BELMONT — Chris Christie, the burly, plain spoken governor of New Jersey seeking the Republican presidential nomination, easily made himself at home before a full house at Shooter's Tavern last evening.
"Two things off the top," Christie began, "then I'll take your questions." He proceeded to a harsh critique of the Obama Administration's foreign policy, charging that the turmoil in the Middle East is "on the hands of the President of the United States." Insisting that America is "not just another country," he said that it must provide leadership. "He's been timid," he said of Obama, stressing that "true strength and resolve brings peace to the world."
Then Christie turned his scorn on Congress. He likened the chaos among Republicans over choosing a Speaker of the House to the "Game of Thrones" and chastised the Republican majority for failing to send bills to the president's desk reforming the tax code, repealing Obamacare and defending Planned Parenthood. Conceding they would be vetoed, he said that the vetoes would show voters the difference between a Republican and Democratic presidency. "I worked for some of these guys," he said, recalling his role in congressional campaigns, "and I'm disappointed. We're angry. We've had enough."
Christie said that only the executive, a governor or the president, — not the legislature — can make things happen and touted his record in New Jersey, where as a Republican governor he squared off against a Democratic legislature for six years. His 52 vetoes, he said, were the most of any governor, and all were sustained. "We compromised," he said. "It isn't capitulation. It's compromise. It's time, " he continued, "to send a president to Washington who's done this before."
Inviting questions, Christie asked only that people raise their hands, explaining that he would not reply to questions shouted at him, since as the father of four children " I have a finely honed sense of not responding to being yelled at."
Asked what distinguished him in the field of GOP candidates, Christie pointed to his record in a state where Democrats outnumber Republicans by 750,000. "I'm more tested than the others," he claimed. He said he was urged to run for president four years ago, but "I looked in the mirror and knew I wasn't ready. I know I'm ready now. I know in my heart I can do this."
During his first days in office, Christie said he would rescind all executive orders issued by Obama and fire every employee he appointed. He would also invite the leaders of Canada, Mexico, the United Kingdom, France, Germany and Israel to Washington "to restore our friendships."
Next he would propose a tax reform that would have three brackets — 28-percent , 15-percent and 8-percent — and eliminate all deductions other than those for mortgage interest and charitable contributions. "The tax system is rigged for the rich," he said, claiming his plan would enable people to keep more of their money and enable him to shrink the IRS. At the same time, he would freeze all regulation for 90 days while eliminating the most onerous and least necessary.
Finally Christie said he would tackle Social Security by raising the retirement age by two years over 25 years and denying benefits to those with retirement income of more than $200,000. He said when Mark Zuckerburg asked him "what does that mean for me," he told him bluntly "you get nothing. The government lied and stole from you for years to pay for insurance you don't need."
Christie said flatly that the only way to reduce the national debt, which has grown to $19 trillion, is to cut government spending and expand the economy. He quipped that Mike Huckabee, one his rivals in the primary field, suggested taxing "pimps and prostitutes" then remarked ""I don't have a problem with pimps and prostitutes paying their fair share, but unless I'm missing something I don't think there are enough of them to retire the debt."
Perhaps more than any other candidate in the field Christie shines in town hall settings, readily fielding questions and lacing his responses with a mix of candor and wit. Whether as his campaign claims "he tells it like it is" is a matter of political persuasion, but this guy who looks like a home plate umpire in a blue suit definitely calls 'em as he sees 'em.
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