Bush Meets Newly Powerful Pelosi at White House President Bush welcomes Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) to the White House for lunch, just two days after the Democrats she represents won a majority of seats in the House of Representatives. Bush and Pelosi pledged to find common ground in a turned-upside-down Washington.
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Bush Meets Newly Powerful Pelosi at White House

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Bush Meets Newly Powerful Pelosi at White House

Bush Meets Newly Powerful Pelosi at White House

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ALEX CHADWICK, host:

From the studios of NPR West, this is DAY TO DAY. I'm Alex Chadwick in Washington, actually.

MADELEINE BRAND, host:

And I'm Madeleine Brand in Los Angeles.

Coming up: Does losing Congress mean political adviser Karl Rove is losing his touch?

CHADWICK: First, sure she called him incompetent, dangerous, and an emperor with no clothes but, at the White House today, Democratic Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi might better ask President Bush to pass the salt. The two leaders are having lunch.

BRAND: After the Democratic win on Tuesday, the Congresswoman called for Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld to step down and for the president to set a new course in Iraq. Here is the president in the Rose Garden this morning talking about meeting with Ms. Pelosi.

President GEORGE W. BUSH: We'll discuss the way forward for our country. And I'm going to tell them what I just told our Cabinet. It is our responsibility to put the elections behind us, and work together on the great issues facing America.

CHADWICK: And NPR White House correspondent Don Gonyea joins us now.

Don, we'll get to the president's meeting with Nancy Pelosi in a moment. First, what about Don Rumsfeld? He still is the secretary of defense for the time being, I guess. Was he at this Cabinet meeting today?

DON GONYEA: He was absent from this Cabinet meeting. And we are told - we're not told. You know, we're actually hearing it as we speak. He had a prior commitment. He is delivering the annual prestigious Landon Lecture in Manhattan, Kansas at Kansas State University.

Perhaps it's convenient that he wasn't there, lest he become the focus of all of all of the attention at this Cabinet meeting. But he kind of is, anyway by being the empty chair in the Cabinet room.

CHADWICK: Wow. Okay. Well, the White House had originally scheduled press availability in the Cabinet room after this meeting. Now they've switched it to the Rose Garden. Why is that, Don? What is this message here?

GONYEA: Right, you know, and the usual drill is, people who've seen it in photos and on television 1000 times, the long Cabinet table. Maybe Secretary Rumsfeld to the president's right. Vice President Cheney to his left. All the other Cabinet officials are right there with the boom microphones hanging around. I think there was a sense on the part of the White House that they needed a better picture than that.

And Alex, here's where I prompt you, or you say unprompted, that you're shocked, shocked to hear that - that there's stagecraft underway at the White House. But think about it; they come out there in the Rose Garden. It's a very, you know, proper dignified stately place. There's the president standing at the microphone. There behind him are all of the Cabinet members kind of standing, you know, ramrod straight. It sends a message: We're still the guys in control here. We still have an agenda. This is still the White House and the presidency.

CHADWICK: How about the message with the Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi. You know, I quoted some of her remarks a little earlier. She and Mr. Bush, they have not had kind things to say about each other. How about this little lunch?

GONYEA: Well, I think it will be a very pleasant, cordial affair. They'll break bread. They both want this to get off on the right foot. Even though the White House stresses that the president, while he's ready to compromise, while he's ready to work on important issues, that he is not going to compromise his basic principles.

Now, this talk - that immigration reform, the minimum wage - these are the kind of things, incremental. You know, things where they'll be able to make some initial early progress. But the first thing the president talked about today in this Rose Garden event was that terrorist surveillance program, domestic spying. They don't use that term. So he seemed to be sending a message there. We'll see how it goes.

CHADWICK: NPR White House correspondent Don Gonyea.

Don, thank you again.

GONYEA: Always a pleasure.

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