In an exclusive and wide-ranging interview with The Fiscal Times late Wednesday, former New York Governor George Pataki made his strongest suggestion yet that he may jump into the race for the GOP Presidential nomination.
Saying that he has “not as yet heard one of the Republican candidates outline a strong, comprehensive approach” to dealing with America’s debt crisis, the 65-year-old, former three-term governor said he hopes a candidate with a serious deficit-reduction plan and the ability to defeat President Obama steps forward to fill the void. “If not, I’ll certainly feel compelled to take a look,” he said.
For the last several weeks Pataki has acted a lot like a potential candidate, raising his profile through a group he formed in April, No American Debt. He’s traveled to New Hampshire, Iowa, and Washington, D.C., meeting with supporters, holding fund-raisers, and sharing his anti-debt message in forums of all kinds. “We are engaging in generational theft, stealing from our children so that we can live beyond our means. That’s not the America I grew up in, and that’s not the America that I think the American people expect,” Pataki said on Wednesday. “It’s not what we should be getting from the failed political leadership in Washington. We deserve better…and I’m going to do everything in my power to make sure that we do have better.”
In Henniker, New Hampshire, last month, he told a town hall meeting: “Every one of you owes $46,000 to the federal government. …This year under President Obama, the government will incur a $1.65 trillion deficit…. We have a $14.3 trillion debt. What do we have to show for it? Do we have brand new highways, airports? No, we have President Obama borrowing to reward special interest groups today. And it has to stop.”
If Pataki were to join the growing field of Republican contenders, he would be the fourth candidate with experience as chief executive of a state to do so. Former Governors Mitt Romney of Massachusetts, Jon Huntsman of Utah, and Tim Pawlenty of Minnesota are already in. Former Governor Sarah Palin of Alaska would make five. And current Texas Governor Rick Perry would make six.
Q: You've been in Iowa talking about America's national debt this week--do you feel that the other GOP candidates are making enough noise about the debt crisis?
A: I think the American people understand that this is, if not the most important issue, then one of the two most important issues facing the future of our country. If we don't stop these massive deficits and begin taking significant measures to reduce the debt, the future of our children and of this country is going to be greatly diminished from what we experienced. I think the American people understand that.”
Q: Are there any candidates that come close to adequately addressing this issue?
A: Not at this point. I'm still hopeful, but I think all the Republican candidates understand the importance of this issue. And I think any one of them would be better than the record of this President, who not only has incurred record debt, but then after appointing a bipartisan commission [led by Erskine Bowles and Alan Simpson] with great fanfare just essentially threw [its] report in the garbage…I thought it was a very strong proposal.
Q: Is there anything that would push you into the race?
A: Well I'm not running now, but I think we do need someone who has both a serious deficit- reduction program that they can outline and a good chance of defeating President Obama come next fall. So hopefully a candidate will emerge from the GOP field that does that, someone I could feel strongly about and support. I'm disappointed that Mitch Daniels didn't run because had he run, I think he would have made this an issue, and he certainly has the track record in Indiana of success to point to, but I hope someone fills that void. And if not, I'll certainly feel compelled to take a look
Q: Do you have any sort of timeline or date that you're looking at for making a decision?
A: No, not at this time.
Q: What was strong about the Deficit Commission’s report?
A: It was a comprehensive $4 trillion step to reduce the deficit. It included taking on entitlements, reducing the size of the federal workforce, which is absolutely essential, and by the way, it lowered the corporate tax rate from 35% to 22% and it lowered the marginal tax rate for small business owners and individuals from 36% to 23%. At the same time, it had a trillion dollars in revenue measures to reduce the deficit. We need to take multi-trillion-dollar action preferably this year and not wait until 2013, and we need to do it in a way that reduces the size and cost of the federal government while empowering the private sector and particular small businesses and entrepreneurs to grow the economy to create the jobs we need. I don't think there's any plan out there that I can agree with 100%. But I think it was an excellent start.