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Hugh Hewitt Book Club

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie On Rand Paul, Common Core And The Debates

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HH: Right now, I’m pleased to welcome back the Governor of the Garden State, Chris Christie. Governor Christie, welcome back to the Hugh Hewitt Show.

CC: Hugh, happy to be back.

HH: Good to have you. You made a major speech today on Common Core, and I want to go there. In fact, let’s go there first. It’s something of a change for you, is it not, to be in the position of saying to the country slow down, take a step back and let’s start over with Common Core?

CC: Yeah, listen, you know, Common Core started to be implemented in our state during my campaign for governor by my predecessor. And so it was well down the road when I got in. And so I said okay, we’ll give it a try. And what I’ve concluded after a time of watching our folks see the federal takeover of it and then struggling to try to implement it and get buy in from parents and educators. It simply doesn’t work. And I think when that happens, you have to admit that that’s the case. We have. And we’re saying now, here’s the deal. Let’s get students and teachers and parents in New Jersey to set high standards, higher standards, that are New Jersey-based standards. And so that’s the course that we’ve embarked on today. And you know, we gave it a try. The federal government intervened, and really put federal regulation and the federal purse in the middle of all this. And so when you realize that you can’t get, you know, people are not buying in and it’s not working, you need to move on.

HH: Now Governor, I actually serve on one of the Common Core oversights committee. I just joined it a couple of months back in a California district. Everybody says the English standards are fine and they work and they make sense, but the math standard, which people refer to jokingly as the Finnish math standard, they’re a nightmare for parents. And so what are you going to actually do in the interim about kids who are being stuck with math curriculums that their parents don’t understand and that make no sense to anybody?

CC: Well, we have a very short time frame in making the changes that need to be made. And that’s why I wanted to do this right at the end of the school year so we have the month right here at the end of the school year, and this summer, to be able to look at exactly what we need to do. I don’t think, Hugh, that this is like splitting the atom. I think you know, we get a good responsible group of parents and educators in the room, we’re going to be able to work it out and make sure that we provide these folks, we provide these folks with the opportunity to get higher New Jersey standards that work in our classrooms, and then get them implemented.

HH: Can we roll the film backward and simply say go back to what you were doing in 2010, people, go back to those standards until we work this out, because it does seem to me we risk a lost generation of students as the country comes to grips with the fact that the Common Core standards, at least with regards to math, are not working.

CC: Well, it’s a possibility, Hugh, because what I said to the folks today is I want them to do a systematic review of our standards as they were before, and anything that we’ve learned since. And it may be that folks say you know, the higher standards that we have in effect before are the ones that are the best for us. If that’s the case, I would have no problem adopting that. But the fact is I want them to do the review, because I want our parents and our teachers, who felt very, very disenfranchised by this process to be completely bought into this so that we can bring greater success into our classrooms for these kids.

HH: All right, let me switch back to your speech of ten days ago, Governor Christie, your May 18th speech on defense. Rand Paul was appearing on Morning Joe yesterday, and he had this to say, which collides directly with what you had to say ten days ago. Here’s Senator Paul yesterday on Morning Joe.

JS: Lindsey Graham would say ISIS exists because of people like Rand Paul, who said let’s not go into Syria. What do you say to Lindsey?

RP: I would say it’s exactly the opposite. ISIS exists and grew stronger because of the hawks in our party who gave arms indiscriminately, and most of those arms were snatched up by ISIS. These hawks also wanted to bomb Assad, which would have made ISIS’ job even easier. They created these people. ISIS is all over Libya, because these same hawks in my party loved, they loved Hillary Clinton’s war in Libya. They just wanted more of it, but Libya is a failed state, and it’s a disaster. Iraq really is a failed state or a vassal state now of Iran. So everything that they have talked about in foreign policy, they’ve been wrong about for 20 years, and yet they have somehow the gall to keep saying and pointing fingers otherwise.

HH: What do you think of that, Governor Christie?

CC: I don’t agree. In large point, I don’t agree with Senator Paul’s philosophy that was espoused there. The fact is this. You try to say that ISIS, which is based, their philosophy is based upon radical Islamic thought, was somehow created by folks here in the United States is just to me a statement that isn’t backed up by any type of fact. And I think the Senator is struggling to try to justify his position on some issues which you know, he finds that not only folks in our party, but folks across the political spectrum in this country just simply don’t agree with.

HH: In your speech, you also called fears about the Patriot Act baloney, and I agree with you on that, by the way. And yet, it now hangs in the balance. We’re up to one day to its lapsing when the Senate returns next week. What do you think ought to happen? Ought we to pass the new House act? Or should Mitch McConnell stare down the critics of the Patriot Act?

CC: I think he should stare down the critics of the Patriot Act. I absolutely believe you know, Hugh, of all the people who are engaging in this national conversation right now, I’m the only person who’s used the Patriot Act, the only person who has reviewed applications, and the only person who has you know, convicted terrorists using in part the tools we had in the Patriot Act. I can tell people, you know, I think he said something, Senator Paul’s been saying like, you know, people, we’re spying on people. You know, the fact of the matter is that what we’re doing is collecting the appropriate type of data that we need to collect to try to see who in our country is talking to folks who have terrorist ties around the world. And you know, I don’t understand, and will not understand why he does not believe that this can be done while also having appropriate oversight and balancing whatever civil liberties concerns that we have. But first and foremost, we’ve got to protect the homeland. And I I think that folks like those who are arguing against it have a severe case of amnesia of what this country felt like and what we experienced in the days after September 11th. Since I was nominated U.S. Attorney by President Bush on September 10th, 2001, I have no amnesia about what happened the next day, because I went to funerals in my home state, where we lost the second-most people other than the state of New York on September 11th, including personal friends of ours. I don’t have amnesia about that, either, and I think that whoever the next president is, you know, they’re, they have to make sure that we protect the homeland.

HH: Do you think Senator Paul has amnesia or a deep-seated ideology that fears the power of the state, or both?

CC: I think both. I think both. And because believe me, I’m sure that there are folks up there, not just Senator Paul, but others who are arguing against the extension of the Patriot Act who if, God forbid, we had another attack on the homeland, would be the first vote at Congressional hearings calling up the FBI director and the CIA director under oath and demanding to know why they didn’t connect the dots. And they wouldn’t understand the difficulty that they caused in helping to make that happen. And so you know, I think it’s both.

HH: Let me ask you now to switch to the other part of your May 18th speech, which I think is very important, and is going to be a source of a great deal of conversation during the debate season. You called for a massive increase in United States Naval assets. At this very week, we’ve seen stories in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal and the Washington Post about the People’s Republic of China pushing their navy out to a blue water navy, creating atolls and warning off American aircraft from the radar and runways that they are building. What do you think the United States ought to be doing about this challenge by the PRC to basically make the South China Sea their lake?

CC: Well, here’s the thing. You know, first off, you can’t do anything about it as you cruise toward a 260 ship Navy. I mean, the Chinese know exactly what we’re doing in terms of the de-emphasizing of our Naval assets, and they are taking advantage of it in the South China Sea right now. And so we need to have conversations with the Chinese, and we need to take action. We need to tell them this is unacceptable. And the President shouldn’t be reluctant to sail our ships within 12 miles of these islands, or to have our Air Force do oversight flights over these artificial islands that they’re creating, where they’re also building landing strips. We should let them know that this is not Chinese territory. We do dispute it. We do believe these are international waters. And we should be having at the same time conversations with the Chinese that let them know that this is a little bit too much from our perspective, and we need to get them to pull back. In addition, the other way to send that signal very clearly is to rebuild the nation’s Navy. And as you know, I called very specifically for a 350 ship Navy. And we should be moving towards that. I also called for the expansion and modernization of our submarine capability. So those are things that are concrete things that I believe we need to do that will not only send a signal to the Chinese, but we also need to send signals through the kind of exercises that we do, and through the conversations that we’re having with the Chinese.

HH: And Governor Christie, do you think we should assist the Philippines, Japan, and even Vietnam in building their own atolls, their own fake islands to sort of counter the Chinese assertion of jurisdiction?

CC: I don’t think we need to do that, yet, Hugh, but I think we’ve got to be considering all of our different options there. I believe if America reasserts its Naval authority both in terms of the exercises that we do now and the Navy that we rebuild, that that will send a very clear signal that you would hope would result in fruitful conversations with the Chinese. You always have to keep options on the table of what else you might need to do, but the fact is that you know, the reason that this is failing, the reason why these things are happening in the South China Sea is the failure of American leadership. And the President just simply will not assert himself in this area, and it’s something that I really have a difficult time understanding how you could think it’s in America’s interest to allow China to expand the way they are in the South China Sea and threaten our allies in that region.

HH: Now Governor Chris Christie, let’s switch to a couple of political things. First, the obligatory question, do you maintain a private server in your house in any way, receiving official government business?

CC: No, sir, I do not.

HH: This is what Mike Morell, whom I’m going to be with in a couple of hours at the Reagan Library, had to say to me about the former Secretary of State Clinton’s private server last week on this show.

HH: What did you make of the Secretary of State having a private server in her house?

MM: So I don’t think that was a very good judgment. I don’t know who gave her that advice, but it was not good advice. And you know, she’s paying a price for it now. Yeah, it was, it was not good.

HH: As a professional matter, do you believe that at least one or perhaps many foreign intelligence services have everything that went to and from that server?

MM: So I think that foreign intelligence services, the good ones, the good ones, have everything on any unclassified network that the government uses, whether it’s a private server or a public one. They’re that good.

HH: So that’s a yes?

MM: Yup.

HH: Do you agree with Mike Morell, Governor Christie, that foreign intelligence agencies probably have everything that went to and fro on the Clinton server?

CC: Listen, I don’t know personally. I don’t have the expertise that Mike has. But Mike has significant experience and expertise in this area. And so I think people have to take his comments and his words very seriously. As you know, he’s a serious guy.

HH: Do you think the lapse of judgment there, which is almost in my opinion a reckless disregard for the national security, ought to be disqualifying for Secretary of State Clinton asking to be the commander-in-chief?

CC: Well, there’s a whole bunch of reasons why I don’t think that Mrs. Clinton should be the next commander-in-chief. And we’ll obviously talk about that over the course of time if we get into this race. But what I’ll also say to you is the way that this has been covered, quite frankly, by the media has been really kind of comical as well. I mean, I said this the other day. Can you imagine if I had come out and said I have a private email server that I did business on as governor and said I deleted a bunch of emails and destroyed the server, but don’t worry about it, there was nothing on it that was of any interest to anybody? Do you think the level of this might have been a little bit different? You know, Hugh, I mean, I think it says something about the way that the Secretary made decisions while she was Secretary of State. But I think it also tells you a great deal in the aftermath of it of the way that the media has been covering Mrs. Clinton and probably will continue to.

HH: Now after the bridge controversy, you did an epic two hour plus press conference, which I always refer to as being among the best performances I’ve seen by a public person. Should Mrs. Clinton make herself available on the server for the same kind of scrutiny that you subjected you to yourself that day?

CC: Sure. Absolutely. The fact is that she’s answered so very few questions, someone asked me yesterday morning on a show I was appearing on, you know, what I had to say about Mrs. Clinton, and I said listen, there’s very little to say at the moment, because she’s said very little. And she’s answered very few questions, and you’re not going to be able to get through this process without answering those kind of questions, at least not successfully, in my view. Once you’ve been asked questions, you need to answer them. And you know, I think it’s very interesting that she answered four or five questions on this topic and has decided it’s time to move on. And it seems to me that the folks in the media are allowing her to do it.

HH: Now switching over to Jeb Bush, Greg Sargent in today’s Washington Post quotes the former Florida Governor as attacking some of his GOP rivals, I don’t believe you’re in this category, as ‘bending with the wind’ on immigration. Do you see that going on, Governor Christie?

CC: You know, I think that there hasn’t been enough discussion, yet, about immigration, and I think we need to hear directly from folks on what they’re going to do. I’m certainly going to be giving a speech next month on immigration and my thoughts on it, and I think people should be out there talking about it. So I don’t know exactly what Governor Bush is talking about in that regard. I know that there have been some who you know, who have commented in the media that certain folks considering running for president are all over the place on this issue, but the fact is I think anybody who’s seriously considering running for president and who does run for president is going to have to talk about what they would do about this problem, because it’s a major problem in our country. And so I intend to address it next month in the same kind of serious speeches that you’ve seen me give over the last month across New Hampshire on entitlement reform and on taxes and economic policy, and the foreign policy speech that you referenced earlier.

HH: All right, last question, the debate format, the first debate that Fox is going to hold in the summer is going to be limited to ten people. And I don’t know how much time it’s going to be, but I am going to be involved in the CNN debates. And I want everyone on the stage, and I want us to go three or four hours, similar to the length of time you devoted. What do you think is the answer to a crowded field and television constraints on stage and time for candidates?

C: I think it’s really hard, and think if we wind up having a field as large as it appears this one may be, it’s going to be very hard. What I said yesterday was as far as the Fox rules, you know, I know that if you’re not in the top ten, you’re going to have a big problem with not being in the top ten and not being on that stage. And even with just ten people on the stage, it’s going to really restrict the ability that folks have to be able to communicate thoughtful answers to questions that people across our party are going to want to know. And so I think that the debates will play a role, but maybe not as large a role as they’ve played in the past, and that we’re going to have to have folks out there answering questions in other forums across the important early states in order for people to get as good a feel as they’re going to need to be able to make the right kind of decision for president.

HH: What do you think about longer debates as opposed to the 90 minute/two hour thing, because it does seem to me that that’s an artificial constraint, given that everything can be put on YouTube, and people can watch it at their leisure?

CC: Well, listen, I don’t have a problem with that, Hugh, except I think that there’ll still come a point having been the guy who stood up there for two hours and did a press conference, there does come a point where you know, it’s a little bit too long and you start to be able to lose your focus in that kind of format. I don’t know exactly what that time period is. I know I was relatively worn after those two hours, having stood there that day, but I also know that I stand up on a regular basis and do hour and 45 minute to 2 and a quarter hour town hall meetings not only here in New Jersey, but in New Hampshire. And I don’t have a problem doing that, and I’m the only one up there speaking for that period of time. So I do think there’s something to be said for giving people as much time as we need to be able to give full answers to questions. Whether or not the networks will permit that type of time, I think you’ve put your finger on it, is a whole other question, even with the cable networks.

HH: Governor Chris Christie, always a pleasure to talk to you. Thanks for your time today, your flexibility, I appreciate it very much.

CC: Hugh, my pleasure, too, thanks for having me on, and I’ll be back.

End of interview.


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