Governor Chris Christie did not attend the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) last year. The official story is that Christie was not invited because he was open to some form of gun control. But it’s reasonable to suspect that CPAC and Christie both had something to gain from his absence. CPAC could placate certain constituencies who are understandably cynical about Republicans out of the northeast, while Christie could avoid having clips played from the conference during his re-election run. But he’s coming this year, just ahead of the mid-term elections and his possible presidential run in 2016.
So what would you like to ask the Jersey governor—aside from Bridgegate? Until something tangible emerges that says Christie was complicit in the decision to shut down the lanes between New Jersey and New York on the George Washington Bridge, I take him at his word. So let’s move onto substance.
Exactly 100 years have passed since Woodrow Wilson, the great progressive out of New Jersey, became president. For a variety of reasons, I think Christie has governed mostly from the opposite direction. He’s challenged the activist judiciary, withdrawn from cap and trade, and fought the teachers’ unions to reform pensions. But he’s antagonized the right in other areas. So here’s our big chance. Christie is set to address the faithful on Thursday, March 6. For those who will attend, here are a few suggestions.
1. Guns. Christie vetoed the worst aspects of gun control legislation proposed in his state. And remember: This is New Jersey, not exactly part of free America. It’s fine to needle Christie on the Second Amendment and to apply the right pressure points. That’s what CPAC is for. But he did resist some of the more offensive proposals that crossed his desk.
2. Openness and Transparency in Government. Let’s not forget that someone from New Jersey named Lisa Jackson was caught using a phony email address in an effort to avoid FOIA requests and other accountability measures. After cleaning house at the Port Authority in his home state, why stop there? Why not move to corral other renegade government agencies at the federal and state level? What’s Christie view of the regulations that now flow out of the EPA where Jackson served as director?
3. The Science of Global Warming. While we are on the subject, where does Christie stand here? He initially made statements that were quite skeptical about the idea of man-made global warming, but quickly pivoted away from that position. CPAC is a good time for him to offer some clarification.
4. “Dangerous” Libertarians. If Republican Party operatives think they can go into the 2016 elections without some kind of libertarian appeal on that ticket, then they haven’t been paying attention to what’s been happening over the last few years. There’s a healthy tension between the libertarians and the more traditional elements of the conservative movement; always has been. Christie took a shot at Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, a likely rival for the 2016 nomination, when he said there’s a “strain of libertarianism” that could be “dangerous.” He was speaking mostly of national security and foreign policy where I think libertarians have the most defects. But in light of how the IRS, the EPA, and in some respects the NSA have behaved, it’s fair to ask if the libertarians are dangerous, or if the government agencies they criticize are of greater concern.
Anyways, these are just some initial thoughts, not perfectly formed questions. But as someone who ardently voted for Christie twice in Jersey, I’d like to hear from you in the comments. There are other governors out there for 2016 and Christie has not closed the deal with key constituencies on the right who he’ll need to embrace in short order.