New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie took both Republicans and Democrats to task for political cowardice on entitlement reform in his first big Washington speech today at the American Enterprise Institute.
“The President’s not talking about it because he’s waiting for the Republicans in Congress to start talking about it,” said Christie, a Republican. “And the new bold Republicans that we just sent up to the Hill, they’re not talking about it because they’re waiting for the President to talk about it.
“The game we’re playing here, it’s irresponsible and dangerous,” he added. “What’s the truth that nobody’s talking about? You’re going to have to raise the retirement age for Social Security. Whoa, I just said it. I’m still standing here. I did not vaporize into the carpeting… We have to reform Medicare because it’s too expensive… And we have to fix Medicaid because it’s not only bankrupting the federal government but every state government.”
The new Republican Governors’ Policy Vice Chairman focused much of his speech on entitlement reform, touching only glancingly on his achievements as governor since taking office 13 months ago. In that time Christie balanced the budget without raising income taxes and has taken on the state’s teachers’ and public employees’ unions, making him a conservative hero.
The first question after his speech was if Christie could see any circumstances in which he would change his mind and run for the Republican nomination for President in 2012. Christie joked, he’d rather commit suicide. “Well that took a long time didn’t it?” he cracked to laughter. “What do I have to do to convince people I‘m not running? Apparently, I have to commit suicide to convince people that I’m not running… I’m not stupid; I see the opportunity. But that’s not the reason to run.
That’s not the reason to be President of the United States. You have to believe in your soul and your heart and your mind that you’re ready and I don’t believe that about myself right now.”
Christie said that, “unlike others I don’t want to see President Obama fail.” That said, he was disappointed that Obama didn’t grasp the opportunity of entitlement reform at the State of the Union. “As a Republican I feared that he’s going to stand up there and cement reelection right now,” Christie said. “He’s going to make the tough calls and he’s not only going to look like a centrist he’s going to be one.” In Christie’s estimation Obama fell extremely short, though “he’s President, he still has time to make that up.”
Christie saved some of his most withering criticism for his own party, accusing them of losing the forest for the trees by focusing on discretionary spending in the 2011 and 2012 budgets before Congress right now while ignoring entitlements. “If you don’t deal with Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid you’re participating in a failing proposition because you’re not going to get to the root of the problem from that spot,” he said. “Trotting out all the same old songs about what you’re going to cut and how you’re going to do it — I think people are bored with that.
“It’s put up or shut up time,” Christie said. “If people who I campaigned for [in the 2010 midterm elections] don’t stand up and do the right thing the next time they’ll see me in their district is with my arm around their primary opponent.”