New Jersey Gov. Christ Chrisie talks immigration reform during a press conference at the Republican governors' conference in Boca Raton, Fla., Wednesday, Nov. 19, 2014
J Pat Carter/AP

Christie still afraid of his own shadow on immigration

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) was in South Florida this week for a party gathering, and like most of his Republican brethren, he was eager to condemn President Obama’s immigration policy. But the Palm Beach Post asked the governor an interesting question.
A reporter asked Christie if it was fair to criticize the president without offering a proposal of his own.
 
“This is a ridiculous question,” Christie responded. “Because I won’t lay out my plan if I were president, that precludes me from criticizing the guy who asked for the job twice and was elected twice and who promised in 2008 that he would fix this problem when he had huge majorities in the Congress to be able to do it?
Well, for those who care about the details, when Democrats had “huge majorities,” Republicans still killed bipartisan measures like the DREAM Act with a filibuster. But putting that aside for now, Christie’s defense for his own evasions is arguably half-right.
 
The governor wants to be able to take verbal shots at the White House’s policy without presenting a proposal of his own, and to a certain degree, that’s kosher. At least for now, Christie is a struggling, scandal-plagued governor, not a presidential candidate, so it stands to reason that he won’t have a detailed immigration policy proposal on hand.
 
The trouble, though, is that Christie wants to take pot shots at Obama while also refusing to even give his opinions about the basics of immigration policy – and that cowardice is harder to dismiss.
 
In this week’s New York Times Sunday magazine, for example, Mark Leibovich tried to get a better sense of the governor’s thinking on immigration policy. It didn’t go well.
Christie was particularly hard to pin down on immigration, one of the more divisive topics within the G.O.P. Earlier this year, he signed a New Jersey version of the so-called Dream Act, which ensured in-state tuition rates for the children of undocumented immigrants. Presumably, this would place him as a moderate within his party. But when he was asked about the subject on numerous occasions over the summer, he ducked and covered. “I’m not going to discuss a complicated issue like immigration here in Marion, Iowa,” Christie said in the restaurant parking lot, employing a favorite tactic of name-dropping a random locale as a way to avoid talking about something important. […]
 
A few hours after the breakfast, Christie headed to a taqueria in the center of Mexico City and parked himself under a Corona awning on the sidewalk. What followed was a lengthy session with reporters in which he evaded persistent questions about immigration.
When Leibovich tried to focus the conversation specifically to immigration policy in New Jersey, Christie said, “Fabulous try,” before exhaling “a deep, disdainful laugh.”
 
It was hardly the first time. In September, the governor declared, “I won’t have anything to say on immigration unless and until I become a candidate for president of the United States.”
 
But Christie actually has plenty to say about immigration, just so long as he’s taking cheap shots at the only leader in Washington who’s actually getting something done on the issue: President Obama.
 
The New Jersey governor is so scared of the issue he won’t even say whether or not he agrees with his own previous statements on immigration policy.
 
It’s hardly a mystery why Christie is so terrified – a stray phrase right-wing activists don’t like may hurt his national ambitions – but his cowardice is nevertheless unbecoming and makes his condemnations of the president ring hollow.
 
Four years ago, Christie boasted, “I’m going to say things directly when you ask me questions, I’m going to answer them directly, straightly, bluntly, and nobody in New Jersey is going to have to wonder where I am on an issue.”
 
A lot has changed in four years.
 

Chris Christie

Christie still afraid of his own shadow on immigration