September 27, 2011
by Ronald Radosh
With the speech by Governor Chris Christie at the Reagan Library on Tuesday night, the speculation about a presidential run and clamor to have the governor enter the race will now only increase. Despite his persistent denials, and his answer to the second question in which the governor cited the headline at Politico titled "Running: Chris Christie's Many 'No's,'" his entire tone tonight tonight as well as the venue for his address spell presidential contender.
In the speech, delivered clearly and with passion, Governor Christie sounded — well — it was as you would expect at the Reagan Library: simply Reaganesque. Starting with his reaction to President Reagan's famous firing of the PATCO air traffic control strikers, Christie noted: "President Reagan ordered them back to work, making clear that those who refused would be fired. In the end, thousands refused, and thousands were fired." He made that statement not as a parable for how to handle labor relations, Christie said, but as "a parable of principle," which showed that "Ronald Reagan was a man who said what he meant and meant what he said."
To those prominent conservatives and Republicans hoping that he will enter, a group that extends from columnist Ann Coulter to former First Lady Barbara Bush, the speech was a possible sign that, despite the denials, he is contemplating a run. Indeed, Politico now runs a story by Maggie Haberman, whose sources say just that. These sources include former New Jersey Governor Tom Kean, and those urging him to run seem to include both Roger Ailes and Rupert Murdoch.
Christie said that the country is now ruled by a "bystander in the Oval Office" who has been unable to "shake off the paralysis that has made it impossible for him to take on the really big things that are obvious to all Americans and to a watching and anxious world." Christie appears to many to be just the man for the job — since he did it in New Jersey by taking on the public sector unions, and thereby helping the state achieve fiscal responsibility.
For those who think the governor has no foreign policy experience, he sought in the speech to address their concerns as well, noting that Reagan acted abroad just as he acted at home, addressing issues like Social Security and the Cold War. As Christie put it, domestic and foreign policy work together:
But, there is also a foreign policy price to pay. To begin with, we diminish our ability to influence the thinking and ultimately the behavior of others. There is no better way to persuade other societies around the world to become more democratic and more market-oriented than to show that our democracy and markets work better than any other system.
Turning to the contentious Middle East, Christie noted that "a Middle East that is largely democratic and at peace will be a Middle East that accepts Israel, rejects terrorism, and is a dependable source of energy."
Strongly defending "American exceptionalism," in essence he contrasted what a Christie approach would be to that taken currently by Barack Obama. Unlike an isolationist like Ron Paul, Christie argued on behalf of having the necessary resources for defense, intelligence, homeland security, and diplomacy. He said, however, that makeover of other societies cannot be done; hence, "We need to limit ourselves overseas to what is in our national interest so that we can rebuild the foundations of American power here at home – foundations that need to be rebuilt in part so that we can sustain a leadership role in the world for decades to come."
The words sound good, but like other potential candidates, Christie gave no details as to how he or any other leader would decide when to act abroad and when to limit our foreign involvement.
Few, however, can doubt the eloquence or power of Chrstie's words:
Today, the biggest challenge we must meet is the one we present to ourselves. To not become a nation that places entitlement ahead of accomplishment. To not become a country that places comfortable lies ahead of difficult truths. To not become a people that thinks so little of ourselves that we demand no sacrifice from each other. We are a better people than that; and we must demand a better nation than that.
Contrasting his demand with the stance of President Barack Obama, Christie accused the president of preparing "to divide our nation to achieve re-election."
There are, of course, many serious mitigating factors that would haunt candidate Christie were he to enter. These have been pointed out forcefully by our colleagues atNational Review, in an online article by Daniel Foster. He notes the following issues that Christie would have to immediately address:
Some of these that Foster point to, however, could help him in swing states and among independent voters, even though many in the conservative base of the Republican Party would not be happy. Yet some of these same conservatives supported Rudy Giuliani in polls taken in 2008, despite the former New York mayor's equally weak social conservatism.
Nevertheless, my hunch is that the reports that Christie may be considering a run are accurate. Why else would he give this particular address tonight at the Reagan Library? Christie is probably aware that a good chance exists he will not win re-election as governor of New Jersey, and that if he does not take the bait for a presidential run now, his time for it will be over forever. His wife has said that she is sure he would make a good president; others are pressuring him to enter, and he has been visited by scores of people with big bucks making clear that were he to enter, fund-raising would not be a problem.
Whatever his ultimate decision, and the guessing game he is putting us all through, the race for the Republican nomination is getting more interesting each passing day.
Ronald Radosh is an adjunct fellow at the Hudson Institute; Prof. Emeritus of History at the City University of New York, and the author of many books, including "The Rosenberg File;" "Divided They Fell: The Demise of the Democratic Party, 1964-1996," and most recently, "Commies: A Journey Through the Old Left, the New Left and the Leftover Left."
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