New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie has little to say about a Staten Island grand jury’s controversial decision to not indict white police officer Daniel Pantaleo in the July choke hold death of unarmed black man, Eric Garner. But when it comes to another hot-button issue – the Keystone XL pipeline—the Republican is more than game.
During a much-anticipated two-day visit to Canada -- which is creating buzz that Christie is seriously considering a 2016 presidential bid -- the governor was asked about the grand jury decision, which has sparked racial tensions and protests across the country.
The governor told reporters on Thursday that he wasn’t in the business in second-guessing grand jury decisions.
Christie pointed to his experience as U.S. Attorney for the District of New Jersey before becoming governor, saying “one of the things I learned is that you never know all the things that a grand jury knows unless you are in that grand jury working with them, so I’m not going to be in the position of giving where I stand in second-guessing the word of the grand jury and the prosecuting office that presented that.”
He added, “When I was U.S. Attorney, I used to really, really dislike when politicians who didn’t know a tenth of what the prosecutors and a grand jury knew, would second guess their work, based purely for political reasons or an act of ignorance ...”
Unlike Christie, his potential 2016 competition, former secretary of state Hillary Clinton did weigh in on the issue. At a speech in Boston on Thursday, Clinton said she wanted to address “the pain and frustration that many Americans are feeling” following grand jury decisions in New York City and Ferguson, Mo. The Democrat also urged for reform and said she was “very pleased” that the U.S. Department of Justice will investigate both cases.
Christie has refrained from immediately and concretely weighing in on controversial decisions in the past. After the Supreme Court in June ruled Hobby Lobby, a privately-held company, shouldn’t be forced to provide certain contraception to their employees if they say it’s against their religious beliefs, Christie argued there was no point in commenting, saying, “The fact is that when you’re an executive, your Supreme Court makes a ruling and you’ve got to live with it unless you can get the legislative body to change the law or change or the constitution.
Two weeks later, Christie said he supported the ruling.
And back in August, when Christie was asked on a local radio show if there was a problem with the way police officers treat African-American men in the wake of Ferguson, Mo., Christie said “I’m not going to get into this business of generalizing against law enforcement officers. It’s not right.” But after the grand jury decision to not indict white police officer Darren Wilson in the shooting death of 18-year-old Michael Brown, Christie called the situation “tragic” and suggested President Obama was partially to blame.
Christie has also shied away from talking about immigration. When he visited Mexico back in September, he refused to talk about the issue—even though a flood of immigrants illegally crossing the U.S. border, was the number one, key issue at the time. The governor told reporters he would only discuss the issue “if and when I become a candidate for president of the United States.”
But Christie in Mexico and now Canada did trumpet on the Keystone XL Pipeline, which would create an oil transport system from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico in a one-hour speech to the Calgary Petroleum Club.
“My view is that we are missing an enormous opportunity when we delay its development,” said Christie on Thursday. He also took aim at President Obama, who has expressed major reservations about the project. Christie did not mention Obama by name but referred to “our leader,” saying “This is no way to treat a friend. This is not about sending your oil across our land. It’s about maximizing the benefits of North America’s natural resources for everybody ...”
Republican strategist Ford O’Connell recently told msnbc that Keystone — unlike other controversial decisions and issues like immigration – is a winning issue for Christie especially in the lead up to 2016. It’s a project “all Republicans can rally around. It’s not something that divides Republicans like immigration reform.”
Proponents of Keystone — mainly labor unions, oil companies, Republicans — argue the plan would create thousands of jobs and make the country less dependent on oil from the Middle East. Critics say the project would release dangerous greenhouse gas emissions, would not bring in significant numbers of new jobs, and would have no effect on U.S. gas prices.
On Friday, Christie will travel to Ottawa and will meet with Prime Minister Stephen Harper.