As we mentioned earlier, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie was the featured guest and speaker at the Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California this evening. When he strode onstage before a packed house, one overpowering question hung in the air: Is he going to run after all? Based solely on the nature of the speech he delivered, the answer could easily have been "yes." Christie served up a stinging critique of President Obama, unsparingly castigating the president's lack of leadership, unproductive class warfare, and partisan divisiveness. Tantalizingly, Christie offered his leadership philosophy and record of accomplishment in the Garden State as an illustrative contrast with the president's failures. A full transcript of his prepared remarks is available HERE. Video of the Governor's excellent address is below, followed by excerpts from a few key passages I've identified:
On his own executive leadership in the face of bitterly divided government in Trenton:
Leadership and compromise is the only way you can balance two budgets with over $13 billion in deficits without raising taxes while protecting core services. Leadership and compromise is the only way you reform New Jersey’s pension and health benefits system that was collectively $121 billion underfunded.
Leadership and compromise is the only way you cap the highest property taxes in the nation and cap the interest arbitration awards of some of the most powerful public sector unions in the nation at no greater than a 2% increase. In New Jersey we have done this, and more, because the Executive Branch has not sat by and waited for others to go first to suggest solutions to our state’s most difficult problems.
On Obama's failed leadership in Washington:
In Washington, on the other hand, we have watched as we drift from conflict to conflict, with little or no resolution. We watch a president who once talked about the courage of his convictions, but still has yet to find the courage to lead. We watch a Congress at war with itself because they are unwilling to leave campaign style politics at the Capitol’s door. The result is a debt ceiling limitation debate that made our democracy appear as if we could no longer effectively govern ourselves.
And still we continue to wait and hope that our president will finally stop being a bystander in the Oval Office. We hope that he will shake off the paralysis that has made it impossible for him to take on the really big things that are obvious to all Americans and to a watching and anxious world community.
Yes, we hope. Because each and every time the president lets a moment to act pass him by, his failure is our failure too. The failure to stand up for the bipartisan debt solutions of the Simpson Bowles Commission, a report the president asked for himself…the failure to act on the country’s crushing unemployment…the failure to act on ever expanding and rapidly eroding entitlement programs…the failure to discern pork barrel spending from real infrastructure investment.
On what President
Christie Reagan's basic blueprint would be in tackling today's challenges:
If Ronald Reagan faced today’s challenges we know what he would do. He would face our domestic problems directly, with leadership and without political calculation. We would take an honest and tough approach to solving our long-term debt and deficit problem through reforming our entitlement programs and our tax code. We would confront our unemployment crisis by giving certainty to business about our tax and regulatory future. We would unleash American entrepreneurship through long-term tax reform, not short-term tax gimmickry.
And we would reform our K-12 education system by applying free market reform principles to education—rewarding outstanding teachers; demanding accountability from everyone in the system; increasing competition through choice and charters; and making the American free public education system once again the envy of the world.
On Obama's cynical politics of division:
In 2004, Illinois State Senator Barack Obama gave us a window into his vision for American leadership. He said, “Now even as we speak, there are those who are preparing to divide us — the spin masters, the negative ad peddlers who embrace the politics of ‘anything goes.’ Well, I say to them tonight, there is not a liberal America and a conservative America — there is the United States of America. There is not a Black America and a White America and Latino America and Asian America — there’s the United States of America.”
Now, seven years later, President Obama prepares to divide our nation to achieve re-election. This is not a leadership style, this is a re-election strategy. Telling those who are scared and struggling that the only way their lives can get better is to diminish the success of others. Trying to cynically convince those who are suffering that the American economic pie is no longer a growing one that can provide more prosperity for all who work hard. Insisting that we must tax and take and demonize those who have already achieved the American Dream. That may turn out to be a good re-election strategy for President Obama, but is a demoralizing message for America. What happened to State Senator Obama? When did he decide to become one of the “dividers” he spoke of so eloquently in 2004? There is, of course, a different choice.
There is, indeed. During the brief Q&A, one woman in the audience desperately -- and do mean desperately -- begged Christie to offer himself as that different choice next year. The audience signaled its agreement with a prolonged ovation. Pay close attention to Christie's response:
I kid you not: As Christie wrapped up, quite a few politicos and media types were excitedly tweeting that he'd "left the door open" by omitting an explicit, comprehensive denial from his answers. I didn't get that vibe at all. In fact, he directed the first questioner to a video montage produced by Politico, chronicling his many proclamations over the last year or so that he was not interested, prepared, or ready to seek the presidency. Where's the wiggle room? Is the following clip really not convincing enough for some people?
Immediate answer to my last question (from the very people who produced the video he referenced in his latest denial): Nope.