For the first time, a woman will become Speaker of the House, second in line of succession to the presidency. That woman is Rep. Nancy Pelosi. She's 66 years old and has represented San Francisco in California's Eighth Congressional District for almost 20 years. But she never ran for office until her five children were grown. She also has five grandkids, with a sixth one on the way.
CBS Evening News anchor Katie Couric spoke to her this afternoon, and asked for her reaction to Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld's resignation.
Pelosi: I think it's good news. It signals maybe a change in attitude on the part of the president. The president is the policy maker, the Secretary of Defense is the implementer, and whatever you ever think of the policy, everyone agrees that the implementation of that policy has been a failure.
Couric: Do you think this is the first step to the eventual withdrawal or reduction of U.S. troops in Iraq?
Pelosi:: I certainly hope so, because our presence there is not making America safer. It's not bringing stability to the region, and we certainly are not honoring our commitment to the troops.
Couric: You have a long list of priorities for your new job. But first, you'll have to overcome the fact that you and the President have both said some pretty nasty things about each other.
Pelosi: I never called the President a liar, that I never did. I said it's time for the president to tell the truth to the American people. I think that much of the truth has been withheld from the American people.
Couric: But you have called him dangerous and incompetent, right?
Pelosi: That's right. Well, if you take a look at the implementation of the policy in Iraq, if you look at Katrina, if you look at the rest, I think there was a lack of judgment in how we proceeded in both cases. Now, the election is over, the campaign is over, Democrats are ready to lead. We're prepared to govern, and we look forward to working in a bipartisan way with the president and the Republicans in Congress.
Couric:: What are you anxious to get going on in a bipartisan way?
Pelosi: I think we do have to address the issue of immigration. It's a challenge in our country. People want answers, and there is bipartisan comprehensive reform that we can do working together that I think the President would support. We shall see when we bring them up. Raising the minimum wage — even the President said today that might be an area that we can come to agreement.
Couric: The Republicans used two "T" words — terror and taxes — to tell people the kind of alternative they would get if they voted the Democrats into power. Are you going to raise taxes?
Pelosi: Raising taxes would be a last resort. There are plenty of things in this budget that we could remove and substitute better things for. For example, we could roll back the subsidies for big oil and use that money for investment in alternative energy. Investing in education brings more money to the public treasury than any tax incentive you can name, so we can find other ways to support better priorities without heaping mountains of debt. We want to actually have tax cuts for the middle-income families in our country.
Couric: A lot has been made of the fact that you — if elected, and it appears that you will be — that you will be the first woman Speaker of the House and the highest-ranking woman in the U.S. government. What does that mean to you?
Pelosi: It's pretty exciting, I have to say. I'm just so excited that a Democrat will be Speaker of the House.
Couric: So you're a Democrat first and a woman second?
Pelosi: Well, in terms of the politics, in terms of the change it will make for the American people, yes. But as a woman, I'm very, very thrilled because I carry a special responsibility. I've broken the "marble ceiling." This Congress is steeped in tradition and history, and it's very hard for a woman to succeed to the level that I have, and I think it sends a message to all women that if this can happen, anything can happen.