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Saturday, October 22, 2016

WASHINGTON — “We are not a debating society. We are a political operation that needs to win.”

Thus did Chris Christie offer one of the most pregnant statements yet in the ongoing Republican argument over the party’s future. At the risk of sounding like one of those “professors” the New Jersey governor regularly condemns, I’d argue that these 15 words, spoken to a Republican National Committee meeting in Boston last week, raise more questions than they answer. Here are a few.

How do you decide on a winning strategy without debating it first? What is wrong with debating differences on policy and philosophy that people in political parties inevitably have? Don’t the voters expect to have some idea of what a party and a candidate believe before they cast their ballots — and doesn’t that imply debate? Doesn’t the phrase “political operation” risk implying that you are seeking power for power’s sake and not for any larger purpose?

There is also this: Isn’t Christie himself engaged in an important debate with Sen. Rand Paul over national security issues? There’s nothing academic about that.

One of two things is going on here: Either Christie knows he’ll need to have the debate he claims he wishes to avoid but doesn’t want to look like he is questioning fundamental conservative beliefs; or he really believes that the “I can win and the other guys can’t” argument is enough to carry him to the 2016 Republican presidential nomination he shows every sign of seeking.

His target audience, after all, is an increasingly right-wing group of Republican primary voters who are unforgiving of ideological deviations. The last thing Christie needs is the sort of debate that casts him as a “moderate.”

Let’s stipulate that Christie is far less “moderate” than either his fans among Democrats and independents or the hardest-core conservatives seem to believe. Simply because Christie was nice to President Obama after Hurricane Sandy — at a moment when New Jersey needed all the federal help it could get — lots of people forget how conservative the pre-Sandy Christie was.

In 2011, he went to the summer seminar sponsored by the Koch brothers in Colorado, heaped praise on them and said, among other things: “We know the answers. They’re painful answers. We’re going to have to reduce Medicare benefits. We’re going to have to reduce Medicaid benefits. We’re going to have to raise the Social Security age. We’re going to have to do these things. We’re going to have to cut all type of other government programs that some people in this room might like. But we’re gonna have to do it.”

If I were on the right, I’d be taken by Christie’s skills at making conservative positions sound “pragmatic” and “practical.” Candidates who are perceived as dogmatic or highly ideological rarely win elections.

  • disqus_ivSI3ByGmh

    Unfortunately for Christie, he tells it like he sees it to his audience. He does not pander to the Republican party’s base, as do Cruz, Paul, Rubio and the rest of the Republican Dwarves. As such, he will not receive the support needed by the Southern Republicans. He may capture significant support from west of the Mississippi, with his greater pragmatism, but don’t look for a Christie-Clinton faceoff in November 2016.

  • Dominick Vila

    Because Gov. Christie understands that his party is in self-destruct mode, and that telling the truth would end his chances to be the GOP nominee in 2016. The biggest problem the GOP is facing is the fact that they lost their way and their identity. They are no longer a conservative party, they are now a radical party led by people whose top priority starts and ends with their own personal interests.

    • Lovefacts

      You’re right, the GOP is no longer a moderate/conservative party but a radical party. IMO, they aren’t much different than the Taliban. They want to impose their view of what’s good for them on the rest of us. And where social issues are concerned, it doesn’t matter if 75% of the country disagrees, their belief is the only one that counts.

      In another era, Christie could have been just right of moderate and won. Now, he can’t get the nomination without running in the primaries. These are controlled by the Republican Taliban, and he knows he’ll never win. Worse, to even be competitive, he’ll have to adopt positions that are too extreme for the country. And that’ll cost him the general election.

      The reason why he’ll lose was shown when I taught HS Civics. One of the lessons taught was how our elections are run and why some are close and others aren’t. I divided the class into two parts. Each side got half the moderates. However, one side was two to one liberal while the other was two to one conservative. (Now, given the T-party hold one side would be 25% conservatives, 75% moderates and 100% l liberal.) Once I supplied the five items/positions they had to debate, each party created their own platform and selected the candidate they believed could best sell it. After their speeches and one debate where I functioned as the moderator and asked questions provided by the class, they voted. In each election, the party which was furthest from the middle lost. And this is why as long as the Republican Party continues moving to the extreme right, neither Christie nor any Republican will win the WH.

      • S.J. Jolly

        Good analysis. However, to win an election, it is not necessary to have a majority of the voters vote for you, just a majority of those who actually vote. With a strong effort to discourage voting by members of your opposition, a small minority of the total electorate voting for you can be decisive.

    • Elisabeth Gordon

      Bingo! Can you say Mitt Romney? – the poster “child” for the radical right who are very quickly disappearing into irrelevance, and more importantly history…

      • plc97477

        Last I heard he had finally figured out his mistake and was going to try again. Proof positive he didn’t figure out the mistake.

  • RobertCHastings

    Once again, another Republican who is trying to manufacture his own version of history. From the very beginning of this country’s history, debate has been an essential cornerstone. The Declaration of Independence was not some idle doodling of just a single colonialist. The Convention that resulted in the Constitution was more than just a group of like-minded individuals getting together over a game of cribbage and on the side slapping together a few notes. Every change to our system has resulted from extensive debate with ALL sides contributing, being heard and considered, and collectively making this country better BECAUSE OF their differences. If Mr. Christy sees no value in the process of public debate and feels that the Republican party has no issues that need to be corrected or discussed, then, by all means, please skip the debates, Mr. Christy, since you feel at least YOU have nothing to contribute.

  • Jeff Thomas

    Christie is the biggest fraud in American politics. He has done nothing for the state other than hugging some old ladies after Sandy hit. He is a political Snooki from the Jersey Shore show. His candidate for president was crushed in NJ, his hand picked candidate for the Senate was crushed by Bob Menendez,and his new candidate Steve “I want to be a Koch Brother” Lonnegan will be destroyed in October by the other fraud, Cory Booker. People like his theatrics.(“Get the hell off the beach”), but New Jersey’s citizens are laughing not seriously buying into his right wing politics. No, Ralph Kramden will not be our next President.

  • FT66

    Some might think that Christie is an outspoken person and tells as it is. From my point of view, the man has no that courage. He reacts when he gets a chance. If he is the man who can talk openly, why doesn’t he tell his Party what’s wrong with them. Am sure he knows their shortfalls as the rest of us do, but he doesn’t have a gut to tell them so. Is this kind of a person, one might think he can carry the GOP burner and say here we are coming to act accordingly? I do not think so.

  • RobertCHastings

    While the governor’s recent stands on two controversial conservative issues may not endear him to the extreme right base of the current Republican party, they make him a much more attractive 2016 candidate than anyone else who is currently emerging. At least considering the medical benefits of marijuana is something quite unusual for a Republican; and signing a bill that outlaws conversion therapy in New Jersey is quite courageous, in the face of such advocates for the practice as Michelle Bachman.

  • charleo1

    Of course Christie doesn’t want debates. Neither does the wing of the Party he
    represents. They want to present a pretty box, with some lofty platitudes printed
    on it. And have people vote for the brand, not the contents inside. The truth is
    Christie’s budget looked very much like the budgets of Scott Walker’s in Wisconsin,
    or Rick Scott’s in Florida. Both cut taxes for the corporations, insisting that would
    create jobs, at the expense of education, healthcare, and the poorest of the poor.
    The result were, the corporations pocketed the windfall, and the unemployment
    situation only improved as a reaction to a general improvement in the overall
    economy. So, there’s really nothing particularly effective about the Right’s ability
    to cut deficits. What they cut from the average family, they hand out to the ones
    that made their elections financially possible. Just think, Haliburton, and no bid
    contracts. If you believe those are effective economy, jump starters, vote GOP!
    There is something else going on. And this will most likely ensure there will be
    plenty of debates in the 2016 election cycle. The hard core right, symbolized by
    the T-Party brand, is insisting on their turn at bat. And they don’t care for the
    Chris Christie types, whom they view as RINOs. Their case is, you keep forcing
    these candidates down out throat, and we keep losing. Let’s nominate a, “real
    Conservative,” this time around. Someone like a Rand Paul, Ted Cruz, Mike Lee,
    and so on. Christie, for whatever reason, has not been willing to play that game.
    Most likely because he sees it as a career ender. But, he’ll never convince the
    T-Party of it. So, get some popcorn, this is going to be quite a show.

  • Mark Forsyth

    The GOP/T Party is a sinking ship of fools.Jumping ship and joining a different party would do Christie no good because he already wears the mark he has been branded with. We have seen his attempts at bullying,but slap him around a few times and he will slither away to reside with the other snakes. It would be better for him as well as for America, if the radical T publicans drive him out.
    In ever increasing numbers,America is not buying the the conservative right crapola no matter what type of dressing they put on it.

    • S.J. Jolly

      The moderate leaders of the Republican Party need to split off the radical wing, let it form a new, hard-conservative party. One called the American Radical Conservative Party, perhaps.

      • Mark Forsyth

        Sorry,I can’t think of one moderate republican much less a leader.I don’t trust a single damn one of them as far as I can spit.Why would I trust anyone who would let a goddamn bunch of t party pirates on board their ship.I plan to do anything I can to prevent them from running,or should I say ruining,the country.They are fucking fascist idiots.

        • S.J. Jolly

          Seems that the party leaders were (and still are, to some extent) chosen by the level below them, starting with the precinct people. Such was (and still is) the decrepit state of the GOP that many precincts were empty, and higher levels were heritage. The Tea Party discovered this, and started taking over the GOP from the bottom up.
          Seems that the traditional GOP core, rich old white males, didn’t want to get out on the streets, where the precinct work is.

          • Mark Forsyth

            Because they are insulated by money and no longer need to make the investment that is motivated both figuratively and literally by hunger for that money and political power,they are most decidedly lazy.Along with the increasing rejection of t party extremism,their self induced destruction cannot come fast enough.Though I am sure that they will hang on long enough to spread as much misery as possible.

  • JDavidS

    Christie is not a stupid man. He knows that by telling the truth he will alienate himself from the RepubliCON/Tea Clown base. They would rather hear…and believe, lies. Reality is rapidly becoming just a concept to them… hence statements like “We weren’t conservative enough” to explain Romneys’ loss. Because to them it certainly wasn’t the fact that their policies are repugnant to most voters. Self-deception has become vogue in the GOP and anyone who isn’t a sandwich light of a picnic is rapidly pushed into irrelevance…someone to be shunned. And facts are merely something to be twisted, spun or ignored.
    In short, this is a party which has lost its’ moral compass and replaced it with a “win at any cost” mentality.

    • Lovefacts

      Which is why they will lose.

    • AttilatheBlond

      Nope, Christie is not stupid. And he knows he is an impatient hot-head. The quick responses required in a debate would not give him time to think and give the measured responses that would be more politically helpful. In a debate, he would likely go into his ‘because I’m the boss’ mode and slip up to the point that he would tell the tea baggers some hard truths. Then, of course, they would vote for the more telegenic pol who told them what they want to hear.

      If there are a lot of debates, Christie is toast. Makes me think it’s another reason the RNC is looking for excuses to limit the number of primary debates. They are behind Christie and know where the traps are.

  • irishtap

    As I see it: Should a guy like Dick Lugar decide to stand up and tell the base – ‘It’s time to excorcise the radical element from the GOP’, he’d immediately receive a substantial bump. As it stands there is no credible candidate for high office simply because the Republican Party has morphed into a ‘shady inhumane cult’ – controlled and financed by the worst actors of capitalism. Personally I’d prefer to leave things as they’ve been, for another couple years to insure the GOP is hanging by a thread. As despicable as they’ve been – we can’t deny their villainy has caused an upsurge in ‘citizen engagement’ in effort to protect our democratic republic. We need to continue to expand our numbers and fully engage as citizens to get 65 Senate seats and a two thirds majority in the ‘House of Representatives’ to get some desperately needed work done for protection of voting rights – women’s reproductive rights – environment. Bringing Wall Street back under control is also paramount to moving in a more ethical direction as a society. Perhaps job #1 should be to amend Citizen’s United and make ‘ALL’ elections publicly financed. We have an ocean of need that requires immediate attention of our brightest intellectual assets.

  • howa4x

    Since I live in NJ I get to see Christie close up. he is a true conservative and all this moderate talk is just because he deals with the democrats instead of bashing them all the time. He has given the corporations 2.1 billion in tax cuts but we still rank 44th in job creation and most of them were lower paying ones. He has vetoed same sex marriage, closed numerous family planning clinics, vocally against abortion and just vetoed a stricter gun law. He robed the utility surcharge program meant for clean and sustainable energy of 700 million to close a budget hole, and his record on promoting wind and solar is far less than Corzine’s. He took 75 million out of the aid pakg meant for the NJ shore to make the stronger than the storm infomercials featuring him and his family. He changed our senate special election’s date to October to avoid a large democratic turnout for his November re election. The legislature stopped him from giving a tax cut the wealthy because we didn’t have the money. The only reason he is so strong for re election in a blue state is that the democrats are so corrupt they won’t even support their own candidate and are making deals with him. His temper is legendary and there is U tube of him screaming at residents he disagrees with. He is a bully and constantly calls public employees names in the paper when they disagree. He is lucky he is in a tough guy Soprano state or his demeanor would be ridiculed. There is not that much difference between him and social conservatives, and I doubt he would attract many independents and democrats outside of here. It is just that the media is creating him as middle of the road moderate when actually he is not, and doesn’t present a real change.

  • ZincKidd

    In other words, the Republican party is not interested in democratic processes. Voting has these annoying properties: you might lose, for one thing.

  • JD Mulvey

    It’s simple: Every time Christie opens his mouth and Jersey comes spilling out, voters from Charleston to El Paso move into the Paul/Cruz camp. More debates = kiss the southern primaries goodbye.

    • Mark Forsyth

      I’m sure you realize that the values and perspectives of that certain percentage of southern population has not changed one iota in one hundred years.Politically speaking,they are very close to being a minority.One may cite the presence of the bible thumpers and the fundamentalists and the militantly racist crowd but money is the only thing they have got going for them.Their mouthpiece is the only thing that has changed.Long ago it was the Democrats.Since the party of Lyndon Johnson got on board with Civil Rights it has been the GOP.
      Republicans serving their money addiction courted the evangelicals and fundamentalists some time ago and they are still building churches but not so much as far as public services and infrastructure go.The gop plans to strike during mid-terms is well known.What else is well known is the need to get the vote out. Democrats know this so I would not get carried away with any foregone conclusions about a clean sweep in southern primaries in spite of some most certain gop objectives being won.

      • JD Mulvey

        I’m not talking only of evangelicals. I’m talking about a much broader Southern cultural aversion to a pol from the Northeast.

        If the Republicans nominate Chris Christie, they’ll put some parts of the South into play for the Democrats in 2014.

  • michaelross

    Christie isn’t even as electable as the New Jersey governor as some would like to believe anymore. He incurred the wrath of Republicans first by treating Obama like something other than the antichrist after Hurricane Sandy, then by holding a special election for the vacated seat instead of appointing a G.O.P. flunky.

    Meanwhile, the Democrats are upset with him for scheduling that special election on a separate day, costing the state millions of dollars he’d previously claimed they didn’t have, instead of having it on the day same day he himself goes up for reelection. He also blamed Obama (I kid you not) for Congress’s low approval rating (the same Congress he had to fight to get disaster relief aid from).

    To the Republicans, he looks like a moderate trying to pander to liberal moderates for support (or as Tea partiers call it, “treason”), but to the Democrats, he’s just another G.O.P. barrator, with his only saving grace being that he’s not quite as psychotic as the rest of them.

    So if Christie is trying to avoid debates, it’s probably because his own reelection campaign is just as much as house of cards as his presidential prospects.