This is a partial transcript from "Your World with Neil Cavuto", March 24, 2004, that was edited for clarity.
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NEIL CAVUTO, HOST: You know, a lot of Wall Street eyes this guy: former terrorism honcho Richard Clarke (search), under the gun at those 9/11 Commission (search) hearings Wednesday. Republicans might be dumping on him, but not Democrats. And certainly not House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, who told me in an exclusive interview today, she believes Clarke and trusts Clarke.
REP. NANCY PELOSI, D-CALIF., MINORITY LEADER: As one who served 10 years on the Intelligence Committee, and still serves ex-officio as leader, I know Richard Clarke to be a consummate professional, a person who cares greatly about our national security, a no-nonsense person. And I think that if he makes a statement of the seriousness that he has made, then we should heed what he has to say. After all is said and done, we just want to prevent another tragedy from happening in our country or to our interests, anyone, anywhere in the world.
CAVUTO: Do you feel, Congresswoman, that there is enough blame to go around, that there were mistakes made in the Clinton administration, mistakes maybe made in this administration, that these commission hearings are effectively a moot point?
PELOSI: No. I think it was very important for us to have the commission hearing. I was the first person to introduce the idea of a 9/11 Commission. I was defeated on the floor here, because the White House didn't want the commission. But we worked together with the Senate and got it in our intelligence authorizations bill of a couple years ago.
This is a very, very important investigation. But what is most important about it is that we prevent the clear and present danger of terrorism from haunting our country. So I'm more interested in what we did post-9/11 than pre, although that is very important, too.
CAVUTO: But you don't feel that in a week we had Hamas saying that the U.S. is now a target, that we are so focused on the rearview mirror that we are not looking at the clear and present danger in front of us?
PELOSI: Well, this is what I would fault the Bush administration on. Post- 9/11, the clear and present danger was terrorism, we know that. Instead of getting the job completely done in Afghanistan, where the Al Qaeda was harbored and had sanctuary, we went there, and then looked for another target before the job was done there.
CAVUTO: But the government was overthrown there. The Taliban was overthrown there. It's not as if they just left and didn't do anything, right?
PELOSI: No, but we didn't finish the job. The Taliban were overthrown. We didn't catch usage bin Laden, we did not catch Mullah Omar.
The Taliban is acting up again. The Al Qaeda is acting up again there. We over-stretched our intelligence by going into another theatre for war; we overextended our military capacity.
We are asking a great deal to have them go in and fight blindly without the appropriate intelligence to protect them. As a long-time intelligence committee person, force protection is our highest priority, to protect our troops wherever they are fighting or wherever they are. And I don't think we served them well, both with equipment and with intelligence, to fight in Iraq.
CAVUTO: But you support our troops presently there?
PELOSI: And I visited them, I've expressed...
CAVUTO: So you don't think any of that sends mixed signals to those troops?
PELOSI: No. I think our troops need us to support them, to honor them for their sacrifice, for their patriotism, for the courage that they have. But we honor them best by giving them the equipment that they need, and giving them the intelligence that they need to do their jobs effectively.
CAVUTO: But the reason why I mention it, ma'am, is it does send mixed signals, does it not, to question the veracity of the war in Iraq when they are fighting that war and they hear from back home this split view that some think we are wasting our time in Iraq?
PELOSI: It is not a question of wasting time. We are there; we have to finish the job in Iraq, whatever one may have thought about going in. But it's absolutely certain that we don't support the troops if we don't give them the intelligence and the equipment that they need to come back safely and whenever the job is finished.
So once the decision was made to go in, we are one team, one fight. But that doesn't mean overexposing our troops instead of giving them what they need. When we had our jointed inquiry, the House and Senate inquiry into what happened on 9/11, Richard Clarke made a presentation very similar to what he is making this week.
PELOSI: I have not read his book, but seeing what he is saying on TV, and as it is reported in the media, if that is accurate, is similar, he made that presentation with a lot less fanfare and a lot less attention. But he made that same presentation. What he is saying now is not new. I'd also say that in that same...
CAVUTO: Well, there is some discrepancy on that, whether he is saying some new things. For example, those who knew him, said he never raised these kinds of hackles and alarms back then. But you argue...
PELOSI: I'm saying the 9/11 Commission joint inquiry. He's on the same line of thought that he is now.
CAVUTO: I see.
PELOSI: I'm not saying that he didn't give us a book worth, because he didn't have that time.
CAVUTO: Right. So you don't think he's just selling books here?
PELOSI: No, not at all. This is a serious national security person.
The administration from day one came in talking about Iraq. I thought they were doing a disservice, quite frankly, to the families. We wanted to know how 9/11 came about and how future 9/11s can be averted. And instead, they had this Iraq agenda that they presented.
But I'll tell you this, Neil, all we want is the truth, wherever that takes us. And I don't think that we should have obstacles to getting the information that we need. Nor...
CAVUTO: So you could handle the truth, Congresswoman, if it is said effectively that the Clinton administration botched getting the guy when they had the chance.
PELOSI: Absolutely. Wherever it lies.
PELOSI: Wherever it lies.
CAVUTO: Let me switch gears, if you don't mind, ma'am. I talked to Governor Schwarzenegger last week, and one of the issues he raised with me that's very big in your state right now is this whole gay marriage issue. He had effectively said -- and I hope I'm paraphrasing him correctly, Congresswoman -- that if the people of California feel one way on the issue he'll defer to the will of the people of California.
There has been some disappointment expressed on the part of the gay community, if you will accept that term on, with you. That they don't know clearly your position on this. What is it?
PELOSI: My position on this is that I'm completely committed to defeating President Bush's constitutional amendment. I think it is a desecration of the Constitution.
CAVUTO: What about gay marriage itself?
PELOSI: Well, my goal is to defeat that resolution. I don't want to get myself involved in too many other issues, but my constituents know where I stand on this issue.
CAVUTO: Which is where? How do you stand on this issue?
PELOSI: I don't believe in discrimination of any kind.
CAVUTO: Can same-sex couples marry?
CAVUTO: Should they marry?
PELOSI: And I don't think they should be discriminated in the Constitution. And my goal is to defeat that resolution. And I'm not going to be sidetracked by any other questions about ethics.
CAVUTO: So what the mayor of San Francisco is doing, you would approve of it?
CAVUTO: And any efforts to overturn that, you would not approve of it?
PELOSI: Well, my focus, as I said -- and I want to be very clear about it -- I'm not taking my eye off the ball. And I'm not going to be diverted into other conversations, is to use my leadership to defeat a desecration of the Constitution that the president is putting in there to diminish freedom in our country, and to enshrine discrimination in the Constitution.
CAVUTO: All right. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi.
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