New Jersey Governor Chris Christie joined me to start hour two of today’s show:
HH: Went home after Morning Joe at four o’clock in the morning here in Colorado and went back to sleep. But I’m awake because Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey is joining me to start today’s show. Governor Christie, welcome back to the Hugh Hewitt Show.
CC: Happy to be back, Hugh.
HH: A lot of the talk on Morning Joe was about polls. You are doing okay in some, not so well in others. Do you think they matter at this moment?
CC: Not really. I don’t. I think if you remember, eight years ago at this time, on the Democratic side, Hilary Clinton was ahead of Barack Obama by 20 points. On our side, we’ve have folks who have been leading in the polls I think six to seven different people now over [the] course of time. So, no I don’t. I think what really matters is what kind of campaign you are running, how hard you are working, and I’m glad to see that some folks respond to that. I’m sure that even more are going to respond as we move forward because what they want is something different than what’s going on Washington D.C. right now which is a train wreck both at the White House and on Capitol Hill.
HH: Also this morning on MSNBC, former Secretary of State Clinton sat down and got heated and indignant over Kevin McCarthy, the likely new speaker. He is the prohibitive favorite, in fact, Jason Chaffetz was endorsing last week until he decided to get in, so I think Kevin McCarthy remains the prohibitive favorite. Has Hilary Clinton been given the gift-wrapped, “get-out-of-jail-free” card or is she trying to play what was at worse a misstatement into some kind of giant fog of war which allows her to escape the battlefield?
CC: Her conduct is her conduct, Hugh. She did all of her business through her private server in her basement which could have been hacked by the Russians, the Chinese, or some 18-year-olds off on a toot. She mishandled, it appears, classified information and none of that is going to change the matter whether Kevin McCarthy says something stupid or not.
That doesn’t change her conduct. But the Clintons always want to run away from their conduct. That’s what Mrs. Clinton has done her whole career, and so she’ll try to run away from this one. That’s why the big question for Republican primary voters is who do you want prosecuting Hilary Clinton on that stage next fall? Seems to me, the only federal prosecutor on the stage is the right person to be prosecuting that case. I will not let her wriggle her way from the facts. She will have to held accountable for them, and that’s exactly what I intend to do come next fall.
HH: Now, Kevin McCarthy did not use the best construction. Should that stop him from becoming Speaker?
CC: I don’t think any one thing someone says should stop them from becoming the Speaker of the House, but that’s going to be up to all of the members of the House of Representatives to decide. So they are going to decide. It was an ill-advised thing to say, but any of us in public life who have microphones in front of us all the time say things that we wish we could take back.
HH: I loved your comment over the weekend, you would “rather jump off of a bridge than serve in Congress.” Some people thought that was ill-advised given “Bridgegate,” but I just thought it was funny.
CC: Yes, I used a different bridge. I used the Brooklyn Bridge. I was being smart about it.
CC: But the fact is, that’s the way I feel about Congress and, by the way, that is the way most of country feels about Congress. Let’s look at this Republican Congress for a second. Have we gotten tax reform put on the president’s desk to make him veto it? No. Have we repealed and replaced Obamacare, and if he wants to veto it, let him go head? Have we done a repeal of Planned Parenthood funding? No. None of those things have been done. And despite the fact that we gave the Republican Party control of both houses of the United States Congress. I’m tired of it. The American people are more tired than I am of it, and that’s why they want a leader down in Washington in the White House who is going to grab this Congress by the scruff of the neck and say, “Listen, it’s time to get things done for real Americans.”
HH: Couple of more questions before we turn to political nature, before we turn to policy. First of all, Donald Trump retweeting this morning that Marco Rubio is a boy. This is kind of getting “school-yard-ish,” what do you make of that?
CC: Well, it is kind of what I said at the last debate, Hugh. This back-and-forth about whether Jeb’s speech is Spanish or English or whether Jeb’s wife was really insulted or not or whether Carly was an awful CEO of Hewlitt-Packard or whether Donald declared bankruptsy. I got to tell you, the forty-five year old construction worker sitting on his couch watching that wanted to turn to Sportscenter because the fact is that none of what they were talking about matters. None of this matters to the American people. They want to know what your plans for America’s future and for their future and the future of their family and they don’t want to hear all this childish back-and-forth between Donald and Carly and Donald and Jeb, and apparently, now Donald and Marco.
HH: They want to turn to Sportscenter if they were a Browns fan. They offside on the last play of the game and gave the Chargers (laughs)–
CC: And boy, I’m a Cowboys fan and we lost it overtime last night, so I feel your pain, Hugh.
HH: Okay, so we’re both on the same boat. Let me now talk some policy. It’s guns. It’s serious and I know you’ve dealt with gun violence your entire life as a prosecutor and as a governor. Nevertheless, I’ve been in this argument for three days on Morning Joe, on Greg Gottfield, on Don Lemon, making a point that the so-called common sense gun control measures put forward by the president in his tirade on Thursday would not have stopped a single one of the last dozen massacres. Am I wrong, Chris Christie?
CC: You’re correct, Hugh, and here’s the thing. I went on this week with George Stephanopoulos and I said this is what I’m trying to do in New Jersey. We had put forward some really straightforward corrections to the mental health system. We want to make it easier in New Jersey for doctors to involuntarily institutionalize who have mental health and are speaking about committing violent acts or acting in a way that makes believe they are going to commit violent acts. We want to make this system easier for the doctors to utilize, to protect us from folks who are in extremis regarding their mental health. Remember, the people that got these guns, they got them legally. And none of the things that they’re recommending would have changed that. What we need to do is work on the mental health system in this country, give doctors more of a tool to be able to take people, not only to protect the public, but protect those people from themselves because all of those people wind up dying in the end – or almost all of them wind up dying in the end as well – either at the hands of police officers or at their own hand.
HH: Now this gentleman – this killer – had accumulated 14 weapons and I have noted a lot of commentators suggesting there is something inherently wrong with anyone buying 14 weapons, but I know a lot of people with that many weapons. Many of them are retired military, none of them unstable, all of them gun collectors. I don’t a numerical ban or ceiling or confiscation program or any of that stuff is going to work, Chris Christie. I think this has got to do with finding that point three percent wackos who are living in the basement in Army fatigues playing games in their head.
CC: You are absolutely right about the number of guns issue. This is not about a number of guns issue. This is about the mental health of these folks and let’s remember too, Hugh, that this is the exception. These type of random acts of violence are the exception. The rule in America is acts of violence on our streets of our cities by criminals who get their guns illegally and continue to conduct themselves in a way that’s anti-social and against the law. We have laws in this country. We have the President of the United States spending more time speaking out against police officers than in support of them. We have a situations where the law is not being enforced whether it’s sanctuary cities or other examples that we can give of the marijuana laws that are just not being enforced. This allows lawlessness to go on in our country. We need a president who knows how to enforce the law and where most of the acts of violence that are hurting American families are happening, they are being performed by criminals who illegally own weapons and use them to commit crimes. That is what we should be focused on in reducing violence. These are tragic situations, but they are the exception for violence in America today, not the rule.
HH: Now there are also two categories of gun violence. There is the category of the “Beta Boy” loser who goes out and kills a lot of people, and then there are the 59 handgun deaths in Chicago last month. On the latter, this is a policing issue more than anything else. I’m asking, not asserting, is it not, Chris Christie?
CC: Well, of course it is. And it is also part of the problem, Hugh, of the political system not supporting our police officers. We need to have community police and where the police get involved with the community – get to know them, get on foot. We’ve seen this in Camden. Think about what we’ve been able to do in Camden. When I became governor, it was the most dangerous city in America. We fired the entire police force. They had a bloated Union contract, 40-percent absenteeism rate, total ineffectiveness in the city. I teamed with the Democratic mayor. We fired the entire police force. We hired a new police force – 400 police officers rather 240 for the same price. And what’s happened? Because of community policing and more police officers on the street, in the last three years since we did this, the murder rate in Camden is down 61%. Effective community policing, putting resources where they are needed, and having a governor and a mayor who are going to be strong on crime, not soft on crime will stop and will reduce the violence significantly as we have done in Camden. Where do you see it going up? Chicago is up 19-percent. The murder rate in New York up 11-percent the murder rate. When you have liberal mayors with liberal policies.
HH: Now Minnesota Gun-Owners political action committee – I put that out there so people can google it – have listed the so-called the common sense gun control measures. Close gun show loop-holes, gun registration, waiting periods, gun-owner licensing, banning concealed-carry, gun-free zones, assault weapon bans, magazine limits, safe storage laws, mandatory gun-owner training, gun purchasing limits, ammo purchasing limits, restriction on ammo types. Does Chris Christie subscribe to any or all of those?
CC: It doesn’t make sense. And listen, many of them, as you know, Hugh, are already the law in New Jersey and were made the law long before I ever got here. And that’s not what will reduce violence. What will reduce violence is effective, aggressive law enforcement. That’s what always reduces violence. Look at what happened in New York. Before Rudy Giuliani became mayor, over two thousand murders. By the time he got done with the Rudy Giuliani and Mike Bloomberg administrations where they had aggressive law enforcement, [ended] 200 and something murders within a year. This is what you call effective law enforcement. That’s the way you reduce violence. Not through these laws that, quite frankly, allow people to make headlines in my view.
HH: Let me switch over to – it is the first Monday in October – that means United States Supreme Court is sitting. They have a big case in Friedrich v. California State Teachers Association which would stop, as unconstitutional, the mandatory deduction of political and union dues from a teacher’s paycheck and upend monopolies in the schools. Do you hope that that goes the right way and strikes down automatic deduction, Chris Christie?
CC: Amen, Hugh. My mother was a member of the teachers’ union and she had to give those dues – she was a Republican – had to pay those dues and watch her union spend her money on candidates that she did not support. And the fact is that these kind of mandatory dues since we have in New Jersey – in New Jersey, 731 dollars a year mandatory from every school employee who’s required to belong to the Union. And that’s 200,000 members. They collect 140 million dollars a year, Hugh. It’s obscene. And that’s why I’ve been fighting against it in New Jersey my entire career. The first person to take on the teacher’s union in a frontal way, when I became governor in 2010. We’ve had great successes in reforming tenure and doing other things, but if you take away that due situation, you are taking away the lifeblood of their political machine. That’s what we need to do because folks should be able to decide for themselves who they want to donate their money to, not have Union bosses do it.
HH: That requires a reversal of a long standing case abooed which was decided, I think, in ‘73. It’s been on the books for almost 50 years or longer than 50 years, but John Roberts wrote in his concurrence in Citizens United, stare decisis shouldn’t stop us from reversing terrible decisions. Do you agree with his assessment that stare decisis doesn’t mean once wrong, always wrong?
CC: Correct. The Chief Justice, who I disagree with sometimes, I agree with him on that one. Did the Dred Scott decision deserve stare decisis? Sometimes, the courts are just wrong. They are human beings, and they can be wrong. And we need courts to come back and revisit these things and make decisions about whether or not something really is constitutional. I don’t understand if money is speech, which the Supreme Court has held that it is. I do not understand how mandatory taking money from people to speak on their behalf is constitutional.
HH: Let me close by talking about the so-called deal that is in the offing. The outgoing speaker can sit down with the president, the majority leader of the Senate, and do a 20-month deal that raises the debt limit, gets money to defense, give some domestic magic dust to the president to throw around, but gets us through the end of this without crippling defense anymore. Are you in favor of that, Chris Christie – postponing the show until a new president gets there and new decisions and hard decisions can be taken?
CC: Well, I think we need to do what needs to be done for America’s safety and security first and so the way I would do this is just to work on the defense portion of things. The fact is, you know and we’ve discussed this before in your program, the Pentagon is being absolutely diminished and our defenses are being diminished by what the president and the Congress has done to cut back on Pentagon spending, and we’re seeing the costs of that around the world. We’re not being able to participate in the ways and lead in the ways we need to around the world. But this president’s foreign policy is allowing Russia into Syria in the Middle East for goodness sake. Every time you think it can’t get worse, it does. And so I think the first priority is to rebuild our national defense. That’s what I would be in favor of doing. I’m not in favor of spending money on other things. I’m in favor of spending money on our national defense.
HH: But if they brought out a deal, and the president’s got a veto and he’s got a filibuster-proof majority of 40-plus in the Senate, so he gets something. I am just a realist here and I don’t want him to do any more damage to the national defense. If Boehner came out on his shield and said, “I got three dollars in defense spending for every dollar in domestic spending,” and we’ve raised the debt limit and this guy’s done, we’ve got a 20 month deal. Would Chris Christie blast away at him or would he say, “Okay, that clears the table for me to do the hard lifting when I get to 1600. I’d take a hard look at the specifics on the deal and then give people my honest opinion like I always do. I have been reluctant to make compromise. I’ve been the guy on the trail who says, “Compromise is not capitulation, but we got to make sure we don’t compromise our core principles and making sure that we get sufficient increases in defense spending” is what I would be really looking at.
HH: Last question, it’s political. You’ve done very specific things on entitlement. Very specific things on other parts of your program. You’re just very specific on teachers union dues and on defense spending. When does the rest of your competitors have to do the same thing whether it’s Donald Trump or whether it’s Bobby Jindal? Someone at the top or someone at the bottom?
CC: When all of us start to banter again. I’ve been saying I want to hear their specifics on entitlement reform. You heard the other night at the debate, the only thing we got in return, well maybe some things we’d allow to be done voluntarily. Well, that’s not going to fix it. We know that. We need to people to go out there and be specific, but that’s a difference between me and everybody else in this race, Hugh, on the Republican side. I say what I mean, and I mean what I say, and people know it. And I back it up with specifics and I’m willing to take the slings and arrows that come along with being specific. These other folks don’t deserve to have the mantle of leadership if they are unwilling to do that. So they are going to need to decide. I think the voters will begin to demand it as we get closer to the time of them voting and I think the media is going to start to demand it as we get closer to the time of voting. But we got to remember something else. First, people are not going to vote in America in Iowa until we get through the entire NFL season as we were discussing before and all the play-offs but the Superbowl. So there is time to go yet, but time is a-wasting for people to put forward their ideas so that the American people can chew on them. I’ve had my ideas out there for four or five months now. We need other people to put specific ideas out there, either say they agree or disagree, but America is going to know where I’m going to take them when I get to be President of the United States.
HH: Were the three hours too long? The air conditioning was on on our end of the stage so it might have been easier for us.
CC: I felt good on our stage.
CC: I was looking at some of these other guys sweating like crazy and I’m saying, “Geez, I don’t know what’s going on.” I don’t think it was too long, and I’d be happy to spend three hours up there. We’re running for President of the United States. It deserves and merits even more detailed conversation than we had that night, although there was a lot of great things that came up that night. I think we need even more detailed conversations about this, and I’m looking forward to Boulder at the end of this month, and I’m going to continue to be detailed and direct and honest with people with what I believe. And the fact is, they see me do that in New Jersey in one of the roughest places to be a Republican in America. If I can do it here, believe me, we’ll go to Washington D.C. and we’ll bring people together and we’ll stand up and fight for the things we need to fight for. I want folks to remember one thing, Hugh. Americans for Tax Reform three weeks ago said I vetoed more tax increases than any governor in American history, and every one of those vetoes was sustained. You can be strong and also find ways to get things done and be cooperative. I’ve done that in New Jersey, I’ll do it in D.C.
HH: Chris Christie, always a pleasure talking with you. Sorry about your Cowboys, maybe the Browns and the Cowboys will play some time and one of us will be out. Be well.
CC: You know what will happen, Hugh? It will end up as a tie the way they are both playing right now.
HH: I agree (laughs). Five quarter tie. Thank you, Chris Christie. Be back.
End of Transcript