New Jersey Governor Chris Christie appeared on all three network morning shows on Wednesday and was greeted in each interview by the host seizing on his harsh words for congressional Republicans over a delayed vote on Hurricane Sandy relief. [Listen to the audio or watch the video after the jump]
On NBC's Today, co-host Matt Lauer proclaimed: "You're not happy, it seems, with the course of the Republican Party right now. You blasted some Republicans in Congress last week after their inaction over Hurricane Sandy. You said they showed 'callous indifference, selfishness, duplicity,' they were, 'practicing toxic politics.' Strong letter to follow. Those aren't the words of a guy who's happy with his party."
On ABC's Good Morning America, co-host George Stephanopoulos similarly declared: "...you were very tough on the House Speaker John Boehner, on the issue of Sandy aid. And you took on what you called the toxic and internal politics of House Republicans. What specifically do you want your party in Washington to learn?"
On CBS's This Morning, co-host Norah O'Donnell got a little more colorful when she observed: "...you really spanked the Republicans in Congress, and said it was disgraceful that they didn't pass the whole relief bill. There are some Republicans who said you went a little bit overboard criticizing fellow Republicans. Was that the right thing to do?"
All three networks also pressed the Governor on upcoming debt ceiling negotiations and fretted over congressional Republicans demanding spending cuts:
> Lauer on Today: "Do you want to see the Republican Party stand firm and refuse to raise the debt ceiling until there are severe, dramatic and severe spending cuts? Keeping in mind the last time we debated this, the credit rating of the United States was lower. Are you willing to risk that again?"
> Stephanopoulos on GMA: "Now you have a lot in your party, many members of your party now, as the country continues to face this budget crisis coming up. The possibility of default in late February or March. You say, maybe the country should go into default even a partial government shutdown. Is that smart politics? Or are they playing with fire?"
> Charlie Rose on This Morning: "You are now saying that New Jersey is the model for reconciliation, compromise, and bipartisanship....you're inviting congressional leaders in Washington to come to New Jersey for a seminar....But it's interesting, because a lot of what you recommend sounds like what has been part of the Democratic message. I mean, you're asking for spending some money. You're asking – you're saying to people, I'll raise taxes, if necessary, for the people of New Jersey."
In addition to using Christie to attack the Republican Party, all three network broadcasts also urged him to sign on to gun control legislation:
> Lauer: "Let me take you back to 1995, you were running for the general assembly in your state and you went out and you distributed campaign flyers supporting a ban on assault weapons....And you said of your opponent's pledge to repeal that ban, that it was, 'dangerous, crazy and radical.' Would you take the next step now, in the wake of all these shootings, and say that it's dangerous, crazy and radical for the federal government not to step up and create a ban on assault weapons?"
> Stephanopoulos: "You've said, you've raised questions about the idea from the NRA about having an armed guard in every school. But what do you think should happen right now in the wake of this tragedy in Newtown?...Assault weapons ban. Should the whole country have one?"
> Rose: "You know there's a focus on gun control. You know that [New York] Governor [Andrew] Cuomo is out front saying what he wants to do. What does the governor of New Jersey want to do in New Jersey, and what does he want the country to do?" Christie replies: "Well, in New Jersey – first off, we have the second toughest gun laws in America already-" Rose: "Is that enough?"
Here is a full transcript of Lauer's January 9 interview with Christie:
LAUER: President Obama not the only one having a difficult time with Congress, New Jersey's Republican Governor Chris Christie made some headlines recently when he called out GOP Republicans for posting – or postponing a vote on disaster aid for Sandy victims. Governor Christie, good morning, it's good to have you here.
CHRIS CHRISTIE: Hey, good morning, Matt.
LAUER: Good timing also. Time magazine last night bumped someone off the cover of their magazine, they put this face on the cover of this week's issue, with the headline, "The Boss." Now, you know, with all due respect to the guy we both like, Bruce Springsteen, that's not what they're referring to. They're referring to the fact that this is your time to take the reins of the Republican Party. Are you gonna do it?
CHRIS CHRISTIE: I'm going to be the Governor of New Jersey. That's my job. And the only reason you get this attention is if you're doing your job well and you're being an advocate for the people that elected you. And that's all this is about. It's not about me trying to take control of anything, other than take care of the people who elected me.
LAUER: But you're not happy, it seems, with the course of the Republican Party right now. You blasted some Republicans in Congress last week after their inaction over Hurricane Sandy. You said they showed "callous indifference, selfishness, duplicity," they were, "practicing toxic politics." Strong letter to follow. Those aren't the words of a guy who's happy with his party.
CHRISTIE: No, because Sandy is and was above politics in every other element except for what happened in the Congress a week ago. And so what I was trying to point out very clearly was there are people suffering in New Jersey, there are people suffering in New York, and they need to be taken care of. And remember this, Matt, we've now waited seven times longer than the victims of Katrina waited for federal aid. Not right.
LAUER: But are you happy with the course of the Republican Party right now? Do you think it's headed in the right direction?
CHRISTIE: Matt, we've lost two elections in a row. I'd say the answer is no.
LAUER: Okay, good, so-
CHRISTIE: You know, you're in politics to win, to get your ideas forward, and we've lost two national elections in a row. We need to be thinking about doing something different.
LAUER: Republicans are going to have to deal with the issue of guns, as are all Americans, and Democrats included. You've called for a national discussion on guns and mental health. Let me take you back to 1995, you were running for the general assembly in your state and you went out and you distributed campaign flyers supporting a ban on assault weapons. Were you supporting the state ban on assault weapons or a federal ban on assault weapons?
CHRISTIE: State, state.
LAUER: And you said of your opponent's pledge to repeal that ban, that it was, "dangerous, crazy and radical." Would you take the next step now, in the wake of all these shootings, and say that it's dangerous, crazy and radical for the federal government not to step up and create a ban on assault weapons?
CHRISTIE: What I say is that states need to make some of these decisions like we've made in New Jersey. They're the second toughest gun laws in America, only behind the State of New York. But I think if all you talk about is that, Matt, you're short changing this conversation. This young man in Connecticut was obviously seriously mentally ill. Why do we have such a stigma about mental illness treatment? Why aren't we dealing with substance abuse treatment, Matt?
LAUER: But if the President proposes a federal ban on assault weapons, would you support him?
CHRISTIE: If that's all he proposes-
LAUER: If it's part of his plan?
CHRISTIE: Well, but you've got to tell me what the other parts of the plan are. I mean, you can't tell me one sliver of the plan.
LAUER: Stricter background checks and things like that...
CHRISTIE: Listen, I need-
LAUER: ...smaller magazines for weapons.
CHRISTIE: I need – again, all you're focusing on right now is gun control. What about the violence in our video games? You know, you and I both have children. We don't allow those games into our house. We've made that decision because we think it desensitizes our children to the real effects of violence. I mean the fact is, we need to have a conversation about all these things. We had a woman, Matt, in Camden, who decapitated her child and then killed herself, high on crack. If we don't deal with the substance abuse issues and the mental illness issues that lead to violence, we're short changing this conversation.
LAUER: I'll go back one time, if they deal with those issues as well, would you support a federal ban on assault weapons?
CHRISTIE: It depends on what they do, Matt. My point is this-
LAUER: Why not just say yes or no?
CHRISTIE: Well, because it's not that easy. I mean, I know in a short interview like this, you'd like me to give you pithy answers, but you know, the fact is, these are complicated issues. And my point is I'm willing to have that conversation. Now that's a lot more than a lot of other people are willing to say. I'm willing to have the conversation, but you've got to deal with these other issues.
LAUER: In your state-
CHRISTIE: Otherwise you're just being political.
LAUER: In your state of the state address yesterday, you cast New Jersey as the alternative to what you term, "the dysfunctional, dispirited, and distrustful government in Washington." You know, I follow New Jersey pretty closely, we're right across the border from you guys, and yet I watch you guys in the legislature there. And they're dealing with the same gridlock, over issues like taxes, that we're seeing in – in Washington. Why is New Jersey a better example?
CHRISTIE: Well, because in divided government in the last three years, we've passed a cap on property taxes. We've done meaningful pension and health benefit reform. We've done a new drug rehabilitation program where for first-time offenders you don't get sentenced to jail, you get sentenced to rehabilitation. We've done a lot of things in this state. I vetoed three income tax increases when I had to, so we've had our confrontations when we've had to, but we've done a lot of things cooperatively.
LAUER: There's plenty of dysfunction in New Jersey in politics as well.
CHRISTIE: A lot less than there used to be, Matt. A lot less than there used to be. Because what we're doing is we're finding areas to compromise and work together. And we've done more together than we've had fights in the last three years.
LAUER: Let's talk about compromise. We are barreling towards fiscal cliff part two, alright? The sequel to what we've just have seen. Some people say that the debate coming up could be worse over the debt ceiling and spending. Do you want to see the Republican Party stand firm and refuse to raise the debt ceiling until there are severe, dramatic and severe spending cuts? Keeping in mind the last time we debated this, the credit rating of the United States was lower. Are you willing to risk that again?
CHRISTIE: Listen, what I think we need to do is stand firm on getting some real significant spending reductions. We've now done what the President wanted to do. He wanted to raise taxes on the highest earning Americans and Republicans have now acquiesced to that. Now it's time for the President to stand up and say, "Here's what I'm going to do on spending." He hasn't done it, he needs to do it. And if he's going to be a credible partner and compromiser, then he's going to have to step up and do those things, too.
LAUER: And do Republicans refuse to raise the debt limit if those spending are not deep enough?
CHRISTIE: I tell you, we've got a bunch of different options at our – at our disposal. You have the continuing resolution coming up in March. You have a number of other things that you can do that includes the debt ceiling. But my point is, you've got to get to the table and start working now. If we wait until the week or so before to actually start talking to each other, we're not going to get it done.
LAUER: You've forged a nice relationship with the President in the wake of Hurricane Sandy. You guys hit it off. There was that bromance that everyone talked about. Do you have a continuing relationship? Do you have his ear? Might you be of some use as he approaches congressional Republicans over this debate?
CHRISTIE: Hey listen, I don't offer my advice to the President in that way. I mean, I – what I've dealt with the President on is Hurricane Sandy, and that's what the nature of our relationship is. He's not calling me, Matt, like at 11:00 at night and going, "Hey, Chris, what do you think about this?" That's not the way the relationship works, okay?
So the fact is, I'll continue to speak out publicly about the things that I think are important. And anybody in Washington, D.C. who wants to come to New Jersey and see some of the stuff we're doing, how I'm working with the Democratic legislature to try to bring compromise and consensus. I mean the things that are happening in New Jersey, the fact that 61% of New Jerseyans think their state is moving in the right direction, is testimony to the fact that they think their government is working. And that's what we're doing and anybody who wants advice in Washington on that, I think myself and Steve Sweeney and Sheila Oliver, the Democrats who run the legislature, we're happy to run a seminar for them.
LAUER: You end with a pithy answer. I like it.
LAUER: Governor Christie, always good to see you.
CHRISTIE: Great to see you, Matt.
LAUER: Thank you very much.
CHRISTIE: Thank you.