New Jersey Governor Chris Christie is spending a lot of time on the road these days. Whether it’s because of his role as head of the Republican Governors Association in an election year, preparation for his own presidential run, or just a desire to get out of the Garden State, where his approval ratings are at the lowest level ever, Christie has been traveling the country making speeches and appearances for the past several weeks.
In his travels, it’s safe to say he has probably never felt more at home than he did Tuesday at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in Washington, where he delivered the keynote speech at a conference on legal reform.
There was a time, after members of his staff were found to have shut down access to a bridge connecting New Jersey and New York as political revenge, when Christie seemed to think that in order to preserve his standing as a potential presidential candidate, he needed to project a more moderate persona in his public appearances.
Apparently, that’s gone out the window since federal investigators have not found any evidence that Christie knew of the bridge closing in advance. Christie may or may not still have a shot at the presidency in 2016, but one thing seems clear – if he is indeed running, he has decided that the bluster and bravado that won him two terms as governor are his best bet going forward.
What the audience in Washington got Tuesday was vintage Christie.
He bashed public school teachers as greedy and lazy, and then talked over a questioner who objected to the characterization. (“This isn’t a debate. You asked a question; I’m giving you an answer.”)
He belittled those who earn the minimum wage (“I’m tired of hearing about the minimum wage. I really am. I don’t think there’s a mother or father sitting around a kitchen table tonight saying ‘You know, honey, if our son or daughter could just make a higher minimum wage then my God, all our dreams would be realized.’”)
And, clearly knowing his audience, he insisted, somewhat implausibly, that tort reform would reduce income inequality. Yes, really.
Asked about Obamacare, he proclaimed it a failure. “It’s not working,” he said, millions of newly insured Americans notwithstanding. He said that Republicans needed to offer a plan to replace it, but offered no such specifics himself.
Christie really warmed up toward the end, when he was asked about a plan to reduce the federal debt. His answer: Tort reform, tax reform and increased exploitation of natural resources.
“It’s not a complicated plan,” he said. “Spend less, grow more. Now, how you implement all those things is part of a longer conversation I’d be happy to have with you sometime. Not today.”
But he was willing to offer one detail.
“Pain will be involved,” he said, then repeated, almost with relish, “Pain will be involved.”
Judging from the reaction in the room, it was clear that nobody in attendance expected much of that pain would be theirs.
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