Presidential candidates tend to know a litmus-test issue when they see it. As much of the nation debates the propriety of Indiana’s soon-to-be-changed discrimination measure, Republican presidential candidates have been pressed for their reactions and positions.
And for the most part, White House hopefuls have been willing – and in some cases, have been eager – to share their views. Jeb Bush has even had time to share two, contradictory positions, telling a conservative radio host on Monday that he supports the Indiana statute and sees no need for changes, and then saying largely the opposite at a Silicon Valley fundraiser yesterday, where he endorsed changes to the law to prevent discrimination.
Most of the GOP 2016 field has been content to take just one position, with Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz, Ben Carson Bobby Jindal, Rick Santorum, Mike Huckabee, Rick Perry, and Scott Walker endorsing the Indiana policy with varying degrees of enthusiasm.
But that’s not quite the entire field. Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), for example, who’s had some troubles with civil rights and discrimination before, has been unavailable for comment. A Paul spokesperson told reporters, “The senator is out of pocket with family this week and has not weighed in at this time.” He is, by all appearances, taking a breather before formally launching his presidential bid next week.
And what about the governor of New Jersey?
Gov. Chris Christie is keeping mum on Indiana’s new religious-freedom law, the subject of alternating debate about religious freedom and overreaching government. […]Where does Christie stand? So far, he isn’t saying publicly. Christie didn’t jump into the debate at his town hall in Kenilworth Tuesday and remained silent Wednesday. His office did not respond to a request for comment.
Many news outlets have tried to get an answer from Christie or his staff on this. On this, Team Christie is apparently quite shy [Update:. the governor has finally commented. See below.]
As regular readers may recall, this happens quite a bit.
Asked for his take on the Eric Garner story, Christie didn’t want to talk about it.
Asked about immigration policy, Christie didn’t want to talk about it.
Asked about U.S. efforts to combat ISIS in Syria, Christie didn’t want to talk about it.
Asked about the Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby ruling, at least at first, Christie didn’t want to talk about it.
Asked about Bush-era torture policies, Christie didn’t want to talk about it.
I remember when Christie was first elected governor. “This is who I am,” he said at the time. “Like it or not, you guys are stuck with me for four years and 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 few years later, the New Jersey Republican now takes pride in his ability to dodge questions, saying it’s the mark of “a good leader.”
This is, of course, an unsustainable posture – those who expect to lead their party and their country should expect to take positions on controversial issues and deal with the consequences. But at least for now, the tough-talking, no-nonsense governor would rather let his White House rivals take the lead while he keeps his opinions to himself.
Behold, the bold, unflinching leadership of Christopher J. Christie.
Update: It took a while, but the governor finally issued a statement on the controversy. Most of it focused on what a great guy Christie thinks Gov. Mike Pence (R) is, but on the substance, Christie said, “[M]y guess is that he’ll fix the problem and move on.” That’s not much of a statement, but for now, it’s all he’s willing to say.