Christie Praised for Daring to Step on ‘Third Rails’ of Politics
By David Stout | February 17, 2022 2:03 pm

Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey has been getting good reviews for his speech on Wednesday in which he was not quite Shermanesque in denying his White House ambitions and chided leaders in both parties for not speaking more bluntly about the nation’s fiscal problems.

Appearing at the American Enterprise Institute, the first-term Republican and former U.S. Attorney for the Garden State said it was obvious that Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid would have to be reined in if the country’s course is to be corrected. Tacitly acknowledging that Social Security, in particular, has long been regarded as a “third rail of politics” because the elderly are growing in numbers and they vote in droves, Christie said retirement ages would have to rise.

“I just said it, and I’m still standing here,” Christie said in mock wonder. “And I did not vaporize!”

Christie got plenty of coverage for his address, including write-ups in The New York Times and Washington Post, in which he said it’s high time for politicians to get serious about what they know to be true but are afraid to say.

“We have to reform Medicare because it costs too much and it is going to bankrupt us,” Christie told his audience, again feigning wonder that he was still standing. “Once again, lightning did not come through the windows and strike me dead!”

“Our country and our states are weighed down by an albatross of irresponsibility,” Mr. Christie said, “that we have foisted upon ourselves as leaders and that you as citizens have permitted us to get away with.”

“Chris Christie Isn’t Pretty and He Tells Ugly Truths,” the Post’s Dana Milbank declared after the speech.

Indeed, Christie is portly rather than pretty, but he seems quite comfortable with who he is, occasionally poking fun at his physique.  And Tea Party devotees don’t seem to mind his girth. As to whether his tough talk can appeal to the masses and propel him to the White House one day, Christie was coy for a change.

“I’m not stupid. I see the opportunity. I see it,” he said, as an audience member asked him about the 2012 presidential election. “That’s not the reason to run. That’s not a reason to be president of the United States. You have to believe in your heart, in your soul and in your mind that you are ready. I don’t believe that right now.”

Raven Clabough of the New American, which says it stands for limited government under the Constitution, called Christie’s speech “captivating,” and the National Review Online recalled that Christie has stood up to the demands of public unions in New Jersey, daring to test the long-held theory that doing so is to invite political oblivion.

Nor is Christie worried about his “tough on crime” credentials, to judge from his website bio: “As the chief federal law enforcement officer in New Jersey, Chris earned praise from leaders in both parties and drew national attention for his efforts in battling political corruption, corporate crime, human trafficking, gangs, terrorism and polluters. Chris led a widely acclaimed charge against public corruption. Regardless of party affiliation or political influence, when laws were broken, Chris took action.”

It can be foolhardy to make long range predictions in politics. But it’s a safe bet that, in the short run, no one will dismiss what Christie said about entitlement programs and the national debt. Demographers and other people with math skills have been warning for years that a reckoning is coming.

“If nominated, I will not run; if elected, I will not serve,” Gen. William T. Sherman declared when there was talk of drafting him for president in 1884.  At the time, the general was pretty popular, except in that part of the country south of the Mason-Dixon line.

Christie’s “denials” haven’t been nearly that categorical. If he does harbor presidential ambitions, he has time on his side: he is only 48. He can reflect on what happened to another politician, Walter F. Mondale, when he told the American people in 1984 that taxes would have to rise, despite what his opponent, President Ronald Reagan, was saying.

But if Wednesday’s speech is any signal, Christie doesn’t intend to soften his message.


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