Pataki Heads to Iowa to Slam Obama's First 100 Days

Fmr. New York Gov.'s Iowa speech stokes speculation of 2012 presidential bid.

April 21, 2009, 5:39 PM

April 22, 2009 -- Former Republican New York Gov. George Pataki heads to Iowa Wednesday to deliver a scathing critique of President Obama's first 100 days in office.

"I think it's time that those of us who have been silent for a while stand up and point out what I think have been just some horrendous mistakes on the part of the new administration in Washington," Pataki told ABC News as part of the "Candidate Corner" series. "We're seeing a president who seems to be more concerned with how popular he is in Europe than with what is happening here at home. This is a president who spends more time traveling the country than running the country in Washington.

"To be perfectly honest, I am very disappointed in these first 100 days," he added. "I think we need to see a government in Washington that is more understanding of the nature of this country and our problems and less committed to borrowing, spending, taxing and using massive government bailouts to try to get our economy headed in the right direction."

There is no shortage of Republican critics of Obama, but Pataki's Wednesday speech at Drake University Law School in Des Moines is drawing notice because it is occuring in the state that traditionally hosts the first presidential nominating contest. Pataki's address is part of the American Future Fund's "Conservative Lecture Series."

Is Pataki, who flirted with a presidential bid in 2008, eyeing a White House run in 2012?

"Let's think about 2009 and 2010, and 2012 will take care of itself," said Pataki. "I think it's important that Republicans stage a comeback not just in Washington in the House and Senate but also in the state legislatures and governorships across the country."

Pataki, who served three terms as governor, is currently being courted by Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, the chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, to run in 2010 against Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, the New York Democrat appointed to the seat vacated by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

"It's very nice to understand that some of the national leaders in the Republican Party think I would be a good candidate for the Senate, and when they call on you to take a look at it, you certainly do take a look at it," said Pataki.

He said, however, that it is far too early to commit to such a race.

"Everybody is acting like the election is this November, the election is next November," said Pataki. "When I ran for governor the first time, very few people knew who I was, and I didn't announce I was a candidate for governor until January of that year."

Pataki does not support same-sex marriage, and he criticized Iowa's Supreme Court for striking down a state law that had limited marriage in the state to one man and one woman.

"When it comes to important policy decisions, those decisions should be made by the elected representatives of the people and not by judges who are, in most cases, not elected and, in every case, not accountable to the will of the people," said Pataki.

While being clear about his opposition to gay marriage, Pataki also reiterated his support for legislation "approving and protecting civil rights and equal rights" for gay couples.

"One thing we as Republicans need to be is a far more open party," said Pataki. "I'm hopeful that we can again become a more inclusive party consistent with our profound philosophical belief in limited government and individual responsibility and accountability."

Asked about his support for abortion rights and gun control, two stances popular in New York but more controversial among conservative primary voters nationwide, Pataki said, "My views are my views. I've expressed them a hundred times and it's not like there's any gigantic change that occurs when you leave office."

On the topic of energy, an issue he emphasized as governor, Pataki reiterated his support for reducing greenhouses gases.

"When I was governor, we, in fact, implemented the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, which is the first cap and trade program in the United States and it's in effect now," said Pataki.

Although he backed a cap-and-trade system in the Northeast, Pataki worries that Democrats will go back on their word and use the auctioning of pollution credits to grow the size of government. He thinks any money raised through a cap-and-trade system should be returned to ratepayers facing higher prices on carbon-based sources of power.

"What concerns me is that you can do this in such a way where it becomes a massive scheme to raise hundreds and hundreds of billions of dollars of federal revenue and that should not be the point," said Pataki.

On the topic of health care, Pataki criticized Democratic plans to create a government insurance option while pushing his own market-based plan for improving access.

The six-point plan includes: (1) permitting tax-free savings for health care, (2) allowing individuals who purchase health care for themselves to receive the same tax benefit as those who receive health insurance from their employers, (3) allowing consumers to buy insurance policies across state lines, (4) making health care more portable from job to job, (5) tort reform so as not to "drive doctors" out of practice, and (6) giving small businesses the benefit that comes with buying insurance in a shared risk pool.

Asked if his plan to allow consumers to buy insurance across state lines would undermine protections under New York state law for patients with pre-existing conditions, Pataki called the concern "something to look at."

"I'm not running for anything," said Pataki. "I'm speaking in Iowa, and a lot of these issues are thoughts I have from just sitting on the outside."

Asked about Pataki's plans to criticize Obama's record in a Wednesday speech in Iowa, a spokesman for the Democratic Party slammed the former New York governor.

"Who is George Pataki?" said DNC spokesman Hari Sevugan. "In all seriousness, he'll discover that Iowans aren't all that interested in folks who have nothing to offer but tired, baseless, political attacks. I suggest he try not to read off the 'party of no' talking points and instead offer some new ideas."

ABC News' Ferdous Al-Faruque contributed to this report.

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