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Chris Christie talks entitlement reform at Walt Disney World

in 2017/Top Headlines by

Chris Christie’s road to the White House looks rough right now. Though the New Jersey governor hasn’t officially announced he’s a candidate, the fact that he said in Orlando today that he’ll be giving a major speech on immigration reform later this month indicates that BridgeGate be damned, it’s full speed ahead for 2016.

Christie is banking that his frankness about reforming Social Security and Medicare is what will inspire Americans to respond to him in the primaries next year.

Referring to how 71 percent of our federal budget goes toward entitlement programs, he says that rhetoric about education, national defense and tax cuts means little unless candidates and lawmakers are willing to discuss what to do about Medicaid, Medicare and Social Security.

When asked from a member of the audience about the lack of funding for scientific research, he turned that back to entitlement spending, saying that as a government “we’re making choices that are hurting our future.”

He also mentioned how funding for the National Institutes of Health is up by only .1 percent this year, while Medicaid spending is up over 16 percent. He said that all of the things that led to the tech and bio-tech boom in this country “we can’t even imagine right now,” because of the vast amounts devoted to entitlements.

As he has done on the campaign trail in other places, Christie is boasting that he’s the only candidate talking these hard truths. “Who else is talking about this?” he asked, and said that the people are ahead of the politicians on this issue.

On immigration, he says there needs to be a common-sense way of dealing with the issue, “and for me, it’s not about building a wall or fence around the entire border. That’s not only inefficient and ineffective, but I’ve never seen a wall or fence that someone with human will and spirit can’t find their way over, under or around.”

He said that pressure should be put on employers, which is why he believes in using E-Verify to penalize those who use undocumented workers.

Christie has worked with a Democratic legislature in New Jersey, and he joked about how messy that has been. But he also said one under appreciated aspect of leadership is the ability to build personal relationships.

“A lot of the folks in the Legislature, I can’t stand them,” he said, adding that he’s made that exact comment in front of members of the New Jersey Legislature. “But I don’t have the luxury to say, ‘I’m not going to deal with you.’ I’m the governor.”

To reinforce the point, he related an exchange he had with FBI Director James Comey, back when Christie was a U.S. attorney in New Jersey and Comey worked in the Justice Department under George W. Bush. Comey said he was about to speak with the editorial board of The New York Times.

After Christie asked Comey why he was meeting with a (presumed) part of the media that wasn’t fair to the Bush Administration, Christie said Comey told him, “Chris, you don’t get it. It’s much harder to hate up close.”

“Think about it,” Christie said in recounting the story. “It’s an important piece of governing advice. It is much harder to hate up close.”

Christie is still not an official candidate, but sounds like he’s going there. He did not meet with members of the media after his appearance on stage in Orlando.

Mitch Perry has been a reporter with Extensive Enterprises since November of 2014. Previously, he served as five years as the political editor of the alternative newsweekly Creative Loafing. He also was the assistant news director with WMNF 88.5 FM in Tampa from 2000-2009, and currently hosts MidPoint, a weekly talk show, on WMNF on Thursday afternoons. He began his reporting career at KPFA radio in Berkeley. He's a San Francisco native who has now lived in Tampa for 15 years and can be reached at mitch.perry@floridapolitics.com.

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