By Bob Gaydos
So George Pataki is thinking about running for president. So what’s new?
The former New York governor has flirted with making a presidential run a couple of times in the past, only to bow to the inevitable arguments against him: much of the country doesn’t know who he is, other candidates have raised a lot more money than he could hope to raise and, oh yeah, he is a traditional Republican from the Northeast, with traditional Republican values, in a party that not only doesn’t share those values anymore, it has become downright hostile to anyone who holds them and claims to be a Republican.
They even came up with an acronym for such Republicans: RINOs. That stands for Republicans in Name Only. Pataki ranked 6th among RINOs in a recent listing, not encouraging in an era when RINOs are a threatened species outside of the North. Today, the Republican Party is dominated by dinosaurs, which as any schoolchild knows, were put on this planet by God to provide food for Adam and Eve. Just ask Rick Perry.
Perry is the current governor of Texas, which gives him more current name recognition than Pataki. Texas’ ranking dead last among states in adults with a high school diploma gives Perry further cache with the people calling the shots today in the GOP -- the ladies who come to tea.
That would be Michele Bachmann, congresswoman from Minnesota and Sarah Palin, former governor of Alaska, former Republican vice presidential candidate, current barnstorming media star and, still, potential presidential candidate. The two women have captured the heart and mind of the Republican Party, such as they are. In the process they have made regard for the facts and respect for science and history irrelevant within party ranks by playing shamelessly to the fears and resentments of many of their constituents.
They have frightened grownups out of the party -- or at least out of decision-making roles -- and, bolstered by shameless media exploitation by Fox News and other outlets, made the Republican Party home to nay-sayers, whiners, quasi-patriots, demagogues and hundreds of elected officials who have sacrificed their principles -- their souls -- to appease the loud rabble so they won’t come after them. This is today’s version of the late Lee Atwater’s GOP Big Tent: It’s a lot smaller and you need to pass a loyalty test to get in.
In sum, it is not Pataki’s party’s finest hour. Which prompts me to offer a modest proposal: If he really wants to run for president, why not run as a Democrat?
Yes, he spouts the traditional Republican line about no taxes and less government, but he was governor for 12 years and he knows the truth. Executives find ways to raise revenue, whatever they may call it, and they recognize that compromise at some point becomes necessary to, well, govern.
Neither principle is accepted philosophy in today’s GOP. It’s not because the longtime office holders in Congress and elsewhere don’t recognize their validity, but rather because they have been scared off by the tea partiers, some of whom seem to think they are living in Egypt or Libya and need to overthrow a government that has brutalized them.
Pataki, who has been touring the country under the auspices of a non-profit group he formed -- No American Debt -- says he hasn’t heard any of the many Republican candidates “offer specific solutions” to getting rid of the national debt and the deficit. Quite true. Nay-sayers can only say nay. They do not offer solutions. (A lot of Americans have apparently caught on to this tendency of the tea partiers and blame them and Republicans they hang out with in Congress more for the recent debt fiasco than they do Democrats.)
But Pataki’s problems with Republicans is social, not financial. He is a pro-choice, pro-gun control, pro-union, pro-government involvement, pro gay rights, pro-environment kind of guy. In other words, a Democrat, insofar as conservative Republicans -- which is redundant, if you ask me -- are concerned.
If he’s really serious and not just lonely for attention like Rudy Giuliani seemed to be in the last GOP presidential primary chase, Pataki should consider challenging President Barack Obama for the Democratic nomination and hope to gain the support of more conservative Democratic Party members and the thousands of independents looking for someone with moderate political views and a healthy does of leadership capability.
That may or may not be Pataki, who certainly can‘t match Obama in the charisma or oratorical competitions. But Perry and Bachmann rely a great deal on personal charm for their success as well. Yes, they are vulnerable on the “That’s Just Flat Out Not True” scale, but the only Republican who tried to go there against Bachmann -- former Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty -- dropped out of the race after doing poorly in a hoked-up straw poll in Iowa. He and Pataki are about equal on the charisma scale.
In short, there is no evidence as yet that Republicans are ready and willing to listen to -- and support -- candidates who do not live in an alternative universe, one where government never taxes anyone but the middle class and RINOs are fair game for anyone with a gun, which, by law, of course, is everyone.