Sometimes the straight-talking governor of New Jersey doesn't talk all that straight. Gov. Chris Christie casts himself as a decider, steering his state through rough economic waters, while setting himself up for a run for the White House. At the National Governors Association meeting in Nashville on Saturday, Christie lambasted the Obama administration's Middle East policy and its inability to negotiate with Congress. But he skipped as many issues as he took on. Just what he would do when faced with some of the nation's hardest policy challenges remains unclear.
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) held a wide-ranging press conference yesterday at an event in Tennessee, inexplicably calling the Affordable Care Act a "failure" despite all the evidence to the contrary, and blaming violence in Israel on the Obama administration for reasons that don't make sense.
But those rhetorical shots were easy, and the fact that there were wide-ranging questions doesn't necessarily mean there were wide-ranging answers. Time's Zeke Miller reported that Christie is "making moves to prepare for a presidential run," but the governor does not "answer questions like a presidential candidate."
Should lawmakers raise the gas tax to pay for transportation projects? Christie didn't want to give an opinion. Should unaccompanied minors from Central America be sent back? Christie said he's "not going to get into all that." Should the U.S. intervene militarily against Hamas? Christie dodged that, too.
If this sounds familiar, that's because it keeps happening. Christie presents himself as a bold trailblazer, ready to lead his party and his nation, but when asked for his opinions on current events, suddenly the tough-talking governor seems rather shy.
Two weeks ago, for example, Christie was asked for his opinion on the Supreme Court's Hobby Lobby/contraception ruling. He refused to given an opinion either way. It followed an interview in which Christie refused to give an opinion on immigration reform, declining to even reiterate support for public remarks he’s already made.
Before that, when the U.S. policy in Syria reached a crisis point, Christie refused to take a stand on that, too.
In an interview earlier this month, the New Jersey Republican actually took some pride in his ability to dodge questions, saying it's the mark of "a good leader.”
It's actually the opposite. Good leaders generally aren't afraid to answer questions about current events, afraid of what one constituency or another might say in response. As we talked about at the time, Christie used to present himself as a no-nonsense straight talker, afraid of nothing and no one. Now the prospect of sharing his take on the major issues of the day makes him uncomfortable.
Is this really the "brand" Christie wants to cultivate in advance of a national campaign?