Christie pledges to shoot straight if elected president

Campaign 2016
by Kent Covington
Posted 6/30/15, 03:04 pm

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie formally launched his White House bid today at the Livingston, N.J., high school from which he graduated. 

As the Republican governor stood between the bleachers at one end of a packed gymnasium, he remarked it was the only place he could imagine making such an announcement. 

“Everything started here for me,” he said. 

Supporters lifted up blue signs emblazoned with the words “telling it like it is.” That’s the motto of Christie’s newly minted campaign, and in a half-hour speech, delivered without notes or a teleprompter, the governor stayed on message. 

“I am not running for president of the United States as a surrogate for being elected prom king of America,” he said. “I am not looking to be the most popular guy who looks in your eyes every day and tries to figure out what you want to hear.” 

The governor promised a campaign without pandering or focus-group-tested answers: “You’re going to get what I think, whether you like it or not or whether it makes you cringe every once in a while or not.”

Christie said a frank conversation about America’s challenges is exactly what the nation needs. “We must tell each other the truth about the problems we have and the difficulty of the solutions,” he said, adding that “hard decisions today will lead to growth and opportunity tomorrow for every American.”

Those “hard decisions” include fixing America’s broken entitlement system, he said, adding “we have candidates who have said we can’t confront this because if we do we’ll be lying and stealing from the American people. Let me fill everybody else in: The lying and stealing has already happened. The horse is out of the barn. We’ve got to get it back in and can only do it by force.”

Christie declared he is not afraid to tackle big issues, such as entitlement reform, and that he won’t back down when the going gets tough. He pointed to scuffles with labor unions in New Jersey on matters such as reforming the pensions and health benefits of state employees to address a massive budget deficit. Christie said he has defied every critic who warned those efforts were losing battles. 

“As governor, I’ve proven that you can stand up and fight the most powerful special interests this state has,” he said.

Though he stressed that America needs a fighter in the White House, he said the president also must be willing to reach across the aisle to solve problems. That’s something Christie said he’s done throughout his two terms as governor, working alongside a legislature controlled by Democrats. America, he said, must learn to work together again: “If Washington and Adams and Jefferson believed compromise is a dirty word, we would still be under the crown of England.”

But compromise has limits, he admitted, citing his resistance to calls by Democrats in New Jersey to raise taxes for six years.   

Christie prescribed a conservative course-correction for the U.S. economy, including lower taxes. He also called for a simplified tax system and stressed the need to roll back excessive government regulations to help encourage companies to invest at home, rather than overseas.

On foreign policy and defense, the governor struck a hawkish tone. He ripped President Barack Obama’s “feckless” foreign policy, declaring “our friends can no longer trust us and our adversaries no longer fear us.” Christie said a “strong, unequivocal America” must lead the way to a safer future. The United States, he said, cannot be afraid to “tell our friends we’ll be with you no matter what and to tell our adversaries there are limits to your conduct and America will enforce the limits to that conduct.” 

Christie was elected governor of New Jersey in 2009 and won a landslide reelection in 2013. But his popularity in his home state has since waned considerably, and he begins his Oval Office bid in a difficult position. Among Republican candidates, Christie ranked 11th in the most recent national Fox News presidential poll. Only the top 10 candidates will participate in the first GOP debate, scheduled for later this year on the conservative cable network.