Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Whitman Blasts Gop Candidates

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Whitman Blasts Gop Candidates

Article excerpt

Former New Jersey Gov. Christie Whitman, a social moderate who used her time on the national stage during the 1990s to urge fellow Republicans to resist a takeover by ideological zealots, is so disgusted by the rhetoric from her party's presidential candidates this year that she believes the best thing may be for the Republicans to "go down to flaming defeat."

"It would be entertaining if it weren't so serious," Whitman said in an interview. "Part of me wants to say, 'Let's take the most conservative candidate we can get, let's go down to flaming defeat and then maybe people will figure out that people are really in the middle.' "

Whitman also denounced the way Republicans in Congress have dealt with President Obama's Affordable Care Act, said it was "idiotic" to allow people on terror watch lists to buy guns and argued that well- funded groups on the political extremes make elected officials fear working with political opponents to solve problems.

Whitman, who left the State House with one year to go in her second term to lead the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency under President George W. Bush, wrote a book just over a decade ago titled, "It's My Party Too," which pleaded for more respect for Republican moderates.

Instead, she thinks, the party has veered even further toward its most conservative elements.

And she has decided to speak out about her concerns.

In addition to the interview last week with The Record, she published an opinion piece on Politico on Wednesday that singled out Republican front-runner Donald Trump for a scathing rebuke, comparing him to "some of the worst dictators in history."

"Trump especially is employing the kind of hateful rhetoric and exploiting the insecurities of this nation, in much the same way that allowed Hitler and Mussolini to rise to power in the lead-up to World War II," she wrote.

In the interview, she did not rate the rest of the campaign field but acknowledged she has had her differences with Governor Christie, who is waging an aggressive campaign, focused on New Hampshire, to break into the top tier of GOP candidates. Where Whitman has testified before Congress about the need to address climate change, for example, Christie has challenged the need for government action.

Whitman said Christie has assumed a harsher tone lately, a departure from his boasts, when he entered the race, about his ability to compromise with Democrats.

"Chris Christie, he's being pushed to the right in order to get the nomination and in order to get any attention with Trump saying what he's saying," Whitman said.

After she was nominated by Bush to run the EPA, Whitman said she was advised not to use the word "compromise" when she met senators who were weighing her confirmation.

"Because the other person, whoever hears it, figures they've lost something," Whitman said. …

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