New Jersey Governor Chris Christie has plenty of defining characteristics. Being bashful is not one of them. He has built a career on his straight-talking, bombastic ways of interacting with reporters and the public and has built a record on his willingness to buck his own party for either what he thought was right, his New Jersey constituents wanted or what was best for him.
Nothing illustrated that reputation better than his actions in the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy, which roiled New Jersey in 2012. In the waning days of a presidential campaign, Christie embraced President Barack Obama with a bear hug just days before the 2012 presidential election, giving Obama a symbolic boost from a popular Republican while his own party’s nominee, Mitt Romney, was sidelined.
“I cannot thank the president enough for his personal concern and compassion for our state,” Christie said five days before voters headed to the polls. To GOP critics, he simply said, “I will not apologize for doing my job.”
But in recent months, with plenty of attention given to his own potential presidential candidacy, Christie has transitioned from offering his opinion on nearly everything to a more muted tone on the critical – and controversial – issues of the day.
“I’m not going to get into the business of second guessing the work of prosecuting offices or grand juries in jurisdictions that are outside of mine.”
Most recently, Christie kept his rhetorical distance in the aftermath of a grand jury’s decision not to indict police officer Daniel Pantaleo in the Staten Island choke hold case that killed Eric Garner – an event stirring massive protests in his own backyard.
“When I was US Attorney, I used to really, really dislike when politicians who didn’t know a tenth of what the prosecutors and a grand jury knew would second guess their work based purely for political reasons or an act of ignorance,” Christie said, according to WNBC. “I’m not going to get into the business of second guessing the work of prosecuting offices or grand juries in jurisdictions that are outside of mine.”
Christie has avoided inserting himself directly into the conversation at other times in recent months, including:
In August of 2014, shortly after Michael Brown was killed, Christie said little on the topic of the use of force by police toward black met. "We have millions of dedicated men and women who are police officers across this country, who work in grave danger every day, who try to make sure they protect innocent people across the country," the governor responded. "So I'm not going to get into this game of generalizing and characterizing people in that way. Everybody should be judged on their merits.”
Four months later, after the grand jury decision not to indict officer Darren Wilson, Christie avoided the central issue and instead he blamed the issue on a lack of leadership.
“The country has anxiety over lots of things and the only thing that clears up anxiety is leadership and direction,” he said. “And I think the country needs more leadership and more direction and less division. So on Thanksgiving when everyone’s thinking about what they’re thankful for, hopefully they can also pray for some leadership in the country that’ll be strong to help bring people together.”
Christie, who signed New Jersey’s version of the DREAM Act into law less than one year ago, has said little about immigration in recent months. In an interview this fall with the New York Times Magazine, Christie said, “I’m not going to discuss a complicated issue like immigration here in Marion, Iowa,” Christie said in New Hampshire to the reporter. “The country deserves a more deep and thoughtful conversation.”
On November 17, after meeting with House Republicans, he refused to stop and take questions from reporters.
At two days later Republican Governors Association meeting, the day before President Obama announced his executive order on immigration, Christie wouldn’t talk about the issue, saying he would detail a plan if he decided to run for president, according to The New York Times.
The day Obama announced his executive action, on November 20, Christie told a reporter that it was “ridiculous” to ask if it was fair for Christie to criticize the president without offering a plan of his own. “Because I won’t lay out my plan if I were president - that precludes me from criticizing the guy who asked for the job twice and was elected twice?”
Christie criticized the president but not his policy. “He campaigned to the Hispanic community in 2008 all across the country that he was going to deal with this issue, and he refused to deal with it, and had instead decided that he wanted to do Obamacare. He made judgment, and now he wants to try to blame it on other people. He’s got no one to blame but himself. He made the judgment. He set the priorities. And now, apparently, bipartisanship is not one of the priorities he wants to set.”
On Common Core:
Like most other Republican and Democratic governors, Chris Christie enthusiastically adopted the Common Core educational standards. In August of 2013, he said that Republicans who opposed it are issuing a “knee-jerk” reaction.
“If the president likes something, the Republicans in Congress don’t, and if the Republicans in Congress like something the President doesn’t,” he said. “It is this mindset in D.C. right now that says we have to be at war constantly, because to not be at war is to show weakness, and to show weakness is to lead to failure. And I just don’t buy that.”
But after outrage continued to bubble up within conservatives against Common Core, Christie issued an executive order in July that ordered a commission to review the curriculum and testing standards. He has since said little on the issue.
On Hobby Lobby:
After the Supreme Court determined that some businesses could be exempt from providing birth control at no-cost to employees through their health insurance plans, it took Christie nearly three weeks to respond.
The day after the decision in July on CNBC, Christie said, “Why should I give an opinion as to whether they are right or wrong?”
Three weeks later he was pressed by a member of the audience at an event in Iowa, Christie said the minimum: “Well I just said I support the case, so if I support the case and they support Hobby Lobby … ” He didn’t complete the sentence.