Chris Christie gives Ky. Republicans leadership lesson, criticizes Obama as 'ill-prepared'

05/20/2012 08:47 PM

  • *Like Kentucky, New Jersey has divided government. Unlike Kentucky, the governor and Senate president of opposite parties have been able to work together to make reforms, as New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie told Kentucky Republicans on Saturday.

Christie served as keynote speaker at the statewide Republican Party Lincoln Day Dinner at Lexington’s Marriott Griffin Gate hotel. U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell, who was honored at the dinner, personally invited Christie and Christie joked that one doesn’t turn down McConnell.

Christie, who is often mentioned as a vice presidential candidate, offered a stinging rebuke of Democratic President Barack Obama’s leadership, calling him ill-prepared and peddling divisiveness. Obama has spent his first term “posing and preening and making partisan politics the rule of the day in Washington, D.C.,” Christie said.

Much of Christie’s remarks centered on the theme of leadership and offered anecdotes from his first term as New Jersey’s first Republican governor in 12 years working with a Democratic controlled legislature. And his experience of getting major pension reforms through stood in stark contrast to the stalemate in Kentucky’s capitol between Democratic Gov. Steve Beshaer and Republican Senate President David Williams.

Christie said a leader’s role is to navigate a boulevard between compromise and principles.

Christie offered several anecdotes to the crowd about his tenure as New Jersey governor. One involved his first actions to balance the state’s budget through executive order, which he announced the legislature and essentially saying they can thank him later.

Later on, he said he told the Democratic-controlled legislature he would veto a tax surcharge on millionaires, which he said in New Jersey is imposed on those making $400,000 a year. When the Democratic Senate President Steve Sweeney personally marched the newly-passed bill to Christie’s office, he met Sweeney outside his office, took out his pen and vetoed it.

But the two men clearly didn’t hold any grudges against each other as evidenced by his third anecdote regarding an issue Kentucky must wrestle with — shoring up the public employee pension system.

Christie said when he took office the New Jersey pension system was underfunded by $54 billion and the state health insurance program — which didn’t require state workers to pay anything, unlike Kentucky’s — was underfunded by $67 billion. He told how he unveiled his plan to the firefighters union:

Christie took his plan to the public in 30 town hall meetings. And Sweeney, who works as president of the ironworkers local union, agreed to sponsor the bill. Christie called Sweeney “one of the most courageous guys I’ve met in politics, as it turns out.”

Christie used all that to set up the political point of his speech about the 2012 election. He said Obama has been a “bystander” and insulted the American people in his 2011 State of the Union Address by saying he wanted to talk about “the big things” and made pitches for high-speed rail, electric cars and availability of high speed internet service.

Christie then called Obama “the most ill-prepared person to assume the presidency in my lifetime.” Here’s what else he said:

And he told the Republican crowd they have gotten a different president than what Obama promised in 2008: “This is not going to be hope and change. This is going to be divide and conquer. This is not going to be hope and change. This is going to be depress and demean. That’s what we’re in for.”

- Reporting by Nick Storm, videography by Chris Davidson, compiled by Ryan Alessi


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