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Wilson Says He'd Like to Run for President

Politics: The governor, the kickoff speaker at the California Issues Forum at the Nixon library, addresses his post-term plans, education and leadership.


YORBA LINDA — Gov. Pete Wilson said Friday that he would like to run for president in 2000 but hasn't given it much thought beyond that.

The governor, who is serving his final term, said he has been so busy with the ending session of the Legislature that he hasn't decided yet what he's going to say next weekend when he addresses the state Republican Party convention in Anaheim.

"I just kissed the Legislature goodbye fondly last week, and they left me about 700 mementos," he said of bills piled on his desk awaiting his signature or veto within 30 days.

Wilson was the kick-off speaker Friday for the 1998 California Issues Forum at the Richard Nixon Library & Birthplace. His 25-minute speech touched on education and the evils of teachers' unions to a group of 400 listeners, many of them high-school students invited for the morning event.

As expected with the friendly crowd, one of the first questions he responded to was whether he will be a future candidate for president. Wilson ran for a matter of weeks in 1996 before unexpected complications from throat surgery left him, literally, speechless.


"Campaigning for president when you're voiceless and speechless for three months has novelty value, but I wouldn't recommend it," Wilson said. "I would like to be [a candidate in 2000], but that remains to be seen. My wife tells me I have a very low threshold for pleasure."

Wilson said he intends to be very active in the 1998 gubernatorial campaign of Atty. Gen. Dan Lungren but hedged when asked for which statewide initiatives he will campaign.

Wilson focused on well-trod issues: an end to race-based quotas and preferences, welfare reform, statewide student testing, class-size reduction, charter schools and school choice.

He also revisited another common theme begun during his short-lived presidential campaign: criticizing the national leadership of President Bill Clinton. At one point, he took a shot at the character of Vice President Al Gore, the presumed Democratic nominee for president in 2000.

"Too often these days, it seems we've entrusted high public office to leaders not of distinguishing character, but of distinguishing characteristics who assert that the absence of controlling legal authority is an excuse for their own lack of moral authority," Wilson said.

It was a reference to Gore's contention that he was unaware of any legal authority that would have made illegal the dozens of fund-raising calls he made from the White House on behalf of the Democratic National Committee. Atty. Gen. Janet Reno is reviewing whether to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate the calls, which violated federal law.

Wilson said leadership means tackling openly divisive issues without flinching, despite being accused of exploiting so-called "wedge issues."


"American independence was a wedge issue," he said. "Slavery was a wedge issue. Women's suffrage. The Civil Rights Act of 1964; all were wedge issues. At the heart of each was manifest injustice. Evidently, those who condemn what they call 'wedge-issue politics' would prefer leaders who would turn a blind eye, leaders who fail to use their national standing as a means of achieving national purpose."

Rep. Christopher Cox (R-Newport Beach) will be the library's next Issues Forum speaker on Oct. 4. On Oct. 14, state GOP Chairman Michael Schroeder will debate state Democratic Party Chairman Art Torres. State Treasurer Matt Fong, a candidate for U.S. Senate, will be featured Nov. 4.

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