Governor George Pataki, speaking to Floridians, looks to remain "part of the national dialogue"

January 25th, 2007

Pataki touts record in Naples speech
By Katy Bishop

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Former New York Gov. George Pataki addressed a crowd of about 900 Southwest Floridians on Monday night, speaking about the structure and nature of American government, the character of the American people and calling for positive public policy and bipartisan action.

Pataki, who was the first speaker in the 24th annual Naples/Fort Myers Town Hall lecture, started by speaking about American exceptionalism, and told the crowd that he believes in the greatness of America even more now than he did when he was a college student studying history.

America is unique because its government originated as a government for the people by the people, and those people are optimistic, pragmatic and united, Pataki said to the crowd at the Naples Grande Resort and Club.

“After Sept. 11, everyone was united like I have never seen in my lifetime,” said Pataki, who was New York's governor at the time. “…We were united understanding that when our freedom is attacked we will do anything we can to defeat those who attack it.”

But by the elections on Nov. 7, politicians, especially Republicans, had lost that unity, Pataki said.

Instead of advancing a positive agenda, the Republican Party tried to gain support by appealing to distinct groups and to their party base. Everyone knew what the Republicans were against ? government spending, tax increases, abortion, immigration ? but no one knew what they supported, Pataki said.

“So as we look to the State of the Union address (Monday) I hope the president sticks to the principles of our party … but I hope he does it in a way that reaches across party lines,” Pataki said.

During his 12 years as New York's governor, Pataki advanced a “unifying agenda” for the state, and so was able to govern effectively, he said.

He cited his $140 billion in tax cuts, the creation of more than 700,000 jobs, the reduction of the state's welfare enrollment and the transition from a state budget deficit when he entered office to a $2 billion surplus when he left in January as proof of his success.

Earlier in the evening, Pataki refrained from answering “yes” or “no” when asked whether he would run for president in 2008.

“It's certainly something you have to think about,” he said. “… I do want to be a part of the national dialogue.”

And when asked about the candidacy of New York's Sen. Hillary Clinton, Pataki said that the Republicans need to be careful not to underestimate her, but that Americans are “tired of the polarization that has characterized Washington.”

Pataki called national security and the fight against the global insurgency “the definitive issue of our time,” and also went on to speak about health care, which he called “the No. 1 domestic issue,” and America's “horrendous overreliance on foreign oil.”

He also addressed those topics in his speech, and called for the United States to define victory in the Iraq war.

Soldiers in Iraq are fighting two wars, a war against global jihadists and a war against sectarian violence that threatens Baghdad, Pataki said.

“To me, victory must mean that al-Qaida and the global jihadists have no … safe haven from which they can plan another attack on America, … but in Iraq victory has to be the burden of the Iraqi government and leadership itself,” Pataki said.

Earlier in the evening, Pataki suggested two steps to start to solve the United States' immigration problems. First, he emphasized the need to restore public confidence in immigration by ensuring that the borders are safe and secure. Only then should the government find a way to deal with the people who are already here illegally.

“The American people have every right to believe that we protect our borders and we know that people are coming here legally and not coming here illegally with perhaps suspect motives,” he said.

He does not support amnesty for undocumented immigrants, because it was tried 20 years ago and failed, Pataki said.

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