George Pataki makes presidential run official

Campaign 2016
by Kent Covington
Posted 5/28/15, 02:35 pm

Former three-term New York Gov. George Pataki is running for the Republican Party nomination for president. He made it official Thursday morning, telling a crowd in Exeter, N.H., that he is running to protect American freedoms from a government that has grown too big and too powerful.

Pataki may be one of the more moderate candidates in the GOP field, but his opening stump speech sounded a conservative rallying cry.

“Washington politicians and bureaucrats believe they know better than us and can tell us how to live our lives, from what healthcare they must have to trying to dictate to every child in every school what they must learn,” Pataki said.  

He talked of repealing Obamacare and promised to shrink the federal government, beginning with those hired to administer the president’s healthcare law.

Pataki also referenced the IRS political targeting scandal, vowing to fire any IRS employee “abusing government power to discriminate on the basis of politics or religion.”

He pledged to reform what he has called a “corrupt” tax code and “replace it with simpler, lower rates that are fair for all of us.” But he stopped short of calling for the flat tax or “fair tax” reforms endorsed by many of his Republican rivals.

The governor decried politicians cashing in on their public service, calling for a lifetime ban on lawmakers ever becoming lobbyists in Washington.

He also threw a few jabs at Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton for the fortune she has amassed through her career in politics. Pataki said middle-class Americans are the backbone of this country, “unless by middle class they mean someone who left the White House dead broke and 10 years later had a hundred million dollars.” That referenced a claim Clinton made in an interview last year, telling ABC’s Diane Sawyer that when her husband, former president Bill Clinton, left office, they were “dead broke.”

Pataki’s shots at Clinton are in keeping with a developing theme among Republican White House hopefuls. In 2012, GOP nominee Mitt Romney was portrayed by Democrats as the candidate of big business, too rich and out of touch to relate to or care about everyday Americans. Republicans now appear ready to flip the script should Democrats pick Clinton, one of the wealthiest candidates in the 2016 race, as their nominee.

On national defense, Pataki stuck a hawkish tone. He said if necessary, he would use American ground forces in the Middle East to “defeat and destroy ISIS,” although he said he was not interested in “nation-building.”

Missing from his speech was any mention of social issues, such as abortion and marriage. That was not surprising in light of his words in a TV commercial produced by the super PAC We the People, Not Washington. The 30-second ad, which aired last month in New Hampshire, featured Pataki citing the need to fight terror, reduce government, and grow the economy.

“These are the issues that matter most,” Pataki said, adding that “Instead we're debating social issues like abortion and gay rights. They are a distraction.”

Pataki, 69, was elected governor of New York in 1994, when he scored an upset victory over another three-term governor, Democrat Mario Cuomo. This is Pataki’s first presidential campaign, though he has flirted with the idea of a White House bid on more than one occasion.