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Pelosi hopes new book is more popular than Congress

Times Staff Writer

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, leading a Congress whose approval ratings have descended to historic lows, has begun a two-week cross-country campaign to promote a memoir on her ascent to the highest position in the House of Representatives.

The San Francisco Democrat’s first book -- “Know Your Power: A Message to America’s Daughters” -- barely addresses her party’s struggles to confront the war in Iraq, the energy crisis and the stagnating U.S. economy.

Instead, Pelosi has charted her journey from homemaker to the first female speaker of the House in an upbeat account her publisher classifies as a self-help book, inspired by conversations with women around the country.

Pelosi, who has already taped interviews with national radio and television programs, plans to sign books in Los Angeles on Aug. 11 as part of the tour, which includes stops in New York, Miami and San Francisco.

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A spokesman for Pelosi said there were no political considerations in the timing of the book’s release, but the tour comes as she contends with her own declining popularity and increasing public disgust with Congress.

In a Gallup Poll conducted this month, just 14% of Americans said they approved of the way Congress was doing its job, the lowest rating in the 34 years Gallup has been asking the question. Most remarkably, Democrats now give Congress lower marks than do Republicans, the poll found.

Pelosi, whose job approval rating topped 50% when she took the speaker’s gavel 18 months ago, has seen her approval ratings cut in half, according to some surveys.

Promoting her book this week on Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show,” Pelosi said she sympathized with the disgruntled electorate.

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“The Congress of the United States has always been an institution that has been mockable,” she said before noting that Democrats still fare better than Republicans.

In her 174-page memoir, Pelosi takes swipes at President Bush, who has thwarted many of her legislative initiatives over the last year and a half.

She recalls warning Bush, shortly after the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, that America needed to recognize that Arabs across the Middle East would be watching closely. “President Bush looked impatient,” Pelosi writes. “ ‘We don’t have any problem with the Arab elites and the Arab street,’ he said. ‘It’s the French. They have poisoned the well against us, and I’ll never forget that.’

“That is the warped perspective of the President of the United States,” she concludes.

The White House declined to comment on Pelosi’s book Tuesday.

Though she takes on the White House, the speaker does not delve into her battles with congressional Republicans or with her Democratic rivals, and she avoids topics that most voters have indicated they disdain.

For example, Pelosi does not discuss her fierce struggle with Rep. Steny H. Hoyer of Maryland, now the House majority leader, for leadership of the Democratic caucus or her efforts to rein in Democratic committee chairmen after the party took control of the House last year.

Nor does she offer any details about her controversial, and ultimately unsuccessful, push last year to force Bush to begin withdrawing troops from Iraq, perhaps the signature issue of her speakership.

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Pelosi provides hints of her leadership style only in one instance: her 2005 confrontation with Bush over his proposal to create private retirement accounts in place of the Social Security system.

At the time, some Democrats suggested that the party come up with an alternative platform. But she and her allies chose another strategy.

“First, you must take down the ratings of your opposition,” Pelosi writes. “Second, you must differentiate yourselves from them.

“And third, only when the time is right do you present your platform.”

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noam.levey@latimes.com


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