MICHAEL BARONE: Michael Barone with AEI and The Washington Examiner. You said that your colleagues in politics should say that social security, retirement age should be raised. Do you believe it is no longer the case that social security is no longer the third rail of American politics and that you can’t touch it? Or are you simply advising your fellow Republicans and your fellow executives to take a stand that you believe may very well be politically fatal.
GOVERNOR CHRISTIE: I was right with you till the last clause on that sentence. See I think the world has changed and I don’t believe it is fatal. I don’t. In fact, I think that you are going to be rewarded for courage. And I think those that don’t show the courage are going to get the opposite treatment as well. The public understands. They understand, I’m telling you. I’m out there every day. I can feel it. They get it. What they want though it shared sacrifice. They want everybody in this game. And if they feel like people down here in Washington or in the State capitol in Trenton are gaming the system and some folks are getting a special advantage and then everybody else is getting harsher treatment, they are going to respond badly to it and you’re going to get some of that third rail treatment. But I think if folks believe that they have a group of leaders who are going to say to them this is what’s necessary, it’s a mathematical equation, it needs to be done, we’re going to do it fairly. Everyone is going to share in the sacrifice. I think the American people and the people of New Jersey, in my instance, will step up to the plate and be a part of that shared sacrifice. They’ve done it in New Jersey. We cut everything. And everybody said my approval ratings were going to tank and they’ve gone up. That’s not because people aren’t paying attention. I’d suggest to you that it’s cause they really are paying attention. And they are saying, someone is actually talking to us like we are adults. They are telling us the truth. Now listen, for people who have been down here a long time I understand there’d be a sense of cynicism. They feel like they’ve watched this movie over and over again. You know, Republicans have demagogued this issue against Democrats and Democrats have demagogued it against Republicans. And I understand why you’d be cynical. All I’m telling you is, from out in the field I think there is something different going on in our country right now. And I think people are ready to hear the truth. But again, you have to show leadership and show people you’re willing to do it first.
I couldn’t sit back in New Jersey and say well I know we have a pension and benefit problem. I’ll wait for the Democrats in the legislature to come forward with their plan and then I’ll critique it. I put my plan out there in September and got booed by the firefighters. And it took five months but guess what? The Democrats in the legislature have now come forward with their plan on pension reform and their plan on benefit reform. Now, it’s not exactly what I want. But now we are going to have the debate. We are going to have the discussion and I believe we are going to get to a fix. It won’t be the perfect fix that I want. That’s part of what comes with divided government. But I started the conversation. And I took the risk to put mine out there first. And in the beginning, the Democrats in the legislature took the same position of what is happening down here. They were like – well let’s see if he gets burned at the stake first before we go in. Well, all of the sudden four or five months later, approval ratings continuing to go up, they went – hey this looks like a good idea, why don’t we put our plan forward?
So, some of it is – you just have to have the spine to take the risk. But I think that’s what we elect leaders for, hence the name. If you’re waiting midway back in the pack and call yourself a leader, it seems to me that, that isn’t consistent. So you want to be a leader, lead. And I want to conclude, Michael, saying I’m not saying it doesn’t involve some measure of risk. Everything does that’s worth something. But what did you get sent to this party for? I mean really, what did we come to do this for? Just to mark time and collect a title? Before I got this job I had plenty of titles – I was the United Sates Attorney and most importantly husband, father, son. I didn’t need new titles. I came here to achieve and to succeed. And these jobs give you an opportunity to do that like no other jobs in my view. But you’ve got to step up to the plate and do it.
Indeed, the country is in dire need of real leadership.
Ace blogged the Chris Christie Livestream
“We have to reform Social Security because it’s bankrupting us. We have to reform Medicare because it’s bankrupting us. We have to reform Medicaid because not only is it bankrupting the federal government it’s bankrupting every state government. I just said these things and lightning didn’t come through the window and strike me dead. There you go.”
You can watch the whole speech here.