It was just a few days ago that Chris Christie unveiled his plan on reforming Social Security but it’s that plan – and his boasting that his appeal as a candidate is based on speaking about such hard truths – that dominated Christie’s much anticipated appearance at the First in the Nation Republican Leadership Conference in Nashua, New Hampshire on Friday afternoon.
“If anybody comes up on this stage and wants to talk to you about national defense, wants to talk to you about education, research and development, tax cuts, or anything else involving the federal government, you should ask them what they’re going to do about entitlements, ” Christie told the ballroom audience, which noticeably came to life with his appearance shortly after 3:30 p.m. “Because if they’re not going to do something to fix that problem, we’re not going to be able to deal with any of the other problems or opportunities that we have in this country.”
Christie’s plan includes gradually raising the retirement age to 69 and cutting Social Security benefits to those earning at least $200,000.
“The American people are anxious,” he said in a calm, genial manner. “They’re worried about their country, and they should be.”
The New Jersey Governor called President Obama‘s leadership “feckless” (a favorite word used today) and said the only thing he cares about are his legacy and his library. “The two L’s.”
Next to Florida, New Jersey houses more Cuban-Americans than any other state, so it wasn’t surprising that Christie attacked the president regarding his recent overtures to the Cuban government, specifically his call this week to have the communist island nation removed from the State Department’s group of state sponsors of terrorism.
“It’s a national disgrace when the president of the United States sits down and considers taking Cuba off the terrorist watch list,” referring to Joanne Chesimard, who was convicted 40 years ago for the murder of a state Trooper during a New Jersey Turnpike traffic stop and remains in exile in Cuba, where she been granted political asylum.
But this being Chris Christie, he talked a lot about himself during his half-hour presentation, and whether his famous hard-charging style needs to be tamped down for a national run. He says he hears this question mainly from the media,
“‘Governor, do you have to change, do you have to mellow, do you have to round off a couple of those rough edges – I don’t know what they’re talking about,” he said as people in the audience laughed. “Some rough edges, right? The fact is this: I’m a Republican in New Jersey. Come and try that for a few days, okay?”
He went on to say that if people were hoping he would be the nicest guy in the room, the most subtle guy in the room, that they should stop waiting. “If I had waited for that, I wouldn’t be in this room.”
He said he didn’t know the answer to the question that a politician with his own personality could be palatable to the American public.
“I am not going to tack, and move, and flip-flop, and pander because I’m looking in your eyes trying to figure out ‘what is it he wants to hear?’ Tell it to you, and then pray to God you don’t remember what I said when I go and do the opposite. That’s not who I am or who I’ve ever been, or who I’m going to be. So this could wind up being a really grand experiment. But, I think it’s one given the condition the country is in right now, that might, might just be worth taking.”
Christie’s poll numbers have taken a precipitous drop in New Hampshire, yet some observers say is independent style could still appeal to the voters in the Granite State.
But he hurt himself leading up to this weekend. He reportedly had been offered to give a prime time speech on Friday night at the political forum, but delayed too long in telling organizers whether or not he would appear.
So Christie was scratched, and Marco Rubio took that slot.