New Jersey Governor Chris Christie took a shot at his neighbors across the Hudson on Monday in an a speech to the Wall Street Journal CEO Council, saying New York is going in the “wrong direction” under its Democratic leadership.
Speaking to well-heeled business executives, Christie plugged his record in the Garden State, highlighting his first-term efforts to take on teachers’ unions, whose dues, he said, are only used for political purposes. “It’s essentially a $140 million slush fund to reward friends and punish enemies,” he said.
Christie noted that he has not raised taxes in New Jersey — though he has reduced some tax credits — something he said wasn’t on the agenda for New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and incoming New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio.
“I think, for instance, a state like New York is moving in the wrong direction,” Christie said. “You see taxes being increased there. You have a new mayor in New York who is aggressively talking about increasing taxes in New York City. While I feel badly for New Yorkers, come to New Jersey.”
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In the nearly 40-minute question-and-answer session, Christie repeated his criticism of both political parties for last month’s government shutdown, saying President Barack Obama didn’t bring lawmakers together and that “absolutist” Republicans weakened the party’s hand. Christie refused to criticize Senator Ted Cruz, the architect of the GOP’s strategy to shut down the government unless Obamacare was defunded, by name. “All the people down here, from the President to the people in Congress who engaged in this stuff failed by definition,” Christie said of lawmakers in Washington.
When Gerard Baker, managing editor of the Wall Street Journal, asked Christie how he would replace the Affordable Care Act, the governor evaded the question by pointing out that there were only 16 minutes remaining for the interview and attacking politicians for using sound-bite answers to discuss complex political issues. He compared those canned answers to the adults from the comic strip Peanuts, mimicking the famous sound effects from the animated version. “We need a robust debate,” Christie said.
A likely 2016 presidential contender and the subject of intense political scrutiny, Christie seemed to chafe at the attention, saying the election is three years away and that focusing on it wrongly limits Obama’s ability to govern. “As we shut him out the door, we minimize his ability to be an effective executive,” Christie said. “And we shouldn’t do that.”
But asked what it would take to defeat potential Democratic contender former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Christie said in seeming reference to himself, “You need someone who’s clear, direct and authentic and says what they think.”
In the interview, Christie also pushed back on questions about his background raised in a new book on the 2012 campaign by TIME’s Mark Halperin and New York magazine’s John Heilemann, which reports that vetting issues kept Christie from being Mitt Romney’s running mate.
“All you have to do is listen to Mitt Romney,” Christie said, referring to the former candidate’s media tour rebutting the book’s revelations.