|(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.
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
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
"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
"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
"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