Pelosi: Hillary best choice for ‘16

LITTLE ROCK — Hillary Clinton is the best qualified person to run for president in 2016, U.S. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi told an audience here Thursday.

“I pray that Hillary Clinton decides to run for president of the United States,” said Pelosi, D-Calif., to loud applause. “Let’s put aside for a moment the fact that she is a woman. As a person, she will be the most qualified person to enter the White House in modern history.”

No one else can lay claim to having served as a first lady, a U.S. senator and secretary of state, Pelosi said.

If Clinton were president, “think of the message it sends to women and the world: The most powerful figure in the world is a woman, and she also happens to be the best qualified for the job,” she said.

Pelosi spoke at the Robinson Center in downtown Little Rock a day ahead of a scheduled appearance by Bill and Hillary Clinton at a dedication ceremony at Little Rock’s recently renamed Bill and Hillary Clinton National Airport.

Pelosi has broken some glass ceilings herself: As speaker of the House from 2007 to 2011, she was the first, and to date only, woman to hold that position, which makes her the highest-ranking female politician in American history.

During her talk Thursday, which was part of the distinguished lecture series of the University of Arkansas Clinton School of Public Service, she said 80 of the 435 members of the House are women, but the number should be higher.

“If you reduce the role of money in politics and increase the level of civility, you will elect more women,” she said. “Not that women are better than men. The mix is better.”

Pelosi suggested four steps to reducing the role of money in politics, which she labeled by the acronym DARE: D for disclosure, in ads, of the source of campaign donations; A for amending the U.S. Constitution to overturn the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling, which allowed unlimited spending by corporations and unions on elections; R for reforming campaign finance laws to limit contributions; and E for empowering small donors.

“This endless, undisclosed, special-interest money suffocates the airwaves, either during a campaign or during a discussion of a bill,” she said.

Regarding the lack of civility in modern politics, Pelosi said women often say when encouraged to run for office, “I have other options. Why should I put my family through that when I could be doing this, that and the other thing?”

“I say, ‘Because we want people in government and public service who have options. We don’t want people who don’t have options,’” she said. “We have to clear the way to make it a more hospitable environment for women, minorities and young people to say, ‘I’m going to go take that risk.’”