New Jersey’s Republican Governor Chris Christie spared no punches Wednesday, lashing out at both Republicans and Democrats for what he calls their failure to face the country’s fiscal issues.
“I look at what’s happening in Washington D.C. right now and I’m worried. I’m worried," Christie said to a crowded room at the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think tank in Washington.
The flamboyant Garden State governor says leaders aren’t talking about the toughest and most important problems America faces, and he calls their silence on fiscal issues a political strategy being played by both Republicans and Democrats.
“The president’s not talking about it because he’s waiting for the Republicans to talk about it,” Christie said. “And our new bold Republicans we just sent to the House of Representatives, they’re not talking about it because they’re waiting for him to talk about it. Let me suggest to you that my children’s future and your children’s future is more important than some political strategy. Let me suggest to you that what game is being played down here is irresponsible and it is dangerous. We need to say these things and we need to say them out loud. ”
In his remarks, Christie, who was elected in 2009 as the first Republican governor of New Jersey in 12 years, said his management style is to “[fix] problems in a blunt and direct way." And he criticized elected leaders who are unwilling to tackle difficult issues, like entitlement reform.
“When we say we’re cutting spending, when we say everything’s on the table, when we say we mean entitlement programs, we should be specific.”
And he talked specifically about Social Security reforms.
“Here’s the truth that nobody’s talking about. You're gonna have to raise the retirement age for social security,” he said. “Whoa, I just said it, and I'm still standing here. I did not vaporize.”
Christie also criticized what President Obama called “big things” in his State of the Union speech last month, saying things like the proliferation of high-speed rail and internet are the “candy of American politics” and aren’t where attention should be focused.
“Those are not the big things,” he said. “Because let me guarantee you something, if we don’t fix the big things, there ain’t going to be electric cars on the road. [There’s] gonna be no high speed internet access and if there is, you’re not going to be able to afford to get on it. We’re not going to be able to care about the niceties of life, the investments Washington wants to make.”
Christie points to “three big things” he’s started in New Jersey that need to spread across the country.
“It’s restoring and maintaining fiscal sanity. It’s getting our pension and health benefits under control, reformed and have the costs lowered, and it’s reforming and education system that costs too much and produces too little.”
And Christie says those are issues that that both Republican and Democratic governors face. As an example, he points across the Hudson to New York’s new governor Andrew Cuomo.
“You have me elected in New Jersey in 2009, as a conservative Republican in one of the bluest states in America, and across the river, you have the son of a liberal icon who is saying the exact same things that I’m saying.”
He went on to note some specific issues governors across the country are dealing with.
“These problems and issues are not partisan. They are obvious. And they are long overdue to be solved. And that’s why you see Andrew Cuomo, or for god’s sake, even Jerry Brown in California, talking about reducing the salaries of state workers by 8-to-10 percent.”
Christie’s critics don’t like his in-your-face style. Connecticut Democratic Governor Dan Malloy, for one, told the New York Times on Tuesday, "Being bombastic for the sake of being bombastic has just never been my take on the world."
But he dismisses talk that he’s too aggressive, telling the audience Wednesday, “Some people say I'm too combative, some people say I'm too much of a fighter. Well, I'll tell you, I'm fighting now because now is the time that matters most in New Jersey's and America's future and we are teetering on the edge of disaster.”
Christie took questions after the speech and not surprisingly, the first one was about his presidential aspirations in 2012.
Again he repeated that he has no plans to run, telling the crowd, “You have to believe in your heart and in your soul and in your mind that you are ready and I don't believe that about myself right now.”
The outspoken rising GOP star also added a rhetorical flourish to drive home the point.
“Apparently, I actually have to commit suicide to convince people I'm not running,” he said.