are issues that need to be addressed. Let’s look, first of all, at Charlie Rangel. This has gone way, way back. If you look at her relationship with the Black Caucus, I think it’s been, at times, I would have to say, Roger, a thorn in her side. I don’t think this has been a group that she has been particularly close to, but she certainly needs to have their backing and their approval, and I think Charlie Rangel has been a quandary for her, on how to handle it. He was the chairman of Ways and Means, our country’s chief tax writer, and this is the guy who was one of the three architects of the health care reform plan. Like bosses do, they surround themselves with allies—it was Rangel, George Miller, and Henry Waxman. Well, Charlie Rangel got into trouble and, eventually, he stepped down, but when the Ethics Committee brought the charges against him back in early 2010, Speaker Pelosi just stepped out and said, “We’ll just wait and see what happens next.” I don’t think at any point we’ve heard her really strongly come out and admonish and address Charlie Rangel. But let’s turn the clock back to 2004, when Tom DeLay was admonished by—or taken to task by—the very same Ethics Committee: The very next day, Speaker Pelosi—well, she wasn’t Speaker at the time—she came forward and said, “I believe that DeLay is ethically unfit, and should step down.” So I think we’ve seen a real double standard on this whole issue, between DeLay and Charlie Rangel, but I think, again, she knows she needs the support of the Black Caucus. I think this has been, maybe, a landmine for her to work herself through.
ARONOFF: Where do you draw the line between someone being an effective Speaker, getting things done that she and her party want done while they control both Houses of Congress and the White House, versus being, say, a manipulative, imperious—Boss is the word you used? Look: Obviously, you’ve got to be strong and tough to deal with all the parties you have to deal with, so how can you be an effective Speaker and not be a Boss, I guess is the question?
SCHWEIZER: That’s a great question. I think, when you are an effective speaker, you need to look at the whole House, you need to look at the ramifications of what you’re doing. She really forced, in many ways, these moderates. At the end of the day, if they’re not going to go along, there’s going to be repercussions. There’s going to be financial repercussions. There’s going to be committee repercussions. There’s going to be all kinds of repercussions on committee assignments, etcetera. Well, these guys had to go and vote on legislation that was very unpopular at home: Cap-and-trade, for many the stimulus plan, and definitely with health care reform. So they went, and a lot of them voted—not all of them, but a lot of them voted—on legislation that really had no bipartisan support. We’re talking major legislation, that was going to affect everyone in the country, without any bipartisan support. Now, I think, as the Speaker, when you’re passing legislation, you need to have some bipartisan support, and you certainly, I don’t think, want to be passing legislation that’s going to make many of your colleagues vulnerable in the next election. So I would say that that’s where the Boss politics came in.
Let’s look at health care reform: Didn’t she say we would learn more about it once it was passed? There was a lot of wheeling and dealing, then, behind closed doors, a lot of people didn’t even know what was going on, what was in the bill, and I think a lot of her colleagues voted for it, maybe, not willingly. She said—it’s interesting—in 2009 The Wall Street Journal reported, about a year ago, she told her colleagues she was willing to take casualties to get health care reform through. I think now what we’re seeing is the result of that, which is, a lot of moderates and vulnerable candidates running for Congress, they’re afraid they’re going to be on that casualty list. When we’re asking our members to become casualties, I think that’s when we lose our effectiveness, and it’s more about the agenda we want to get through and hoist on the country.
ARONOFF: I want to ask you about a couple of people that you write about in the book. One was quite an influence on her. Phil Burton: Who was he, and what role did he play in her rise to power?
SCHWEIZER: You know, I see Phil Burton as someone a lot of people should know more about, but don’t remember. He was the Representative that held her seat from 1964, I believe, until he passed away in 1983, and then his wife, Sala, took the seat over until she passed away in ’87—and that’s the seat Pelosi now holds. Phil Burton was just a towering, intimidating figure. He restructured that district that they hold now. John Jacobs, a great biographer, talks about how a lot of this was done with misleading information: Burton knew—if he could have a district to be as liberal as he could make it, one of the most liberal in the country, he could go to Washington and hoist his—work doggedly on his liberal agenda for the country—he knew he would never have to worry about going back to his liberal district to win reelection, which is the situation Pelosi is in now. She wins with 88% of the vote. So he knew, if he could design this district, he could work doggedly on his liberal agenda. He was very liberal. He was, in many ways, a mentor to Nancy Pelosi. He went to Washington, he worked on something called the Family Assistance Plan, which was in the early 1970s, and one of the staffers he worked with—it was reported that he told the staffer, “If I can enact the Family Assistance Plan, if we can push this through, I can bust the federal government within two years.” That just shows his view and his agenda. He was a very powerful figure—in fact, David Frum, the author David Frum, says Phil Burton is really the man who created the modern Congress. He was really, from the late ’70s, that whole era, he was the one responsible for the Supplemental Security Insurance and disability, minimum wage, and on and on. He was responsible for a lot of those programs. When you look at when Gingrich and his group took over, it was really the end of that, the House that Phil Burton built. He had a strong influence on Pelosi. He surprisingly lost to Jim Wright for Majority Leader by one vote—which, you know, Ms. Pelosi would never allow that to happen. And I do think she, in some ways, sees this as almost a memorial to Phil Burton. But Phil Burton is someone people should understand better, because—it’s interesting, because if you think, these two liberals, from this liberal district—this is not what the Founding Fathers envisioned at all, that they would have so much power and sway and influence on the legislation that we’re living under today.
ARONOFF: And Steny Hoyer. He is the Majority Leader in the House, and lately we’ve seen some distance between them on some issues, like Stephen Colbert—but other, more substantive things as well—but you write that their rivalry actually began in the early 1960s, when they both worked for Maryland Senator Daniel Brewster.
SCHWEIZER: Yes, ironically, these are—and Nancy Pelosi is a Marylander, also, originally from Baltimore—these two Marylanders, who have become rivals in many ways. Yes, they both started out, out of college, working in former Senator Daniel Brewster’s office. Steny Hoyer actually had a higher position there, as legislative aide, and Nancy Pelosi did more secretarial work. These two were later brought together in Washington, and I would say Steny Hoyer was definitely a more moderate, a pragmatist, and part of the “Old Boy” network, and Nancy Pelosi was the Left Californian, who had a much different—I’d say grander—big government agenda. So the seeds of rivalry, I would say, were sown a long time ago, and I would say, in many ways, even though they appear unified, that it has continued to this day.
ARONOFF: There were a couple of other episodes that I’d like to get into that you write about. One was her controversial trip to Syria in 2007, in which she announced that Israel was ready to negotiate with President Assad about giving up the Golan Heights. Was she out of line doing that? Is she considered strongly pro-Israel? Where do her sympathies lie? Tell us a little about that incident.
SCHWEIZER: She went—she claimed that she was just taking the lead from the Iraq Study Group’s recommendation to try to engage Middle East governments. I think she was definitely out of line. I mean, the Speaker of the House isn’t the one who should be determining foreign policy, and she certainly shouldn’t be going over and speaking with leaders of countries who have shown support for terrorist groups without consulting with the President or the Vice President on these matters—and they certainly weren’t supportive of the trip. I think that, for the Speaker of the House to go over there and speak with such a leader, that, in many ways, it hurts our position on that issue. Certainly it’s not a legitimate thing to do. So she went, she thought it was “an excellent idea”—I think she called it—and that it was “very productive on the path to peace.” But Vice President Cheney—I think he said—that it was bad behavior on her part, and I would have to agree with that. She is not the one who should be setting foreign policy, and she certainly shouldn’t be going over and talking with leaders of countries that support terrorist groups without the support of our President, our commander-in-chief.
ARONOFF: And how could she assume to speak for Israel? Did she have good relations with the Israeli government? Is she considered pro-Israel?
SCHWEIZER: I don’t know her relation with the Israel government at all. That was not something I explored. But I think the Israeli Prime Minister’s office was certainly surprised by her comments. So I wouldn’t say that they had had discussions at all.
ARONOFF: Another story you write about, one that got quite a bit of coverage at the time, was when she became embroiled in this controversy, when word leaked out that the CIA had used waterboarding on three people during the early part of the war in Afghanistan. When this came out, I guess a couple years ago, she expressed outrage—and then it turned out that she had been briefed at the time, according to Porter Goss, and all that, and, apparently, she knew about it. So was she caught, publicly, in a lie? Tell us about that.
SCHWEIZER: Yes, she was, Roger. And this, to me—this whole episode just shows her blatant hypocrisy, and how it’s always about the means to the end. She had been claiming that this technique, waterboarding, was a “moral blot”—I believe she called it—on the Bush administration and our country. She was very strong on, highly critical of, the administration. Well, it turned out that she had attended a briefing, in 2002, with Porter Goss and a few other members, and they had discussed the methods that were being used. Then, in early 2003, one of her aides had gone to a meeting where, again, this was discussed, that it was being used, and they even showed how it was done, and she found out about the procedure. Well, this went on, and she continued to talk about how horrible these methods were, criticizing the Bush administration—but then, when these documents came out, it was revealed that she had known about it. And, of course, then she, instead of taking ownership for it, she said that the CIA tried to mislead her. This is what Bosses do: You admit to nothing, you deny everything, and you counterattack. She went after the Republicans instead of just taking ownership of it, that she knew about this, and that while she knew about it she continued to blast away at the Bush administration. To me, the whole episode is really—I think it’s one of the reasons why her popularity is as low as it is, that people see, on many issues, she is very hypocritical.
ARONOFF: You point out that when the Democrats won back the House in 2006, Pelosi said—and you quote—“Civility, honesty, and fiscal responsibility”—unquote—would be the hallmarks of the new majority. So my question is, how has that worked out?
SCHWEIZER: I think we can all agree that we’re not being too fiscally responsible today. I think the civility issue—I think that she, in many ways, treated people with less than civility. If we look at the words she used for the commander-in-chief, George Bush, during wartime—she called him “dangerous,” she said he had no judgment, she said he had no experience. She said he was, basically, incompetent. Now I think those are far from civil words. In fact, before she took over, Lesley Stahl, in a 60 Minutes CBS interview, was asking her about that, she said, “Isn’t this the reason we’re having to talk about the whole civility issue to begin with—the words, the language you’ve used towards President Bush?” And Pelosi really, basically, said, “Well, that’s Bush’s problem.” Let’s also look at the whole town hall protestor episode that took place during the health care reform. Pelosi did not want anybody speaking out, and her colleagues found it harder and harder to go to these town hall meetings, because people were upset—rightly so—that the government was going to take control of their health care. Her colleagues were calling people “political terrorists,” and I believe it was John Dingell that said we hadn’t seen things like this “since the Ku Klux Klan.” So I think it’s been less than civil. But the problem is, liberals can’t win on ideas, so they have to demonize, and they have to go after people. They can’t win the argument, so they have to change the subject. I would say that this has not been a civil time. I don’t think we’ve grown in civility toward one another—we’ve certainly seen that in the House of Representatives!
ARONOFF: How does she treat party disloyalty?
SCHWEIZER: Loyalty, just in general, is of utmost importance to Nancy Pelosi. She really, I don’t think, believes this whole “bipartisan” thing really exists. I believe I reported that in the book. You also need to be loyal to her within the party. Let’s look at John Dingell, longest-serving member of Congress. Back during the Whip race, he supported—this is in 2001—he supported Steny Hoyer, not Nancy Pelosi. Well, when John Dingell found himself in the primary race in Michigan after that, Nancy Pelosi dispatched a $10,000 check from her massive war chest to Dingell’s opponent. I write in the book, “That was the shot heard around the Democratic world.” Because loyalty is of a premium: You don’t cross her, and you are loyal at all times. If not, she will make sure that you are dealt with.
ARONOFF: How do you see the media role in helping to promote the Democratic agenda? In other words, the mainstream media, MSNBC, do you see—you talked about how the media are largely ignoring your book here, but do you see when they’re pushing issues like the agenda of the Democrats on education, the environment, taxes—how do you see their involvement, between the media and the Democratic party?
SCHWEIZER: What I see is—let’s look early on, when we were passing health care, we were passing cap-and-trade, and all of this. They were very supportive of it. They thought it was a great idea. They talked about all the things, the great things that were going to happen. Now, we’re not doing as much. They make a lot of excuses. They report the good things that are happening. And instead of looking more closely at the issues, what they often do, Roger, in turn, is they look at the Republicans, and they go after Republicans more on a personal level. Again, the media does a lot of what the Democrats do: They can’t win the argument, so they change the subject. They hailed all the glorious things these programs are going to do, and now that they’re obviously not doing that—the economy is not improving, unemployment is not dropping, and these Democrats are in trouble, instead of looking at the fallacy of some of this, and the fact that a lot of American people don’t want this, they’re willing to, I would say, be cohorts, and go after the Republicans, and look at the Republicans in as negative a light as they can. “What will this look like if the Republicans take over? We’re going to go back to the days of George Bush!” Just a lot of the demonization that the liberals do.
ARONOFF: We’re going to wrap it up. Do you have any final thoughts? Anything that I should have asked you that I didn’t? Any final point you would like to make about your book, She’s the Boss: The Disturbing Truth About Nancy Pelosi? Tell people where they can find the book, how they can buy it, and any final thoughts you might have.
SCHWEIZER: I appreciate your support for the book. It’s on Amazon. It should be—I’ve heard it’s in major bookstores, displayed, which is wonderful. My final thought is, I think conservatives, overall, should be encouraged. I think we’ve looked at the overreaching, possibly, of the Left on issues, and I think the elections will show the result of that, and that is that once the Republicans’—or conservatives’—message is heard, it’s a message that sells. And, again, the Left has to demonize, and change the subject, instead of really addressing the point. So people, I think, should be encouraged.
ARONOFF: Our guest today has been Rochelle Schweizer. Her book is She’s the Boss: The Disturbing Truth About Nancy Pelosi. Thank you so much, Rochelle, for being with us today. Good luck with your book. We will be back next week with another edition of Take AIM. So long! So long, Rochelle!
SCHWEIZER: Thank you for having me, Roger.