Former New York Gov. George Pataki, who this week became the eighth Republican to seek the party’s nomination for president, told Fusion’s Jorge Ramos on Friday that there’s no doubt in his mind he can beat Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton in a general election matchup.
“I know I can beat Hillary Clinton,” Pataki told Ramos in an interview. “When I ran as governor, I didn’t just appeal to the Republican base. Yes, I did, and they came out in droves. But I appealed to independents, to moderates, to Democrats. And by the way, with the Latino community, I carried the Latino community. … I won it as a Republican.”
In the interview with Ramos, Pataki stressed his experience — he is a former three-term governor of New York — as a factor that separates him from the rest of an increasingly crowded Republican field. He also cited the fact that he had won three elections as a Republican in a reliably blue state.
He also took a firm position on a question on which other Republicans have so far waffled: Pataki said if he were president, he would not have invaded Iraq in 2003.
“Knowing what we do now, I would not have,” Pataki told Ramos. “It was clearly something — the consequences of that have now resulted in ISIS being in control of significant parts of Iraq.”
Pataki, who was New York’s governor in the midst of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, said the right strategy would have been to target members of al-Qaeda and other terror groups in Afghanistan.
“I had no doubt we had to go after those that attacked us,” Pataki said. “But they were in Afghanistan. It was al-Qaeda. It wasn’t Iraq. So knowing what we know now, I would not have made that decision.”
But when Ramos asked Pataki if he thought the U.S. had “lost” the war in Iraq, Pataki criticized President Barack Obama for pulling out U.S. troops in the country by the end of 2011. He also took a shot at Clinton, who was secretary of state at the time, referring to the decision to pull out troops as one done by the “Obama-Clinton administration.”
“When we left, we created a void. ISIS has filled that void,” Pataki said.
Pataki also criticized Obama’s executive actions on immigration as the wrong solution toward reforming the nation’s immigration laws. But he staked out a more moderate position among the Republican field with respect to immigration reform, suggesting he would support some kind of legal status for undocumented immigrants currently in the U.S.
“It’s not a question of what you want to do. It’s what you can do,” Pataki said. “I think we do have to have an approach that provides the ability for those here illegally to legalize their status when they’ve obeyed the law, contributed to America. We’re not going to put 11 million people on buses and send them back. But I don’t think the way the president did it was right.”