By her own admission, a public perception that the Democrats haven't delivered, especially on the war, has caused disapproval of Congress to hit levels comparable or even lower than those attained by beleaguered President Bush. Although Democrats have sought to chip away at his war policies, she says, the public doesn't care. Critics are demanding, "Just do it," she says, meaning getting American forces out of Iraq.
Not only that failure, Pelosi says, but also the prolonged debate on immigration reform that came up empty, sent a negative message to many voters looking for "something related to their lives" from Congress. The message fed the Republican argument that the new Democratic-controlled Congress is, if not a do-nothing body, at least a do-little one.
The jibe conveniently brushes aside as unvarnished politics the extensive congressional oversight of the Bush administration that has marked the Democratic takeover of Capitol Hill.
Bush's press secretary, Tony Snow, recently chided the Democratic congressional leadership for conducting 600 oversight hearings since taking power in January, asking why the Democrats "aren't doing the people's business." But in light of near-total absence of oversight in the first six years of the administration, the Democratic hearings and investigations have been long overdue.
The Democratic congressional leadership, however, has not done a very effective job so far in trumpeting its early legislative achievements that affect voters in their own lives, except a raise in the minimum hourly wage, throttled throughout the current administration. That is something Pelosi is trying to correct, with appeals to progressive constituencies to help spread positive word about her domestic agenda.
Nothing, however, is likely to put the Democratic-controlled Congress in a substantially better public light until some recognized progress is made in extracting the country from the Iraq morass. The speaker, without optimism, awaits the promised September progress report from Gen. David Petraeus, expressing concern that the administration simply will "kick the can down the road" by calling for more time to pursue the military surge.
Citing the failure of the Iraqi parliament to make progress on internal reconciliation and a continuing civil war, Pelosi says recent "anecdotal evidence" of progress is not going to satisfy the American people, who are looking for the political change in Iraq that military progress is designed to facilitate.
In the meantime, the speaker remains determined not to be diverted from her focus on her domestic agenda by continued calls from other party liberals for drastic punitive action against the administration, such as impeachment of embattled Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, Vice President Dick Cheney and Bush himself.
While indicating no intention of reining in Democratic committee chairmen like Reps. Henry Waxman and John Conyers, who have been leading oversight inquiries into the administration, Pelosi continues to hold, realistically, that seeking impeachments would be too divisive and prey to allegations of overt politics. The Athens Banner-Herald