New Jersey Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey Opened today’s show:
HH: Vice President Joseph Biden is not running for president. A man who is, is New Jersey Governor Chris Christie. He joins me now. Governor Christie, welcome, it’s always a pleasure to have you, thank you for joining me.
CC: Thank you, Hugh, happy to be back.
HH: Tell me what your reaction to Joe Biden’s decision is?
CC: I’m not the least bit surprised. I think I said this on CBS earlier today that I didn’t think the Vice President would run. And it’s from knowing him for many years. You know, we went to the same college, albeit at a different time, but we’ve gotten to know each other over the years because of that. I know how grief-stricken the Vice President was over the loss of his son, and I just couldn’t believe that he was going to undertake this type of, this type of challenge when he was still grieving the loss of his son. And so I’m not surprised by the decision. He still has my sympathy. I can’t imagine what it would be like to lose a child in that way. And I so I wish the Vice President all the best, but I’m not surprised by his decision.
HH: Now Governor, before I turn to serious matters of campaigns and policy, I have to ask you about this story about you and Little League today. Were you a member of the Little League Hall of Fame?
CC: I am a member of the Little League Hall of Fame. Yes, I am, Hugh.
HH: What, to what do you credit that achievement? What did you do?
CC: Charm, good looks, and a lot of home runs.
HH: So you could go yard?
CC: I went yard frequently, Hugh, 15 home runs.
HH: Holy smokes. That’s very impressive. And unfortunately, it said in the same story that you were a Johnny Bench fan. You were rooting for the wrong Ohio club. The Indians are the real Ohio baseball club, and you got stuck with…
CC: (laughing) You know, listen, they asked me who my catching idol was. And I don’t know who the catcher was for the Indians in those days…
HH: Ray Fosse.
CC: But you know, listen, ever since Ray got run over by Pete Rose, things kind of went south. And I was a Johnny Bench fan.
HH: Okay, that was a very good catch. You know your baseball, Governor. Very good catch.
CC: I do, sir.
HH: Let’s get to the serious stuff. There’s a big hearing tomorrow against the likely person you’ll be running against if you’re the Republican nominee. I would like to ask you as a prosecutor who had access to classified information that what I hope they elicit as an admission from the former Secretary of State tomorrow. Does classified material need to be marked classified to be classified?
CC: No, no it does not, and she knows that. And the fact is that the biggest problem, and I hope, and I have confidence in Congressman Gowdy, I hope that what they elicit tomorrow is finally to get her to answer some questions and tell the American people the truth, and to be held accountable. What everybody in leadership positions need to be willing to do is to be held accountable. And this Secretary of State has not been willing to do that, and at the same time, has the audacity to be asking for a promotion.
HH: Now after that admission, which I hope is elicited, comes this question. Could the ARB, which the former Secretary of State, the Accountability Review Board, to which she always points, or the other Congressional hearings, to which she always points, have had any meaningful deliberations without access to what was on her secret server and the classified information thereon?
CC: You know, it’s, I think it’s very hard for her to make that argument, Hugh. I think it really is. And that’s the problem with, you know, having all of your business done on a private email server, that even the president of the United States says he didn’t know she had. That’s really problematic for the American people, and it’s problematic, as you’ve seen, to having cabinet members’, you know, AOL accounts being hacked into. I mean, this is not the font of national security, apparently, over there at the Obama administration.
HH: One of your comments as well, Governor Christie, on embassy security and her responsibility, she explained to Jake Tapper this past week that look, that was up to the professionals in the Department of State, not the Secretary of State, which is an odd argument. If anything under your control as governor of New Jersey gets overrun, I assume you’re responsible for it. And what do you make of her argument that that’s below my pay grade?
CC: Listen, you’re ultimately accountable for everything that happens on your watch. And there have been things that have happened on my watch in New Jersey that I’m not happy about, and you have to be held accountable for them. And the fact is that she refuses to be held accountable. And that’s what I think drives the American people the most crazy, and what I think will prevent her from ever being president of the United States. It’s just that she refuses to take accountability for anything but those things that she believes to have been a success.
HH: Governor Christie, in the aftermath of Bridgegate, you came out and gave the endless press conference. It may still be going on somewhere, I don’t know.
CC: (laughing) It feels like it.
HH: Could she, I watched every minute of it. It was an amazing press conference. Could she put on that kind, could she expose herself to that kind of inquiry with regards to Benghazi and the embassy and the Libyan adventure?
CC: She could, but she won’t. She won’t, because she doesn’t think the American people are entitled to know the truth. And that’s why she had a private email server in the first place, because she didn’t want the American people to know what she was up to, what she was up to as Secretary of State, what the Clinton Foundation was up to, what was going on with her emails to Sidney Blumenthal. She didn’t want anybody to know that stuff, and I think she wouldn’t put herself in front of the press for an endless press conference, one hour and fifty minutes, I did, and took every question until they had no more questions. She wouldn’t do something like that, because she doesn’t believe the American people are entitled to know. You remember what she said to Ed Henry when he said I have three questions. She said I’ll give you one, because I believe that’s what you’re entitled to.
HH: Correct. Correct.
CC: I am, listen, Her Majesty, Queen Hillary, believes that…only right that she gets to be president of the United States, and I look forward to being the guy on the stage next September who will prosecute the case against her, and her liberal vision and policies for America, and the way she conducted herself in public life, and to being elected president.
HH: Now Governor Christie, I sat across from you at that first debate, and I’m coming back in December, and again in March, to be a participant. I’m looking forward to that. You clearly think you can beat, Chris Christie, that Chris Christie can beat Hillary Clinton. But as you look down that row, are there others up there that can’t? And are you willing to name them and why?
CC: Listen, I think that there are folks up there that it’s fairly obvious are not going to have what it takes to be president of the United States. But you know what? They all have to make that decision for themselves, Hugh. Running for president is a particularly personal decision. And they all get to decide for themselves when it’s time to get out and to move on, the same way that I have to make that decision every day to continue the campaign for president, to work hard to try to gain the people’s trust. But I think you’re going to see as these debates go on the people who continue to impress in these debates are the people who have been tested and who are going to be able to stand up and fight the fight on behalf of our party. What I will say is I’ve taken the pledge happily to support and endorse whoever wins our primary. I am very confident it’s going to be me, but if it’s not for some reason, I’ll support the person who gets nominated by our process.
HH: Now I’m part of the endless merry-go-round of talking heads that have to somehow discussion Donald Trump and Ben Carson every day and say something that isn’t exactly the same every day. What is going on here? Our two frontrunners could not be more different. One is a man of wealth, the other was born into poverty. One is white and privileged, one is black and had no privilege at all. One is a deeply devout Evangelical, the other is a church attender, but is not quick to cite his favorite verses. One is loud, one is quiet. But they’re both on top of the heap. What is going on in 2015, Governor Christie?
CC: Listen, people are very angry with Washington, D.C., and they’re picking right now the two most anti-Washington, D.C. characters they can pick, a businessman from New York and a neurosurgeon. And you know, they’re both fine folks. I like both of them on a personal level. I really do. And I’ve known Donald for a long time, Dr. Carson only recently. But you know, the fact is people are really angry with Washington, they’re angry with our party in Washington, and they want to reflect that anger. I absolutely believe in the end, though, that they’re going to pick the person that can fit two criteria. First and foremost, the person they pick can actually get something done as president of the United States, and secondly, the person who can best prosecute cases against Hillary Clinton to get the presidency.
HH: All right, now it wouldn’t be a Hewitt interview if I didn’t talk to you about Defense. You’re one of the few guys who knows about the Ohio replacement submarine. Let me throw the F-35 at you. Yesterday, Canada changed parties. They went from deep red to deep blue, and with it, probably, went the orders for 60-plus F-35s, making the plane even more expensive. Is that a good expenditure of American Defense dollars, Governor Christie?
CC: Well, I will tell you this. You know, it seems to me that we need to build the F-35. You know, we have new threats emerging all the time across the world, as you know, Hugh. We’ve got to sustain our technological edge. And you know, I think that it makes sense for us to move forward. I don’t, I look at the way this administration has gone back in terms of our commitment to Defense and used sequester as he’s for it. The fact is this president doesn’t want a strong and robust military. He doesn’t believe America has to play a strong and robust role in the world. I differ. My opinion differs greatly. You’ve seen the very detailed plan that I’ve put out regarding not only military hardware, but military personnel. And I want to continue to be supportive of those efforts. And listen, we’re going to have a lot of debates about what hardware to move forward on. But at least at this point, based upon what I know, Hugh, I would move forward with the F-35.
HH: Now if you were president today and Bashar Assad shows up in Moscow as he did to do a grip and grin with Putin, how long would it take you to get to the Rose Garden to condemn the president of Russia for meeting with, and adding honor to, a butcher?
CC: Not very long, as long as it would take me to put my jacket on, clear my throat and get out there. And the fact is this is where this president fails. He doesn’t understand the impact of the words of the American president. Gosh, Ronald Reagan understood that so well, that the words of the American president are very important. And not only your actions, but your words are important, too. This president fails both on actions and words. And I would be out there condemning him the same way I would already have set up a no-fly zone and made sure that President Putin understood that this is a no-fly zone for him and his planes as well.
HH: All right, let’s switch to domestic politics. First of all, the House Republican caucus has to pick Paul Ryan or not Paul Ryan. The Freedom Caucus has not decided. Jim Jordan will join me a little bit later. What do you think the House Republicans ought to do?
CC: Well listen, I think the House Republicans should get to work. As I’ve said before, Hugh, I quite frankly don’t care, I don’t think anybody else cares who the Speaker of the House is, and the reason I don’t is because this Congress has been such an abysmal failure. You know, we gave them the House majority in 2010, we gave them the Senate majority in 2014, and they’ve done absolutely nothing. And so I think what the American people care much more about is not who sits in the chair, but once someone is sitting in the chair, are they going to get anything done? And so I hope they get their act together, because the party and people outside our party in this country are weary of looking at these folks, and the inane game of thrones they’re involved in down there that leads to nothing good for the American people. So you know, I applaud Congressman Ryan for his willingness to step up. I like him, and I consider him a personal friend. But I’ve got no favorites here, because quite frankly, I don’t think it matters.
HH: When former Secretary of State Clinton at the end of the Democratic debate was asked who’s your, which enemy are you proudest of, she said Republicans. Were you surprised by that?
CC: No, because that’s absolutely what she believes. She believes we’re the enemy. This is the uniting force you want to bring to a divided Washington, D.C? People can say much about Hillary Clinton. Calling her a uniter is never something that they should call her. And quite frankly, it was folly for Barack Obama to make her the nation’s top diplomat, because there’s nothing diplomatic about her. The fact is you need to be strong, but you know, you need to know how to deal with others as well, and that comment is just a consistent theme of hers. She sees other Americans as the enemy. I see our enemies and adversaries being around the world, not inside our country.
HH: Any chance that she changes that if she’s president? Or does she get more insulated from the other side, and even more, I hesitate to use the word, because I worked for him and I admire Richard Nixon, but is she Nixonian?
CC: I think at this point in her career, she’s not going to change her ways. She is secretive, and she will not change. And she will not open herself up to the other side, because she never has. When she said the other night that we’re her enemy, she meant it. We can take her seriously. I think that should disqualify her as president of the United States.
HH: Now let me close on a couple of light things, popular culture.
HH: I began with baseball. The movie Back To The Future is very popular today, because today is the day it was predicted, 25 years ago, that it would happen, and the Cubs are in the World Series, you know, headed to the World Series, etc. What movie have you enjoyed most or influenced you most, Governor Christie?
CC: Oh, wow. Well listen, my favorite movie of all time is the Godfather.
HH: That’s a good choice. One or two?
HH: Okay. And number three does not deserve to be called a movie, I assume, in your book?
CC: I like Godfather I and II.
HH: And we know about your sports, but what do you do to relax? What’s Chris Christie’s idea of the perfect weekend?
CC: The perfect weekend is being at my home in New Jersey with Mary Pat and as many of our children as we can have around us. We have our two that live at home right now, Patrick and Bridget, who are 15 and 12. And this week, we’re lucky enough that Notre Dame is on fall break, and so our daughter, Sarah, is home. She’s a sophomore at Notre Dame. My perfect weekend is sitting around with the family, enjoying each other, watching Patrick play hockey, or Bridget play basketball and then going out to dinner with the family and just enjoying each other’s company. It happens much too rarely when you’re governor, and certainly when you’re running for president. So that’s my idea of the perfect weekend.
HH: Okay, and a last question. This just popped up. If you’ve got a kid in college and two more on the way, I put three through without any financial aid. I don’t expect financial aid. I make enough money. But you’re a governor. I know what your salary is. I know you’ve been a public guy your whole life. What do you make of the Democrats’ promising to pay for everyone’s college? And what about the burden of college in America?
CC: Well, the burden of college in America is enormous, and we need to put market forces on these prices that colleges are charging now. I have two children in college right now, Hugh, one who’s a senior at Princeton, and one who’s a sophomore at Notre Dame.
HH: Oh, God.
CC: Yeah, exactly. And you know, the fact is that there’s no market forces on these prices, and I have a plan to help put market forces on the prices, which we could talk about another time when I come on the show. But the idea that anything’s for free is folly. That means we’re going to have 70 or 80% tax rates in this country if everything’s for free. And the people who are working every day, the good hard-working Americans, will get to see less and less of their own money, and have less discretion on how to spend it, because Hillary Clinton and her folks will be spending all their money. The American people are smart enough to know that nothing in this world is for free, including college education. And they don’t want their tax rates to go up to 60, 70 or 80% in order to pay for all the things we heard on that stage the other night were going to be free from her and Bernie Sanders.
HH: Well Governor Christie, thanks for joining me. With two kids in college at Notre Dame and Princeton, you’d better get back to work and take a second job if you can. Thanks for joining me.
CC: Listen, Hugh, the good thing is I married well. My wife works hard, and she does great. So we have a joint checking account, and I’m a happy guy.
HH: That’s terrific. Thank you, Governor, have a great weekend.
CC: Thank you, Hugh.
End of interview.