New Jersey governor Chris Christie has certainly earned his fair share of enemies over the years — corrupt politicians whom he indicted as U.S. attorney, Democrats in the state legislature, teachers’ unions, and liberal activists across the country. Among conservatives, though, Christie has become a rock star. Well, among some conservatives. He’s taken a beating on NRO lately.
Andrew McCarthy argues on the Corner that Mitt Romney should not choose Chris Christie as his vice-presidential candidate. He is probably correct that Romney would be best served by selecting someone other than Christie, but his characterization of Christie as a “tough-talking moderate” is unfair to the governor. Christie has proved himself a tough-talking conservative.
McCarthy attacks the New Jersey governor for his famously pugnacious demeanor, saying, “His glib, between-the-eyes style is enticing from a distance but gets less attractive as you examine his record.” That’s one view, but the citizens of New Jersey who know him the best disagree. They are increasingly supportive of the governor. According to a recent Quinnipiac University poll, 59 percent of New Jerseyans approve of Christie’s performance. This includes 92 percent of all Republicans in the state — many of whom, no doubt, describe themselves as conservative.
But McCarthy’s main bone of contention derives from Christie’s differing views on Islam in America. Other conservatives have also criticized Christie’s relationship with New Jersey’s Muslim communities. Daniel Pipes and Steve Emerson, for example, disapprove of Christie’s outspokenness against the NYPD’s surveillance of Muslim college students in New Jersey. According to Pipes and Emerson, Christie “opposed law-enforcement counterterrorism efforts.” That’s not quite right. Christie didn’t oppose the program outright; he simply wished that the NYPD had informed him about it. Christie explained his position in an interview:
I understand we need people doing covert surveillance to protect the people of our state and our region. No problems with that. My concern is, Why can’t you communicate with the people here in New Jersey, with law enforcement, here in New Jersey? Are we somehow not trustworthy?
After Christie nominated Sohail Mohammed, a Muslim American, to the New Jersey Superior Court, blogger Pamela Geller went so far as to say, “New Jersey, the Garden State, has just taken its first step toward becoming the Sharia State.” Christie responded, “Sharia law has nothing to do with this at all . . . This sharia-law business is just crap . . . and I’m tired of dealing with the crazies.” It’s pretty clear that Christie did not intend to say that any mention of sharia law under any circumstances is crazy. Rather, he rightly noted that it was ludicrous in this context to accuse Christie of accommodating radical Islam.
That’s not to say that Christie’s nominations to the New Jersey court system have been stellar. He hasn’t kept his campaign pledge to nominate only conservative judges, but his record is not as blameworthy as his critics allege. After Christie chose not to renominate a liberal supreme-court justice, state-senate Democrats refused to even hold a hearing for Christie’s replacement, a conservative jurist name Anne Patterson. (In New Jersey, supreme-court justices must be renominated by the governor and reconfirmed by the senate before they receive lifetime tenure.) The protracted fight eventually forced Christie to reach a compromise and probably pushed him to be more accommodating in his judicial appointments.
On other issues, Christie has been a consistent conservative. His reform of state workers’ benefits and pensions helped balance the state budget, and it foreshadowed other conservative reforms at the state level, similar to those of Wisconsin governor Scott Walker. He has proposed cutting income taxes 10 percent for all New Jersey citizens, and he was instrumental in capping property-tax increases at 2 percent per year. Christie recently vetoed a health-insurance exchange mandated under Obamacare. He cut funding for Planned Parenthood and vetoed a gay-marriage bill. And if that wasn’t enough, Christie also pushed for school choice for New Jersey families.
It’s no surprise that Christie regularly appears on the stump for Republican candidates and that he received rave reviews for his speeches before the American Enterprise Institute and at the Reagan Presidential Library. Chris Christie’s ability to pass major conservative reforms appeals to the vast majority of conservatives, and for good reason: He’s one of us.
— Noah Glyn is an editorial intern at National Review.