This year’s Annual New York Conservative Party Dinner (its 46th) was dedicated to the memory of the father of modern conservatism and Party co-founder William F. Buckley Jr.
Speakers reminded the audience the impact Buckley had on revitalizing the Conservative movement and the importance of his 1965 New York City mayoral candidacy. A fifteen minute film depicted Buckley at his best. And the noted artist, Constance Maltese (wife of former Party chairman, State Senator Serphin Maltese) presented to National Review editor, Richard Lowry, a striking portrait of Buckley. The program was a fitting tribute.
The lamentable event – a speech by George Pataki.
In his remarks, the former governor, painted himself as the greatest conservative since Edmund Burke. Pataki claimed that on fiscal and cultural issues, he brought the Empire State to new heights. He even claimed he saved lives of unborn babies.
It appears Pataki took this page from the Bill Clinton handbook: over time, people forget one’s apostasies and accept glowing revisionism.
Well, this writer’s memory is not that short.
During his tenure as governor, George Pataki’s political expediency overwhelmed any political philosophy and “political conscience” and “political ideals” were mere slogans used to patronize conservatives.
On almost every conceivable issue Pataki attempted to please every left-wing interest group.
Here are some headlines the Pataki years generated:
- It’s Pataki, Sounding Like Cuomo; Drug Wars, Cont.: The Liberals’ Unlikely Ally (New York Times, February 5, 1995)
- Gov Where Mario Left Off; Liberal Makeover Shocks Observers (New York Post, December 26, 1999)
- Governor Pataki’s Lean to the Left (New York Times, June 6, 2001)
- Leftward Lean OK for Pataki (New York Daily News, June 27, 2001)
- How George Pataki Became a Liberal (The New Republic, June 17, 2002)
- A Governor’s Race for the Left Leaning (Buffalo News, October 10, 2002)
- Mario Pataki? (New York Post, December 20, 2002)
Fiscally: Pataki’s irresponsible spending habits were worse than Cuomo’s. Spending ÷ by inflation during the Cuomo years was 1.89 times; for Pataki’s 2.12 times. When Pataki left office in 2006, New York had the highest combined state and local taxes in the country.
The New York Post summed up Pataki’s fiscal stewardship this way: “George Pataki continues to present himself as a conservative Republican. The numbers tell a different tale about his fiscal stewardship of New York State. And it’s not a pretty story.”
Culturally: Pataki approved gay-rights, bias crime bills, restricted the medical insurance “conscience clause” for religious institutions, increased gun regulations and repudiated term limits. As for abortion, William F. Buckley Jr. said it best about the pro-choice governor – who called for the national Republicans to drop their pro-life platform plank – at the New York Conservative Party’s 40th Anniversary Dinner: “The only abortion law Governor Pataki would oppose would be one that threatened the rights of gays and lesbians.”
There was a sigh of relief throughout the state when Pataki announced on July 27, 2005 that he would not seek a fourth gubernatorial term. Here’s a few of the reactions:
The New York Post: “[H]is administration developed an air of cronyism, complete with contracts handed out to politically connected bidders, that has been breathtaking even by Albany’s terminally cynical standards.”
The New York Sun: “Still one looks in vain to discern any principle or idea that Mr. Pataki stands for consistently. It’s not fiscal restraint…. What’s left as a legacy is patronage appointments and a reputation for Mr. Pataki as the leader of a state government where lobbyists like Alfonse D’Amato are the ones with the real power. It’s a sad end of the line for the governor who once showed so much promise.”
The New York Observer: “The Pataki Administration is leaving office by paying off its friends and rewarding its donors. George Pataki has found a way to create a legacy of laziness, mediocrity and pervasive neglect of the public interest, while creating a culture in which ethical corruption has become an acceptable way of life.”
Pataki’s insouciant leadership and his administration’s mismanagement, arrogance, incompetence and corruption debased New York, crippled the Republican Party and damaged the Conservative Party.
Readers who want an accurate take on the Pataki Administration should crack open my book Squandered Opportunities: New York’s Pataki Years.