ABC’s Bill Weir Wistfully Asks: What Happened to Obama’s ‘Day of Unity’ Inauguration?
Good Morning America’s Bill Weir on Saturday interviewed Nancy Pelosi and wistfully responded to the House Speaker’s reminiscing about the "stillness" and "silence" of Barack Obama’s inauguration. He cooed, "What happened to that sense? That was such a day of, of unity. You think it's still there?"
After Pelosi assured the weekend anchor that such solidarity still existed, Weir responded, "Even after the town hall meetings and everything that we’ve been through?" Weir certainly seemed to enjoy the January 20, 2009 inauguration. Reporting for World News that day, he memorably asked if "national pride" can "make a freezing day feel warmer?"
He also said of the event: "...From above, even the seagulls must have been awed by the blanket of humanity." On November 5, 2008, the morning after Obama’s victory, Weir referred to the previous evening as a "transcendent" night of "communal joy."
While interviewing Pelosi on Saturday, he did manage to ask about her leftist policies, but only in relation to how they made the Democrat feel: "When someone refers to you as a San Francisco liberal, how do you take that?"
One of Weir's few challenging moments came when the journalist actually mentioned an awkward press conference at the White House in early October. The GMA host played video of Pelosi seemingly flinching as Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid put his arm around her. Weir queried, "And the two displayed some interesting body language after a recent meeting at the White House. What's your relationship like with him? What was that about?"
A transcript of the October 31 segment, which aired at 7:33am EDT, follows:
BILL WEIR: Well, 16 years ago next month, Hillary Clinton gave a 1,000-page document to Congress, a plan to reform this nation's health care system. Well, it died a slow, political death. And this week, Nancy Pelosi presented a 2,000-page document with the same goal. And whether it survives depends largely on Nancy Pelosi, the most very powerful and often the most polarizing woman in the history of American politics. She has raised hundreds of millions of dollars for Democrats over the years. So, Nancy Pelosi knows how to host a party and work a room.
HOUSE SPEAKER NANCY PELOSI [talking to various people.]: Hi, Jody. Thank you all very much for being here.
WEIR: But, on one of the biggest mornings of her career, the guest list is thin.
PELOSI: Can we have the message go out to caucus on the steps?
WEIR: She leads her fellow Democrats out of the Capitol, to unveil their long-awaited health care bill. But missing from this line, are conservative blue dogs who think it’s too expensive and liberal progressives who want a stronger public option.
PELOSI: We are brought to this historic moment for our nation and our families.
WEIR: The bill is a $1 trillion compromise, but you'd never know it, listening to Madam Speaker, who keeps the smile fixed, even when heckled.
[Shots of hecklers with signs attacking health care bill.]
PELOSI: Thank you, insurance companies of America.
WEIR: If we use childbirth as an analogy, where are we? What trimester are we in?
PELOSI: Let me say this: I'm from Maryland. And I'm always talking about horse racing. We're still rounding the bend. Getting ready to go out on the final stretch.
WEIR: Horse trading might be a better analogy because this building runs on closed door bargaining. Favors earned and spent. She learned a little bit about this, as the only daughter of Tommy D’Alessandro, a five term Congressman and long-time mayor of Baltimore. I’ve read that your father kept, was it a favor file?
WEIR: How did that work?
PELOSI: When I was a little girl, I knew who to tell people to call if f they wanted a bed in city hospital or a home in the city projects or- the list goes on.
WEIR: She married her college sweetheart. They moved to San Francisco. And while he made a fortune in business, she raised five children.
PELOSI: My fifth baby was born the week my oldest child turned six. So, they're very close.
WEIR: You spent the '60s pregnant, right?
PELOSI: Yes. And then the ‘70s doing homework.
WEIR: And then, she raised money. In the mansions of Pacific Heights and Nob Hill. Running the state party until she was asked to run at age 47. Ten wins later, the 69-year-old is two raheartbeats away from the presidency.
CONSERVATIVE AD: The Obama/Pelosi plan would cut Medicare by $500 billion and-
WEIR: And a regular in Republican attack ads. Critics of this reform effort are delighted to call this the Pelosi bill. When someone refers to you as a San Francisco liberal, how do you take that?
PELOSI: I don't pay too much attention to it. I find that one of the reasons they do it to try to get my eye off the ball and answer them.
WEIR: After announcing the bill, she spends the day trying to sell it, to lobbyists in person and on the phone. If it passes the House, she's in for another round of negotiations, with her counterpart in the Senate, Harry Reid. [Video of Reid putting his hand on Pelosi and of her flinching. Weir has a laptop and shows Pelosi.] And the two displayed some interesting body language after a recent meeting at the White House. What's your relationship like with him? What was that about?
PELOSI: Well, I think that- Senator Reid is a great leader in the United States Senate. I was more reacting to what he was saying than his arm on my shoulder. He was saying that we're all going to support whatever the President said about troops to Afghanistan, which, well, remains to be seen.
[Taking a tour.]
WEIR: This is it? This is your modest desk right here?
PELOSI: This is it.
WEIR: This is it.
PELOSI: There you go. This is it. We just do what we do. Get rid of it and bring on new work.
WEIR: Just outside her office, the Speaker's balcony, where President Obama took his oath.
PELOSI: I was right there next to the President and what was interesting, was the stillness. People listened. The silence was palpable. It was just such a thing to hear them.
WEIR: What happened to that sense? That was such a day of, of unity. You think it's still there?
PELOSI: I think it’s still there. Oh, sure.
WEIR: Even after the town hall meetings and everything that we’ve been through?
PELOSI: Oh, sure. The town hall meetings were, really, an orchestration. But it's out there, where people who want to stop progress, exploit and hijack the good concerns of people who have legitimate concerns. On any given day, I’ll have people out here chanting or singing or marching or something.
WEIR: Do they get through to you? Does someone standing there yelling something ever make you think, "I should look at that?"
PELOSI: I kind of know what's coming. I always listen. Always receptive. But usually, when people are showing up there, they've taken a position that is already well-known. Well-known to us.
WEIR: And how long do you intend to hold on to this desk and this view? [Laughs.]
PELOSI: You’re like those that say, what do you want to be your legacy? I'm like, not so fast with the legacy.
WEIR: Okay. I'll take that as check back in a few years. Okay.
PELOSI: There you go. That is really up to the American people, maintaining a Democratic majority and my colleagues.
PELOSI: Their vote of confidence. That's not up to me completely.
WEIR: We, of course, discussed the substance of this health care bill and the lack of a more robust public option for those progressives out there. You can read about that at ABCNews.com.