Earlier today on MSNBC, House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi said that she had "long thought" that Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld's "judgment has been impaired," a day after Rumsfeld compared critics of the Bush Administration's war in Iraq to Nazi-era "appeasers."
"I have long thought that the Secretary of Defense's judgment has been impaired," Rep. Pelosi told MSNBC's Norah O'Donnell. "Two and a half years ago, I called for his resignation."
Pelosi called on President Bush to publicly denounce Rumsfeld's statements.
"He speaks for the administration, so I can only assume that his words are the words of the president," said Pelosi. " If they are not, it behooves the president of the United States to reject this characterization of political debate in our country."
Pelosi also released a statement earlier today which called Rumsfeld's comments a "pathetic" attempt to divert attention from his failings on the war in Iraq.
"Secretary Rumsfeld's efforts to smear critics of the Bush Administration's Iraq policy are a pathetic attempt to shift the public's attention from his repeated failure to manage the conduct of the war competently," said Pelosi in a press release received by RAW STORY.
Excerpts from MSNBC interview with Pelosi:
DONALD RUMSFELD (secretary of Defense): (From videotape.) I recount that history because once again we face similar challenges in efforts to confront the rising threat of a new type of fascism. With the growing lethality and the increasing availability of weapons, can we truly afford to believe that somehow, some way, vicious extremists can be appeased?
MS. O'DONNELL: Congresswoman Pelosi, you have heard the secretary of Defense. He is now saying that critics of this administration are essentially like Nazi-era appeasers.
REP. PELOSI: I have long thought that the secretary of Defense's judgment has been impaired. Two and a half years ago, I called for his resignation.
He speaks for the administration, so I can only assume that his words are the words of the president.
If they are not, it behooves the president of the United States to reject this characterization of political debate in our country.
The secretary referencing World War II is interesting. We have now been in Europe -- we have now been in Iraq longer than we were in Europe for World War II. So for the secretary to talk about moral -- for him to talk about moral clarity, when Abu Ghraib happened on his watch and destroyed our moral credibility in the world, is interesting as well.
MS. O'DONNELL: You have called the Iraq war a "grotesque mistake." And what Secretary Rumsfeld said yesterday is that those types of comments essentially are helping the enemy; that the media over there takes those comments and portrays them, and those embolden terrorists.
REP. PELOSI: What the secretary must be forgetting is that what emboldens the enemy is sending our troops into the line of fire without the equipment they need to protect themselves and to get the job done. What emboldens the enemy is sending them there without the military intelligence to get the job done. What emboldens the enemy is our lack of knowledge of the ground truth, or maybe we're in denial of what is actually happening there.
Democrats are deadly serious about providing for the common defense. In order to do so, you must know your enemy. Clearly, the Bush administration did not when it went into Iraq.
MS. O'DONNELL: The secretary --
REP. PELOSI: In order to protect the American people, you have to know your power. And we are diminishing that power by this war in Iraq, which is the wrong war. It is not the war on terror. It is the wrong war. We should have stayed in Afghanistan longer and a fuller force to get the job done there.
MS. O'DONNELL: As the Democratic Leader in the House, however, I'm sure that you saw the comments of Secretary Rumsfeld, and the previous day's comments by Vice President Cheney where he accused critics of, quote, unquote, "self-defeating pessimism." We've heard Karl Rove also say that Democrats are "obstacles" to national security.
The president is expected to address to the American Legion on Thursday. And we're hearing from the White House that essentially this is a series of speeches that will kick off this third round of a defense of the Iraq war, just as, of course, we're getting read to commemorate the five-year anniversary of 9/11, and we're just 10 weeks away from the November elections.
Do you see now what the Republican strategy is to defeat the Democrats in November, and how do the Democrats plan to respond to that?
REP. PELOSI: Well, it's not a question of responding to it, it's assuming our responsibility to protect the American people. Let's take a measure of the failures of the Bush administration in this regard. Don't take it from me, the 9/11 commission has given the government D's and F's in providing for homeland security. Independent analyses have said that the war in Iraq is weakening our national security, our military strength to protect America against threats to our national security, wherever they may appear.
Five years after 9/11, our first responders in most parts of the country -- police, fire and emergency services people do not have the equipment they need to communicate in real time.
Ports are not secure, borders are not secure. The administration has a lot to answer for. But what do they do? A good -- the best defense is a good offense.
But we will not be (swift-boated ?) by them. We again call for a military second to none to protect the American people, diplomatic alliances to maintain the peace, to stop terrorism, to stop the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. This administration has hampered our ability to do that by losing the credibility we have lost in the world because of the war in Iraq.
MS. O'DONNELL: Congresswoman, if one could characterize what is the Democratic message in the November elections, I think it would be that you are arguing that there should be change in Iraq. The Democratic leadership has said that there needs to be a timetable when it comes to Iraq.
But The Washington Post has reported that in the most competitive congressional races out there in the country, a majority of the candidates don't agree with you and the leadership, and they are not calling for such a timetable in Iraq.
So once again, is it true that the Democratic party is divided?
REP. PELOSI: No, we haven't called for a timetable.
MS. O'DONNELL: Is it true that --
REP. PELOSI: No, let me be clear, Norah, about that.
What we have called for -- Senator Reid and I and the leadership of the appropriate committees of jurisdiction of national security have said to the president, we believe that what he is doing in Iraq is not making our country safer, is not making our military stronger and is not making the world more stable.
So what we're saying to him is beginning -- beginning -- no later than December 2006, we must begin a responsible redeployment. It doesn't say when it ends. It says beginning then. And there is unity in the Democratic party on that.
We're also telling him that he's got to have dialogue with the Iraqi leadership so that they disarm the militia and that they amend their constitution to reduce the civil strife in their country, and we join them -- if the president would provide the leadership -- in reaching out to countries in the region for diplomatic alliances to help bring stability to the region and reconstruction to Iraq.
War votes have never been won that have been dictated to members. In fact, we don't dictate anything. But candidates across the country will represent their own districts in how they express themselves on the war.
MS. O'DONNELL: And, Congresswoman, quickly, can I ask you, are you confident that you will be able to have and hold a no-confidence vote on Secretary Rumsfeld when Congress returns in the coming weeks?
REP. PELOSI: The only no-confidence vote that matters is the vote of confidence that George W. Bush has in Secretary Rumsfeld. That's what's important. And if the president wants to associate himself with the intemperate words, the ineffective action and the failure of leadership of Secretary Rumsfeld, that's up to him. But he's the only vote that counts.
MS. O'DONNELL: And finally, Congresswoman, I have to ask you -- I read about, of course, that profile of you in Time magazine, which -- of course, the headline was a quote from you which says, "Anybody knows not to mess with me."
REP. PELOSI: (Laughs.)
MS. O'DONNELL: You're tough. What does that mean?
REP. PELOSI: Well, it means I have five children and five grandchildren and I'm very concerned about protecting our country, about making our economy stronger and fairer, about a new direction the Democrats want to take our country to make the country safer, to make our economy fairer, to educate our children, to provide access to health care, to have dignified retirement and to move us toward energy independence, which is a national security issue as well.
So with the agenda and the unity of the Democrats around that agenda, I'm single-focused on presenting that new direction; hopefully, winning the elections so that we can respond to the concerns of the American people, who say that the country is going in the wrong direction. Democrats are proposing a new direction. That's my focus.
MS. O'ODONNELL: Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic leader in the House of Representatives, thank you very much for your time from New Orleans --
REP. PELOSI: Thank you, Norah.
MS. O'DONNELL: -- and also your comments on Secretary Rumsfeld. We greatly appreciate it