This weekend I was granted the opportunity to interview George Pataki, former governor of New York and 2016 GOP presidential contender.
It was the first time I had the chance to interview a presidential candidate, and for that, I am extremely grateful.
Here it is:
Me: Charleston, Chattanooga and now Lafayette. These are cities that have recently fallen victim to senseless violence. As president, how would you lead a nation that is experiencing moral and cultural bankruptcy?
Pataki: First let’s start at the top—with a leader that tries to bring us together an protect us from Islamic radicalism. In Charleston, it was a case of outright racism. We have to denounce it no matter who it is that says it.
Chattanooga was an act of Islamic jihad and we need an administration that will call it by its name. It’s not just Chattanogga, but it almost happened in Garland.
Finally, Lafayette. Here is someone who was clearly mentally ill. It wasn’t the gun. It was the shooter. And we have to have provisions that allow us to protect us from those who are mentally ill and are a threat to not only others but to themselves. When I was governor of New York, we passed legislation allowing us to do that.
2. Me: You mentioned New York. You’re very familiar with dark days. You’ve governed during one of the darkest eras—-Sept 11. 2001. If elected president, what skills would you bring to combat terrorism?
Pataki: You’re absolutely right. I saw the consequences of radical Islam firsthand. It was barbaric and evil and I’ll never forget the lessons of that day, which I fear many Americans have. That is quite simply that radical Islam, even if it appears to be on the other side of the world, poses a threat to our safety here in America and everywhere and we cannot allow ISIS to continue to grow to recruit Westerners, to hack into our computer systems, to use social media to encourage radical jihad against our fellow Americans. But if we have to send in special operations to destroy their training camps, to destroy their operations centers, I would do that. Attack them there, kill them there before they have the opportunity to kill us here. Not to spend a decade creating a democracy where one hasn’t existed or nation building, but to protect our security. I think that is absolutely essential.
3.) Me: Critics of the Iran Deal says that it emboldens Iran and weakens our allies in the Middle East. Do you see this as a sign of weakness? Are we forgetting the lessons of 9/11?
Pataki: I think it’s the US either forgetting or ignoring the lessons of 9/11. Because what we have done is created a clear path where Iran, the number one state sponsor of terrorism, has a clear path to a nuclear weapon. In addition to that, will be allowed to build ballistic missiles that could impact the US and gets hundreds of millions of dollars in economic relief. It is immoral to me to give hundreds of millions of dollars to a country knowing a significant amount of it will be used to kill innocent civilians, such as Syria, where they are supporting Assad, who has used chemical weapons to kill his own citizens. And that is not just terrorism, but a crime against humanity. And this deal just helps Iran do more of that.
4.) Me: I’m going to move off of foreign policy. It’s no secret that the GOP needs to perform better when it comes to minority engagement. How would you help your party bridge the divide?
Pataki: What I did as Governor was reach out to minority communities, independent communities, conservatives democrats—-not by changing philosophy, but by pointing out how important conservative principles were for everybody, particularly minorities. It was the minorities who were victims, primarily by the fact that liberals had made New York state the most dangerous state in America. And when we were making people safe, it wasn’t effecting someone that lived on Saks Fifth Avenue or the ones taking a limo to work, it was helping the ones who lived in low-income neighborhoods and took the Subway home at night, who were often minorities. When you create choice in schools and prevent children form being trapped in schools where the teachers can’t teach, and by doing charter schools and giving parents a choice outside the monopoly choice, that impacts almost directly minority kids who are trapped too often in those failing schools.
5.) Me: Jeb Bush is facing scrutiny among some conservative voters because of his stance on Common Core. Can Common Core be effective on a state level and can one support Common Core and school choice?
Pataki: I find Common Core to be very troubling and I don’t believe we should be supporting it at any rate. Whether it’s Obamacare, which tries to impose one-size-fits-all healthcare on all Americans and should be repealed, or Common Core, which has Washington playing a major role in education across the country, I think the decision should be left to the state and local governments as much as possible. I don’t believe Common Core is a model for the federal government or the state government. I think we should leave education, as it’s always been, as close to the people as possible.
6. Me: Immigration is a hot-button issue today and there isn’t a concrete way to fix it. How would you promote legal immigration without coming across as someone willing to deport all the illegal immigrants in the US today?
Pataki: I think there is a solution. First, we have to close the borders. We have to make sure the borders are secure and people come here legally and that will open the door to legal immigration. Second, when there are illegal immigrants who have committed a crime in America, they should be arrested or deported in a way where we know they can’t come back or they need to be jail. Third, there should be no sanctuary cities in America. The federal law is not a law that applies in some parts. It is for the whole country. I would take away all funding from cities that call themselves “sanctuary cities” and refuse to follow federal law. But with the immigrants who are already here illegally, there are two false models: One is that we are going to put 11 million on buses and send them somewhere. That’s not going to work. The second is that they’re here and so, ok, we forgive you. We have to respect the rule of law. Our freedoms, our rights, or safety depends on people respecting the rule of law here in America. So what I would do is for those who have come here illegally and been here for 5 years—-would make them come forward, make sure they have not violated the law or been dependent on government, make sure they acknowledge having broken the law and if they do it again, they’ll be instantaneously deported, and them commit to do 200 hours of community service. It would have to be approved—they’ll have to work in a park, firehouse, school, hospital…and at that point, they’ll be able to become legal residents, not citizens, but residents entitled to stay and work. It’s not amnesty, it’s not encouraging others to work. It upholds the rule of law.
7. Me: After the revelation of the controversial video depicting Planned Parenthood executives discussing the selling of aborted fetuses, should they be denied federal funding?
Pataki: Yes, I do. I don’t see any proper purpose in the government funding Planned Parenthood. They’ve always made the argument about the safety of the woman, and clearly those videos show that that was not the case. I don’t see why taxpayer dollars should be used to fund this. I would oppose funding Planned Parenthood.
8.) New York isn’t the Bible Beltway and it doesn’t consist of a huge demographic of social conservatives like Iowa or South Carolina. How can you make your message appeal to not only the GOP base, but to moderates, Independents and to Democrats?
Pataki: Well that’s exactly what I had to do in NY state. In NY state, there are 3 million more registered Democrats than Republicans. At the end, I was able to get a plurality of Latinos. I was able to attract more than a million Democrats to cross party lines to vote for me. This is what we have to do as a nation, not just to win an election, but also to govern successfully. We have to understand that we are all Americans, and that for whatever superficial difference might seem to divide us. We have a common future. We have a common destiny. If we could stop trying to gain political advantage by pitting one group against another and stand shoulder to shoulder to solve the problems facing this country, the 21st century will be the greatest century and we will be proud of America and optimistic of our future.
9.) Me: If you did not win the nomination for the GOP but had a chance to pick any Cabinet position, which one would you choose?
Pataki: I am not interested in a Cabinet position. When I was Governor, Pres Bush was kind enough to talk to me about that possibility. Having been executive of one of the largest states in America for 12 years and being in the hot seat making the decisions, I really hope I have the opportunity to do it again for my country. I know I cannot just win the election, but I can dramatically change the direction of Washington. It’s not simply managing Washington, it’s changing it. I did that with a very liberal government in the deepest blue state in the America. We are going to continue to fight the good fight and hopefully have the opportunity.
10.) Me: Yankees or Mets?
Pataki: (chuckles) I’m a Yankees and a Jets fan. Being a Jets fan is like being a Republican in New York…you get used to not winning, but fortunately I won every time.