The GOP’s great white hope, Chris Christie, disappointed Steve Schmidt and other GOP insiders who had been keeping their fingers crossed about a Christie run, when he announced he wouldn’t be running for the GOP Presidential nomination after his Reagan Library speech tonight.
So much for Schmidt’s proclamation of Christie’s moment, “His moment is now, and it’s not often that such moments come in American politics.”
Here’s the defining moment of tonight’s event as an audience member begged Christie to run — the audience applauding with wild hope.
Courtesy of Mediaite:
Those are words Sarah Palin would give almost anything to hear from insiders and the base together. But Christie responded with a gracious but emphatic, “No.”
But Christie delivered a speech that took aim square at the President tonight, with mentions of foreign policy scattered throughout. It wasn’t exactly a typical Governor’s speech. Part 1 of his speech is offered via Mediaite from Fox News:
Christie delivered a speech that wasn’t quite as partisan as it could have been tonight, and veered off into foreign policy, an odd place for a Governor of New Jersey to go. Christie said, “We tend to still understand foreign policy as something designed by officials in the State Department and carried out by ambassadors and others overseas. And to some extent it is. But one of the most powerful forms of foreign policy is the example we set. All this should and does have meaning for us today. The image of the United States around the world is not what it was, it is not what it can be and it is not what it needs to be.”
Those are odd words for a Republican speech on American exceptionalism. Maybe it’s OK for Republicans to criticize our country when a Democrat is in charge, but I recall the Right’s outrage over Michelle Obama’s expression that we can do better. I don’t expect this will bother the Tea Party base one bit, who seem immune to cognitive dissonance.
Christie added that in order to rebuild our excemptionalism, “This takes resources—resources for defense, for intelligence, for homeland security, for diplomacy.”
Christie spoke of the importance of leadership and compromise, saying “Leadership and compromise is the only way you can balance two budgets with over $13 billion in deficits without raising taxes while protecting core services.” I don’t need to tell you what the hard right thinks of compromise. These are words of a Republican general election candidate. These are ideas that could attract some real voters outside of the Fox News/Tea Party bubble.
Christie, who was happy enough to appear with Obama during the President’s tour of disaster hit New Jersey, took swings at the President, “And still we continue to wait and hope that our president will finally stop being a bystander in the Oval Office. We hope that he will shake off the paralysis that has made it impossible for him to take on the really big things that are obvious to all Americans and to a watching and anxious world community.”
Of course, Christie blamed our lack of exceptionalism on the President, so that made it all right to talk smack about USA USA USA! I note that the President was nowhere near this event, and thus the image of Christie really bringing to to Obama is mere fantasy on the part of the Right, but they live for this stuff. Christie delivered the red meat, “Unfortunately, through our own domestic political conduct of late, we have failed to live up to our own tradition of exceptionalism. Today, our role and ability to affect change has been diminished because of our own problems and our inability to effectively deal with them.”
Then he got warmed up for the lecture about how exceptionalism relies on (come on, say with with me, you know this part) giving business “certainty” and “long-term tax reform.”
But Christie managed to stay on Reagan optimism note, even while getting in the regulatory digs at the President. In fact, parts of his speech sounded like President Obama, such as when he urged us “To not become a nation that places entitlement ahead of accomplishment. To not become a country that places comfortable lies ahead of difficult truths. To not become a people that thinks so little of ourselves that we demand no sacrifice from each other. We are a better people than that; and we must demand a better nation than that.”
The problem is that when a Republican says “entitlements” they almost always mean the social safety net, instead of the general idea of hard-work that most Americans believe in. Earlier, in fact, Christie uttered those magic words, saying we needed to address our “long-term debt and deficit problem through reforming our entitlement programs and our tax code.”
It sounded vaguely like the same old same old, in terms of pumping up defense spending while warning the little people that they need to stop placing entitlements ahead of sacrifice and accomplishment, albeit delivered with a note of optimism instead of the rabid hate we have become accustomed to by the likes of Perry, Bachmann, et al.
Knowing Christie’s history in New Jersey, it’s hard not to read between the lines of his jabs at Americans who are unwilling to make sacrifices. This, after all, has been the line used to justify killing unions and taxing the middle class more while giving tax breaks to “job creators”.
Christie has been gaining in popularity as Republicans lost that lovin’ feeling for Rick Perry after his disappointing debate appearance. But once gets the sense that dissatisfied Republicans are on a big old rebound from which they may not recover in time. Each new candidate is The One….. until the voters get to know them a bit better. And Christie suffers from the same refusal to hate illegal immigrants as Rick Perry. This will not bode well with the Tea Party base, if they ever discover what lurks beneath the bully they love to imagine being.
But for now, Christie left the Republicans wanting more. In this alone, he managed to accomplish what Sarah Palin, Mitt Rommey, Michele Bachmann, Rick Perry and Hermain Cain have not. Republicans, both insiders and the base, want Christie to run so badly they’re begging him now. Even though Christie turned them down, he gave the Republicans the one thing they can’t get enough of as a consolation prize: He beat up on the President from afar.
Back to Match.Com it is.
And so it goes in the Great Hunt of 2012 for a Republican Candidate the base will love and the people might actually vote for.
Chris Christie speech transcript: The National Review