Gov. Chris Christie discusses his presidential bid
SHANNON BREAM, GUEST ANCHOR: I’m Shannon Bream, in for Chris Wallace.
In the race for the Republican presidential nomination, Chris Christie makes 14. But is he four years too late?
GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE, R-N.J.: I mean, listen, campaigns matter. If they didn’t, we’d elect people right now.
BREAM: How will his straight talking style play outside New Jersey?
You’re a pretty hard charging guy?
And what about bridgegate?
CHRISTIE: When you’re exonerated, then the people who wrongly accused you should have the guts to stand up and say, “I’m sorry.”
BREAM: The governor sits down to discuss his candidacy only on “Fox News Sunday.”
Then, Iran nuclear negotiations extended for another week.
We’ll ask our Sunday panel whether the U.S. and partners are willing to walk away from a bad deal.
CROWD: USA, USA!
BREAM: Plus, what does the Supreme Court’s ruling on same-sex marriage mean for religious freedom? We’ll debate with Kelly Shackelford, former president of Liberty Institute, and Evan Wolfson, founder of Freedom to Marry.
All, right now, on “Fox News Sunday.”
BREAM: And hello again from Fox News in Washington.
This holiday weekend, there’s no shortage of politics on the plate as many presidential hopefuls descended on the early voting state of New Hampshire to march in Fourth of July parades. Among them, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie who entered the race this week as an underdog, unlike in 2012 when he was a GOP rising star and courted by party elites to run for president.
We caught up with the governor on Friday in New Hampshire, which is shaping up to be a do-or-die state for his 2016 ambitions.
BREAM: Governor, you seem to be having a very good time here in New Hampshire.
CHRISTIE: I am. I’m having a great time. We’ve been here since Tuesday evening, after I announced in New Jersey on Tuesday morning. And we’ve been traveling all over the state. My wife and I, we’re having a great time.
BREAM: You know here, as well as across the country, you’ve got some ground to make up. I think the average of polling here has you sixth in New Hampshire. Across the country, nine. So, you’re sort of on the bubble with the first debate with FOX News. We’re going to have ten.
How do you work to assure yourself a spot and overcome sort of where you’re polling right now?
CHRISTIE: You work. I mean, listen, campaigns matter. If they didn’t, we’d elect people right now. Campaigns matter, how you present yourself, the ideas you put forward and your own personality, all of that matters.
And so, I intend to use this campaign to work incredibly hard not only here in New Hampshire but in Iowa and South Carolina and other states as well, to present my ideas and to present myself. And I think it will make a difference.
BREAM: How do you break away from the pack at this point?
CHRISTIE: Well, I think it’s hard to tell how anybody breaks away from the pack. No one has broken away from the pack at this point. You have 14 or 15 or 16 candidates, but I think in the end, what matters are the quality of your ideas and the strength of your character and what you’re going to bring to this job.
I think what the American people want now more than anything else is a strong and decisive leader, so unlike what we’ve had in the Oval Office for nearly the last seven years.
And people who know me know that I do not have a problem making decisions and that I will be strong and I’ll be clear and direct. And that’s what people want, I think.
BREAM: Well, your slogan is “Telling It Like It Is.” And you’ve said your mom said don’t ever try to be somebody that you’re not. So, clearly, that is something that’s worked for you.
But let’s talk about new polling numbers from Monmouth University in New Jersey, showing that a majority of people there are not happy with you. They don’t approve of the job that you’re doing. They think that your political future’s more important to you than taking care of New Jersey.
How do you respond?
CHRISTIE: Well, I think it’s a natural thing to happen, Shannon, once you decide to run for president. You’re asking for another job. And I think it’s a natural thing and a natural reaction for people to have.
But if you look at my career in New Jersey over the last six years, my poll numbers have gone everywhere from the 40s to the 70s and everywhere in between. It cycles because I take on the hard fights. And when I have political capital, when I’m in the 60s or 70s, I spend it to do pension reform, to do teacher tenure reform, to veto income tax increases. And sometimes, that’s not popular.
So, we’ll go up and down and I bet you it’ll cycle back up again before we’re through this process.
BREAM: You mentioned pensions. So let’s talk about that. It’s been one of the key things that you’ve been working on. You had a big win from your state supreme court on that issue. But there’s still a long way to go.
How do you get there and convince people that you can get the big things done?
CHRISTIE: Well, because we have already. When you think about we’ve capped property taxes in New Jersey at 2 percent, we’ve cut business taxes $2.3 billion, and we spend $2.3 billion less today than we did in fiscal year ’08. Those were all tough things. And we’ve gone through one round of significant pension and benefit reform which is saving $120 billion over the next 30 years. We have more to do.
I have a Democratic legislature I’ve got to try and convince of that, and really recalcitrant unions who don’t want to believe that because of the benefits they’ve asked for their pensions are going broke. So, I’m just going to keep talking about it and working hard the way I am about entitlement reform, which we need to do in our country as well.
BREAM: That is something you’ve been willing to take on; a lot of people aren’t because we remember the commercials the last time around, Grandma in the wheelchair getting pushed off a cliff.
Why are you willing to tackle that? It’s never been popular.
CHRISTIE: Shannon, you know and I know a lot of the viewers who are watching know, 71 percent of federal spending in this year’s budget are on entitlements and debt service.
If we don’t deal with this we can’t invest in national defense. We can’t invest in education. We can’t invest in infrastructure, the things that people want us to do in the government. We’re not going to be able to afford to do and those programs are going to go insolvent.
That’s not — that’s just not acceptable to me nor is a massive tax increase on the American people to pay for it.
So we need to reform these programs and we can do it and we can do it in a way that’s not going to throw anybody off the cliff. And I’ve put that plan forward and I’m going to keep talking about it. It’s the third rail of American politics. They say don’t touch it. I’m going to hug it.
BREAM: OK. Well, you make get shocks. We know that’s what happens in the third rail.
BREAM: But how do you convince Capitol Hill? They don’t get a whole lot done there these days in Washington and that’s a massive lift.
CHRISTIE: Well, listen, I’ve worked with a Democratic legislature for the last six years in New Jersey, 24-16 in the senate, 48-32 in the lower house. And through being tough and decisive and knowing when to compromise, because that’s not a dirty word. We got to compromise sometimes but we’ve gotten a lot of things done in New Jersey because of that. I know how to going to those things done; those are the same skills that I’ll bring to Washington.
It’ll never be easy, Shannon. Never be easy for any president to deal with any Congress. But we got to work together. We got to get things done.
The American people are tired. They’re tired of the bickering in Washington, D.C., and the lack of action. One thing they’ll never say about me is that I lack action.
BREAM: That’s true.
Now, let’s talk about compromise because in recent weeks you have been very critical of some of the current appointees to the U.S. Supreme Court. You’ve said that you — not a big fan of some of what the chief justices’ done recently. But you would appoint justices like New Jersey’s own Sam Alito.
But there are those who say when you had that opportunity in New Jersey to make over the New Jersey supreme court, your critics say that you caved and you reappointed the chief justice who is very liberal. And they pointed out as you took on the Democrats and you lost on that issue and questioned whether you would be trustworthy when it comes to appointing a U.S. Supreme Court justice.
CHRISTIE: Yes. Well, those folks haven’t watched New Jersey closely. What I got in return for — and remember, I have a Democratic senate. So they have refused to nominate four of my folks.
And so, what I did was I got three conservative Republicans in exchange for one Democrat. That’s a pretty good deal. And it’s a deal that I made so that I could get three conservative Republicans on the court.
And you mentioned the pension ruling before, those three Republicans were in that 5-person majority that upheld our pension and benefit reforms and said in their decision that the judiciary has no business meddling in the business of the executive and legislative branches. That’s in the opinion. If we had those kind of justices and more of them we would not have had the same-sex marriage decision that we had last week and we wouldn’t have had the Obamacare decision.
So, if the Christie type of judges had been on that court in the majority, we would have won those cases in the Supreme Court rather than lost them.
So, those critics are always going to be critics, because you know why? They never have to do anything. I’m someone who has to get something done. I got it done and I’ve made the supreme court of New Jersey more conservative.
And the pension decision, you read it. It’s a conservative decision and I’m proud of it and I’m proud of the people I appointed.
BREAM: So let’s talk about one of your GOP rivals for 2016, Senator Ted Cruz. He’s clerk to the U.S. Supreme Court. He called in the wake of the decisions that you also seem unhappy about the decisions they arrived at, he’s called for a constitutional amendment, which would lead to retention elections for U.S. Supreme Court justices.
Is that something you’d support?
BREAM: Why not?
CHRISTIE: I don’t think we should elect Supreme Court justices. I don’t —
BREAM: But if they’re appointed and then have to face the people again at some point?
CHRISTIE: Yes, I don’t think we should elect Supreme Court justices, no.
Listen, what we — something we do in New Jersey, which I think is something that folks can consider is we appoint our justices for a seven-year term. And then after seven years, the governor has the opportunity to again consider whether to nominate them then for a lifetime tenure. I don’t want to see judges raising money and running for election.
I would, though, trust the executive after seven years, like we do in New Jersey, to decide whether or not to reappoint people. I’m the first governor in New Jersey’s constitutional history to not reappoint two supreme court justices. I wanted to go in another direction. That can work.
I’ve done it in New Jersey. But I don’t believe we should be putting judges on the ballot. I think that having United States Supreme Court justices running national elections, I don’t think that would be the right thing. I just disagree with Senator Cruz.
BREAM: We’re under a heightened terror alert, this Independence Day weekend. There are a lot of concerns — and to that question, there are those who wonder just how far the government should be able to go in tracking potential attackers and terrorists.
You’ve talked openly about the PATRIOT Act, how, in your experience, as U.S. attorney, those kinds of tools are very important.
Now you know the 2nd Circuit has taken down some of what the government has asked for very comprehensive metadata collection.
Here’s what they said. They said, “Search warrants and document subpoenas typically seek the records of a particular individual or corporation under investigation, and cover particular time periods when the events under investigation occurred.
The orders at issue here contain no such limits. They extend to every record that exists and, indeed, to records that do not yet exist.” They said it violates federal law.
Now one of your other contenders, Senator Rand Paul, is obviously on the other side of the issue with you. Here’s what he said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. RAND PAUL, R-KY.: And I’ve said time and time again I’m not against looking at the records of terrorists. I want to look at more records of terrorists. But you don’t get there by indiscriminately looking at all the records of all Americans all the time.
To me, what you say or do on your phone, your phone records are none of the government’s damn business.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BREAM: So, how do you square your position with Fourth Amendment concerns?
CHRISTIE: Yes. Well, he’s wrong.
He’s wrong and what he’s done has made American weaker and more vulnerable. And he’s done it and then cut his speeches and put them on the Internet to raise money off of them. He’s politicizing America’s national security.
BREAM: Do you think he doesn’t genuinely hold those positions?
CHRISTIE: I have no idea. But I know what he did with his positions after he made them and he used them to raise money off the Internet, and it’s wrong. And his position is wrong. And he wouldn’t know that his position’s wrong because he’s never had the responsibility to do it.
I’ve had the responsibility to do it, Shannon. I’ve had to review applications under the PATRIOT Act, under Section 215. I know what it’s like to interact with the FISA court. The fact is that we can do this and protect civil liberties.
And, of course, we want to track terrorists’ phone numbers. How do you find out who the terrorists are talking to in the United States?
If you’re tracking those phone numbers — we’re not listening to anybody’s conversations. We’re not looking at their emails without the type of search warrants that the court is talking about. What we’re saying, though, is, if you’re a terrorist, if you’re a known terrorist outside this country, and you’re calling numbers inside this country, we’d like to know who those people are.
And that’s the right thing to do. And as we face a heightened warning on this 4th of July weekend, what the American people need to know is that Senator Paul’s conduct has made them weaker and more vulnerable to attack.
BREAM: What do you think — to say to those, though, who are — they feel that their government may have them under attack? They feel like they don’t have privacy when they’ve done nothing wrong.
CHRISTIE: Instead of using — Senator Paul, instead of using this to raise money, he should engage in vigorous congressional oversight over our intelligence community, which is his responsibility and his duty under his oath as a United States senator. And our Justice Department should prosecute any intelligence officer who violates the law. We have those safeguards available to us.
Instead, what Senator Paul has decided to do is throw the baby out with the bathwater. And he’s decided to make America more vulnerable, to make a political point. I think it’s wrong. I think it’s dangerous.
And how about this? If, God forbid, there were to be another attack on the United States, you know Senator Paul would be the first one dragging the CIA director and the FBI director up on Capitol Hill and put them under oath and criticize them for not connecting the dots, and not mention for a moment his hypocrisy for taking away some of the tools they need to connect those dots.
I’m a former prosecutor. I’ve prosecuted terrorists and put them in jail. I could tell the American people, you can do this and you can do it well.
And if I’m president, that’s the kind of attorney general I’ll appoint. And that’s the type of folks that I will put into my government to make sure they’re done — protecting civil liberties, but protecting the homeland first and foremost.
BREAM: Another hot topic — immigration. Here’s what you had to say this week while you were visiting in New Hampshire: “Please be careful about anybody who’s running for president who’s going to tell you that they’re going to build a wall across the entire southern border. It’s not going to happen. It is the wrong message to send. And it’s not going to be effective.”
So, first of all, was that a jab at Donald Trump? And secondly, what’s your plan for the border?
CHRISTIE: No, first off, it’s not a jab at just at Donald Trump. Here’s what lots of people who have talk about it, as you know, over time — building a wall across the entire southern border. I think it’s the wrong message.
And by the way, I know the human spirit. I haven’t found a wall that can be built that a determined human being can’t get over, under or around.
So there may be certain spots, I’ve said, along the southern border where fencing and walling make sense, because of their geography or the typography. But the idea — that’s a simple politician’s answer, to build a wall across our entire southern border.
My plan for the border would be multi-fold. First, it would be to use the type of walling or fencing in certain areas, that I’ve talked about before. Second would be to use the type of electronic surveillance that we have available to us both through drones and through other electronic surveillance on the border. Third, of course, is to use Border Patrol officers to be able to do it. And fourth, and most important, is that require every employer in America to use E-Verify.
Because these folks are coming across the border, Shannon, not to vote, like Hillary Clinton would lead you to believe. They’re coming to work. And if they’re not able to be employed if they come here illegally, if every employer uses E-Verify and if they violate the late, there are fines that are so significant that the profit they make off hiring lower-wage workers and discriminating against American workers won’t be worth their while. You’ll see a real diminishment of anybody trying to come over the southern border.
That’s common sense, effective ways of being able to secure our border. And you need an executive who has executive experience who knows how to enforce that, and that the American people believe will enforce the law, unlike this president. They know I’ll enforce the law. I’m a former prosecutor and an executive from New Jersey. I’ll be able to do that.
BREAM: That’s just one of the questions you’ve been fielding here this week. One question that hasn’t come up publicly is about bridge-gate. I know that somebody took you aside and wanted to talk privately to you about it and you said, “I’d rather address it publicly so people know where we’re at.”
You’ve been cleared in three different investigations. Even “The New York Times” gives you credit on that. But they say you’re responsible for creating an environment in which your staff thought you’d be OK with that. Some of them are still facing very serious charges. Those trials are going to play out.
You’ve said there’s a difference between being responsible for what happened, but also being accountable.
BREAM: So, how do you address that to the satisfaction of those who want to vote for you, but feel like there’s still a cloud there?
CHRISTIE: Well, first off, you just have to say to the people, again, who are watching this morning — three different investigations have verified exactly what I said the day after this incident happened, that I had no knowledge of it and absolutely nothing to do with it.
And you know what happens when the media, Shannon, gets crazy over a story, like they got crazy over bridge-gate and were convicting me the day afterwards of heinous acts. Now, when they realize that there’s no truth to what they said, now they say, “Oh, he didn’t do anything, but he created an atmosphere.”
Well, you know, that’s what the liberal media does when rather than saying “I’m sorry,” which is what they should say.
Listen, I’m accountable because it happened on my watch. And I apologized the next day to the people of New Jersey for that happening on my watch.
But in the end, when you have a government of 60,000 people, you can’t make sure that every person does what you want them to do every day. But when they do something you don’t want them to do, you fire them, which is exactly what I did. And then you cooperate fully with every investigation, which is exactly what I did.
And when you’re exonerated, then the people who wrongly accused you should have the guts to stand up and say, “I’m sorry.” But of course, these people don’t do that.
I’ve apologized to the people of New Jersey for putting those people in a position to be able to do what they did, but I will tell you something, I am not going to allow people to mischaracterize my public record over false allegations, and that’s exactly what these were.
BREAM: You’re a pretty hard-charging guy.
CHRISTIE: Yes, sir — ma’am.
BREAM: How does that translate at home? What are your — how would your kids describe you?
CHRISTIE: Listen, I think what my kids would say is that I hold them accountable. I love my children…
BREAM: Do they get away with anything?
CHRISTIE: Oh, sure.
BREAM: Maybe I should ask them.
CHRISTIE: You could ask them. But I’ll tell you, I’m sure they get away with things, but they’re good kids. And they’re accountable. They’re good students. They work hard at school. They respect me and their mother. And I love them.
And you know what the biggest hard-charge I have in my house is is hugging. I love to hug my children. I love to tell them I love them every day before they leave for school or before I leave for work. And I think that’s the most important thing you can do as a father is to make sure that your children know they’re loved.
And I love my children and they’re the most important thing in me and Mary Pat’s world.
BREAM: Well, regardless of politics, I think every American could agree that’s a great position.
Thank you, Governor.
CHRISTIE: Thanks, Shannon.
BREAM: Good to see you.
CHRISTIE: Appreciate it.
BREAM: We also got the chance to talk about the impact of the governor’s campaign on his family. Be sure to check out our talk with Governor Christie and his wife, the First Lady Mary Pat, on foxnewssunday.com. It is a behind-the-scenes web exclusive.
Up next, Donald Trump surges in the polls as he stirs up plenty of controversy following his campaign announcement. Our Sunday group joins the conversation on the fallout from his remarks regarding immigrants from Mexico.
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