CONCORD — In his first visit to New Hampshire of the 2016 election cycle, likely presidential hopeful Chris Christie recalled his upbringing by an Irish father and a Sicilian mother in explaining to a room full of Republicans why he is the “blunt,” “direct” and “sometimes argumentative” politician that has won him both praise as a strong leader and criticism as a bully.
The New Jersey governor told about 250 GOP activists at the Merrimack County/Concord City Republican Committees’ Lincoln-Reagan Dinner at the Grappone Center that voters deserve to know not only where politicians stand on issues, but also “who are they and where are they from,” and, “ What do they believe?”
“I’m told every once in a while that I’m a little bit too blunt, too direct,” he said. “I like to fight a little bit every once in a while…There’s only one Chris Christie, this is it.
“Let me tell you who I am and why I am the way I am – this direct, blunt, sometimes argumentative and fighting person from New Jersey. Let’s start with the fact that I’m the product of an Irish father and a Sicilian mother. What that means is, I’ve been trained for a long time in conflict resolution.”
His mother, he said, “taught us from a very young age that that is the way you conduct yourself — you speak your mind.”
Christie spoke to the Republicans after holding private meetings with politically active business leaders in Bedford and political leaders in Concord, including state Senate President Chuck Morse, state Sen. John Reagan, Merrimack County Sheriff Scott Hilliard, Franklin Mayor Ken Merrifield, NHGOP chair Jennifer Horn and party vice chair Bryan Gould.
In his speech, he blasted President Obama’s “abject failure of leadership,” Hillary Clinton’s “reset button” with Russia. He charged that Gov. Maggie Hassan is promoting “higher taxes” and “more spending,” and he even warned – perhaps ironically — that she is using her office “as a way to try to increase her own visibility and run for the next job” – a possible run for the U.S. Senate.
NJ Gov. Chris Christie at the Grappone Center on Monday night
Christie said he favors Common Core-type education standards but does not believe the program, or its accompanying testing, should be “federalized.” He called for better treatment of veterans by federal workers “who understand that their mission every day is a moral promise that is made to men and women who have put their lives on the line for our country. It is not just another job. It is the fulfillment of a sacred promise.”
Christie did not make any announcements regarding his expected run for President, but said that if he runs and is elected, during his first 100 days in office, he would “change this ridiculous tax system in this country to one that, once again, encourages entrepreneurship and spurs economic growth better than the meager 2 percent economic growth we have now.” He said he would also “pass a national energy policy – one that takes full advantage of all of the resources that we have available to us.
“All of the above is not a national energy policy,” he said. “It’s a bumper sticker.”
He said he would also move quickly to “reestablish American leadership around the world by first establishing our relationship and our friendship with our allies” and making it clear to adversaries “that we will not stand for tyranny in the world that threatens our way of life and the way of life of our allies.”
He said that his famous direct personality – which at times has earned him the label of bully – means that he is a dogged fighter for what he believes in.
“Honesty and straightforwardness plays no matter what neighborhood you’re in in New Jersey or what state you’re in in America,” he said.
Insisting that the 21st Century can become “the second American century,” he said, “I know that there is no way a guy from New Jersey is going to go down without swinging on this one. And I believe in the Live Free or Die state, that you understand that, too.”
Christie said his mother, on the day she died a decade ago, asked him what day it was, and when he told her it was a Friday at 9:30 a.m., “she said, ‘Go to work.’ She said, ‘Christopher, it is a work day. Go to work. It’s where you belong. There’s nothing left unsaid between us.’
“She taught us that in a trusting relationship, you tell the person across from you what you really feel,” he said. “And I know that if she were still alive to say to see the circus my life has become,” she would urge him to tell people “who you are and what you feel.
“What you’ll never say about me is ‘I don’t know who he is, I don’t know what he believes and I don’t’ know what he’s willing to fight for and who he’s willing to fight to get there.’ That is the essence of leadership,” he said.
Making fun of himself for his tough image, he insisted “I had nothing to do with that” when a tray of dishes crashed to the floor, briefly interrupting his speech.
Christie said President Obama has failed the test of leadership.
“Washington, D.C. has never been more divided, more dysfunctional or less productive than it’s been in the last six years,” he said. He said voters across the country are “filled with anxiety, worry.”
Obama has not tried to fix “a tax system that is grossly unfair and encouraging companies to leave our country” and has “a nonexistent national energy policy,” Christie said.
Christie said there has never been a time in his lifetime “when the world is a more dangerous and scary place.” He said that in the Middle East is unstable “and running over it is a terrorism brought by both ISIS and al-Qaida.
“This President has the audacity to tell us that terrorism is on the run as they’re burning a Jordanian pilot alive, as they’re beheading hostages,” Christie said. “Does terrorism look like it’s on the run?
“He’s like a man wandering around in a dark room, feeling along the wall for the light switch of leadership,” Christie said. “He hasn’t found it in six years and he’s not going to find it in the next two years. This has been an abject failure of leadership by this President and it is time for him to go.”
Christie said he defeated incumbent Democratic incumbent Jon Corzine in 2009 “by telling the truth; we won by being direct” and then was reelected in a landslide in 2013, winning strong women and minority support. He said that when he became governor, the state was in such dire straits that it could not meet its payroll at one point, but he said he was able to balance his state’s budget without raising taxes and said New Jersey now has 8,000 fewer employees on the state payroll than when he took office.
“But we’re still spending a record amount educating our children,” he said. “That’s prioritizing, that’s making hard choices and saying no to the ravenous appetite of Democrats and liberals for more taxes and more spending and bigger government. If we did it in New Jersey, everybody, for God sakes we can do it in the United States of America, too.”
State Democrats “greeted” Christie with an attack on his economic record in New Jersey.
“Since the last time Chris Christie came to the Granite State, New Jersey’s economy and finances have gone further into a ditch, and Christie has continued to put the interests of his allies and himself ahead of what’s best for working families,” said NHDP chairman Raymond Buckley. “Chris Christie’s New Jersey has endured anemic job growth, one of the highest rates of foreclosures in the country, and eight credit rating downgrades due to his budget mismanagement. In recent weeks, Christie’s approval ratings have dropped lower than New Hampshire’s winter temperatures.”
Christie visited New Hampshire five times last year to campaign for unsuccessful candidate for governor Walt Havenstein, and he wasted no time taking aim at Gov. Maggie Hassan.
“Imagine if she had campaigned on what she’s now proposing?” Christie said, “higher taxes, more spending, more employees in government, and Keno – Keno always one of the bedrocks of a free and prosperous state.
“The way she’s governing now and what she did in 2012 to 2014 should be a cautionary tale for everybody in New Hampshire,” Christie said. “She will use this platform as a way to try to increase her own visibility and run for the next job. Let’s be careful. We have enough of those types in Washington, D.C. already. We don’t need you to send any more there. New Jersey is more than filling your quota.”
Christie said he will be in New Hampshire “as often as I feel I need to be if I decide to become a candidate.”
And, he said, “The more I come back, the less speech you’re going to get and the more time you’re going to get to ask me questions and challenge me because that’s when I’m most comfortable,” he said.