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Posted at 4:58 PM ET, 02/16/2011

Chris Christie takes D.C. by storm (part 2)

By Jennifer Rubin

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) didn't come to AEI merely to tell war stories. Plainly, he wants to Washington politicians to follow his lead. With regard to our federal fiscal mess, he told the audience, "You can't fix these problems if you don't talk about them." He continued, "In D.C. I'm worried." The president had said that "America is doing the big things," but then Christie listed the items in the State of the Union address: "high speed rail, high speed internet access, 1 million electric cars." He declared, "That is the candy of American politics; they are not the big things." He continued with his critique, "Now what this has become, I read, is a political strategy. Obama is waiting for Republicans to talk about it and House Republicans are waiting for Obama to talk about it."

"The game," he asserted, is "irresponsible and dangerous."

He said that politicians "should be specific." He asked, "What is the truth nobody is talking about?" We "need to raise the social security retirement age," he answered. "Ooh, I said it. And I am standing here. I did not vaporize into the carpet." (Much laughter followed.) He observed, "People say I'm going too fast. They say in the legislature, 'We are a deliberative body.' Well, you need to get your English to Trenton dictionary." To more laughter in the room he explained that when the legislators say, "We need to study the governor's proposal," what that "means in Trenton is 'We are going to drag our feet as long as possible until it dies a natural death.'" He continued, "They call me impatient. They call me other things, too [laughter]." But he argued, "America needs some impatience." (Was he mocking the president, who yesterday chided critics for being "impatient" in their demands for budget cuts?)

Christie rejected the idea that making tough cuts will make politicians unpopular. He told the audience, that he was told that if he made big cuts in popular programs, "Your approval ratings will go in the toilet." He told them, "I'm going to try an experiment. I'm going to start treating the people of New Jersey like adults." And, lo and behold, as he pointed out, after being elected in a three way race with 49 percent of the vote, his approval after 13 months now stands at 54 percent. He said, "That's in a state that is as Democratic a state as any Republican governor will face."

In essence, his speech was about political courage. Politicians, he said, "run the last election this time and they don't look around to see what has changed." By merely treading water, they are hanging "an albatross of irresponsibility" around the necks of taxpayers. He used education to make his point vivid. The state spends $17,000 per pupil, the highest in the country. He cautions, "More money isn't going to solve this problem." He was candid that he wants to "separate the teachers from the union" and make sure there is room for good teachers. He said that currently "we have built a system . . . that cares more about the feelings of adults than the future of children" He cracked, "Tell me where else is there a profession with no reward for excellence and no penalty for failure?" He answered: weathermen and teachers. But, he argued, "America is built on rewarding excellence and having consequences for failure."

Christie obviously relishes a fight on principles against the unions or other naysayers of his fiscal discipline crusade. He said, "I'm not disagreeing for the sake of disagreeing, and I'm not fighting for the sake of fighting. I'm fighting now because now is the time that matters most for New Jersey and America." And in a mild tweak at Republicans, he asserted that "American exceptionalism has to include the courage to do the right thing."

He said all politicians have "two choices, either stand up and do the right thing... or join the long parade of leaders who have come before us and failed. I did not run for this job for failure. I ran for this job for success." He continued, "It seems to me that what America is all about is a group of people who came from all over the world who wanted an opportunity for greatness." The World War ll generation, he said, was called the "greatest generation." He explained, "We judged them in the aftermath and we found them to be great by any objective measure." He advised, "We will be judged too by our children and grandchildren . . . Believe me, we'll be judged." And he concluded with a phrase now associated with his persona (and appearance): "It is time for us to get to work and find our greatness again. It is time to do big things, the really big things."

It's not hard to see why conservatives are entranced by him. But, candidly, so were many of the cynical reporters in the room. They are used to hearing so much spin that they, too, you could observe, were amused and enthralled by someone so blunt and so expert at the showmanship that is essential to achieve greatness as a politician.

He also knows how to choose his targets. In the Q&A after his remarks, he was asked about the president's budget and his assertion that under his budget we would see the point at which expenditures would not exceed revenues. Christie began by saying he hadn't studied the budget proposal. But then he was off and running. "Here's what I'm concerned about," he said. "There is not a mention of entitlements" in the budget. He said that after the Arizona tragedy and inspiring presidential speech, he thought Obama "had momentum." Going into the State of the Union, Christie thought: "He's going to cement reelection and make the tough calls." But then he went 40 minutes before any talk of cutting spending. The first 40 minutes were about investments." And then he showed his deft touch. "Now who's going to say 'I don't like high speed internet. I think it should go slower!'?" But his message to the president was a gentle one, "He has time to fix it, and I hope he does." He said, "Unlike some others, I'm not looking for the president to fail." (A dig at talk show hosts, perhaps?) He explained, "We get one president at a time." With a touch of false modesty, he concluded that "in the end all I can do is speak out, express my disappointment and lead by example."

The 2012 Republican presidential contenders are lucky. If Christie had decided to throw his hat in the ring, there is no doubt in my mind that he'd soar to the top of the pack. Certainly, he does possess the ingredients for a successful conservative -- good humored, fearless, patriotic, plain-spoken and devoted to fiscal sobriety. The Republicans had better find someone who can come close to that package of traits, or they'll be looking at a second Obama term.

By Jennifer Rubin  | February 16, 2011; 4:58 PM ET
Categories:  2012 campaign  
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Comments

Right on Chris! You go tell 'em. "American exceptionalism has to include the courage to do the right thing."

Yup you said it. And don't forget to tell your buddies in the pentagon and the mil-ind complex that you are going to cut down on their $800 hammers and $500 toilet seats.

Posted by: yard80197 | February 16, 2011 7:42 PM | Report abuse

Christie is reminding us who the "real customer" is, and who we should be listening to: Example:
Government works for the Taxpayers;
Teachers/Schools work for Students/Parents;
Businesses work for the Clients.

Taxpayers are asking the government to
"reduce the deficit and debt". (Did taxpayers actually ask for high speed rail? Or was that just a pie-in-the-sky idea thought up by a politician?)

And, under the rigid, unflexible Union rules, schools can't serve their customers - students - properly

Very astute speech by Christie.

Posted by: ohioan | February 16, 2011 7:53 PM | Report abuse

The budget debate is a joke. We need to cut a trillion from the proposed budget, not just 68b or 100b. And yes, we can reduce the defense budget by demanding the countries and treaty organizations that we currently fund, pay their fair share.
If SEATO, Japan et al wants the 7th fleet,
let them foot the bill. Same with NATO, the UN, etc. Also reduce entitlements, dump Medicare part D, raise SS retirement age, and eliminate unions for government employees. That'll save us 700b or so.

Posted by: TofuLowersSpermCount | February 16, 2011 7:58 PM | Report abuse

He's great on fiscal issues-but what about other issues? Such as cap & trade-which he is for-amnesty, he's also for that. And he doesn't endear himself to tea partiers by getting in a dig at Rush. I love his straight talk on the fiscal issues but on many other issues he appears to be more of a RINO than a conservative. I wish Ms. Rubin would examine his views on other issues too so we get a better picture of the whole man.

Posted by: cajunkate | February 16, 2011 8:36 PM | Report abuse

One of Governor Christie's biggest priorities for education is to radically reduce the amount spent on extracurricula frills such as sports. Kids are there to learn, not run around like headless chickens for the aggrandizement of their parents in the bleachers. Overemphasis on sports is a large contributing factor in our schools' decline. That message will get him votes alright.

Posted by: aardunza | February 16, 2011 9:28 PM | Report abuse

As a democrat, I like his comments on how both sides can't play a game of chicken forever. However, the Republicans have pointed out that their goal is to "run the President into the ground" before the next election. By any means necessary. I find myself wishing Mr. Christie was in charge of the national republicans. Maybe then we'd actually get some work going.

BTW - for Mr Ohioan - as a teacher, it isn't the "inflexible union rules" that prevent me from serving my customers. It's that abortion of a NCLB plan that forces me to teach to the test or risk my school losing money and jobs. And by the way, if you "really stick it to those teachers" and cut all those nice "cushy" benefits, then who the hell would want to be a teacher?

I enjoy working with children sure, but I guarantee you, you knock away those benefits, you'll have a bigger problem of under performing schools. They'll be under performing because we have no teachers willing to work for next to nothing.

Posted by: Rufusgoofus | February 16, 2011 10:01 PM | Report abuse

@Rufusgoofus

Everything we've seen from Obama in the last two years and in even since SOTU makes it quite clear that this country cannot be salvaged while he is in office. We need a very conservative, very shrewd Republican president with a substantial majority in the Senate to have any chance of reversing this disaster.

While Obama has to be the favorite in 2012 (though by no means a prohibitive one) his chances of leaving office in 2016 with an approval rating over 35% and handing of to a D successor or D Congress are just about nil as the magnitude of the catastrophe they are visiting upon the country becomes blatantly obvious to all but the most obtuse and fanatical leftists. Whether we'll be able to dig ourselves out of the mountain range of decline and filth he will leave us after 2016 is in serious doubt.

Posted by: cavalier4 | February 16, 2011 10:45 PM | Report abuse

. Jen -- you are so useless. You describe Christie as: "good humored, fearless, patriotic, plain-spoken and devoted to fiscal sobriety." How the hell does this not also apply to Mitch Daniels (or, given his record as governor, even more so). Are you blind or do you have some axe to grind b/c it seems to me that Christie said almost the exact same thing as Daniels at CPAC. To be consistent, you must now lambaste Christie for failing to bring up national security or social issues. You are a sham. Just say now who you want to be the republican nominee so we know why you are so down on Daniels.

Posted by: buster5 | February 16, 2011 10:54 PM | Report abuse

Oops, I meant find some social conservatives who don't like Christie and get them to trash him, Shouldn't be too difficult.

By the bye, I like Christie but treating him like the AEI address like the Magna Carta for basically repeating most of the points made by Gov. Daniels seems biased or uninformed.

Also, Christie may still run but Jen isn't plugged in enough to know that (Pence is in!). All CC's BIG donors are going to chill on the sidelines until after the NJ Nov. elections and then back him if he jumps in. Check your sources if you aren’t too busy spinning your tripe.

Posted by: buster5 | February 16, 2011 11:11 PM | Report abuse

"It's not hard to see why conservatives are entranced by him. But, candidly, so were many of the cynical reporters in the room. They are used to hearing so much spin that they, too, you could observe, were amused and enthralled by someone so blunt and so expert at the showmanship that is essential to achieve greatness as a politician."

- - - - -
Well, Christie obviously took YOU in. Although as far as I can tell, there are few, if any, assertions, claims, misrepresentations, and out-and-out lies emitted by Republicans about which you are dubious, let alone "cynical" or, gasp, downright skeptical.

Christie does say, With regard to our federal fiscal mess, he told the audience, "You can't fix these problems if you don't talk about them."

Well, most assuredly the Republicans, particularly Mitch Daniels, are not going to talk about their responsibility for creating the federal fiscal mess. And sadly for all of us, the Democrats are too gentlemanly to have pointed out vigorously both last year and so far this year, that tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires while trying to fight two wars, plus the Enron-style accounting that Mitch Daniels was perfectly delighted with, might have had something to do with it.

Posted by: edallan | February 17, 2011 7:54 AM | Report abuse

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