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March 8, 1999 - March 21, 1999
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N.J. Gov. Whitman
Speaks on Republican Future

 

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By Matt Berger
U-Wire (D.C. Bureau)
Published Mar. 8, 1999

 

(U-WIRE) WASHINGTON -- New Jersey Gov. Christine Todd Whitman (R) urged the nation to look to the states for leadership Wednesday, saying state leaders managed real issues last year while Congress and the White House battled over the recent scandal.

"But while life in Washington came to a standstill, life went on around the country," Whitman told a National Press Club audience. "That's because innovative governors and legislatures were attending to the people's business."

As challengers begin to emerge for the 2000 presidential race, the nation may take Whitman's advice and look toward governors for the national ticket.

Whitman said numerous governors across the country -- mostly Republicans like herself -- made life better for their states' residents in the past few years. She included on her list Texas' George W. Bush and New York's George Pataki, two governors rumored to be presidential contenders in 2000. And Whitman herself is a name frequently whispered as a vice presidential candidate.

Whitman praised Bush, considered by many to be the front-runner for the Republican nomination, for his work in clearing red tape so faith-based groups can address social problems. She said Pataki, who is considered a long shot to run for national office, has contributed to a reduce crime rate in New York.

As for her own political ambitions, Whitman said she can "never say never," but downplayed reports she is interested in running for vice president. She seemed more focused on a possible run for a New Jersey Senate seat next year.

"I will think about that long and hard, and in terms of what is in the best interest of the state of New Jersey," Whitman said.

Whitman was harsh on Washington leaders, both in the opposition party and her own, for their actions during the impeachment of President Clinton.

"Republicans emerged with a popular image rivaling that of the Kathy Bates character in Stephen King's Misery -- a perception that we are all mean-spirited, vindictive and obsessed," she said.

She said Republicans were obviously hurt by the process, as two Congressional leaders, Newt Gingrich and Bob Livingston, lost their jobs.

"Democrats survived, and in some ways flourished," Whitman said. "They improved their numbers in the House. Some were even perceived as rising above the scandal."

She also attacked feminists for standing behind Clinton.

"Those who spoke out forcefully against Clarence Thomas and Bob Packwookd were nearly silent on Bill Clinton, even as the president's legal team attacked his female accusers with the worst kind of character assassinations," Whitman said.

"I fear that this silence sends the message that if you do good things for women as a group, it doesn't matter how you treat women as individuals," she said.

Whitman said the scandal's worst effect might be on young people, who will vote for their first presidential election next year with images of the scandal fresh in their mind.

"This is a new generation with a very different set of life experiences," she said. " And one of the freshest things on their minds will be the White House scandal and the impeachment process -- not exactly the most inspiring introduction to American government and politics."

Whitman said the nation's governors are able to see the change they are making because of their proximity to the people they serve, and their experience as executive leaders will be worthwhile in the White House.

"We understand that businesses need government that stimulates, not suffocates," she said. "We understand that puts law-abiding families first. And, perhaps most important, we know that government doesn't always know best."

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