For now at least, George Pataki is taking the high road on Carl Paladino.
At a forum hosted by the Wall Street Journal this morning, Pataki played the dutiful Republican, insisting he might throw his support behind the party’s surprise nominee, even as his successors Eliot Spitzer and David Paterson declared Paladino unfit for office.
“I expect that I will,” Pataki said of backing. “It’s not about who I support based on personality, it’s based on policy.”
An hour later, during the question and answer session, a mystified questioner asked whether Pataki–who backed Rick Lazio during the primary–had heard what Paladino said about him.
“Are you aware of the fact that Carl Paladino called you an idiot today? ‘Degenerate idiot‘ is the quote that I read in the newspaper on my way here,” he said.
“I’m not aware of that,” Pataki said with an awkward laugh. “I haven’t seen that quote. Very simply, it’s not about me. It’s about the future of this state, that’s what this forum is about.
“Obviously I’m not pleased he called me that, and we’ve heard some other comments about his inflammatory rhetoric. But ultimately it’s about who would be the best governor for the state of New York, and I’m prepared to listen to his agenda. And if, in fact, he has the agenda, and expresses it in a way that turns anger into policies that I think will make this a better state, then I’d certainly be inclined to support him, despite what he may have called me.”
The forum was, ostensibly, about the state’s future, but with two former governors and the current lame-duck all together on the stage, there were plenty of questions about the past too, including one from moderator Michael Howard Saul about Spitzer’s comments–made during his inaugural address–that the state had been mired in a Rip Van Winkle-like slumber during Pataki’s twelve-year tenure.
Spitzer stood by the remark.
“I think the historical record establishes it was, in fact, the case,” he said. “This was not meant as a criticism of Governor Pataki, who was not only my colleague but my client. As I say, he was always a very good client when I was attorney general.”
Pataki, again, took the high road.
“There’s a lot I could say,” he deadpanned, before calling the charge “completely wrong.”