Politics & Policy

Christie’s Liabilities

Five reasons for conservative concern


Christie 2012 buzz is back — again — though whether it’s for real this time remains to be seen. Indeed, it would be shocking if Christie reversed a year of emphatic denials and got in the race at this late stage. He told National Review Online in February that he didn’t feel ready — personally or professionally — to be president, and we took him at his word. If he’s reconsidering, it’s likely not because he thinks his chances have become better. Christie has always believed he could win, and his major victories over tax-and-spend Democrats and embedded union interests, along with his compelling personal style, make him an attractive candidate for an electorate focused on leadership and the economy. But Christie has also surely seen the conservative backlash against the likes of Texas governor Rick Perry over issues like immigration and mandated HPV vaccinations, and knows that as the governor of a blue northeastern state, he will give opposition researchers even more room to get to his right and paint him as a RINO. Here are five:

‘Not a Fan’ of Gay Marriage, But . . .

Although Christie told Meet the Press’s David Gregory that he was “not a fan” of gay marriage and “wouldn’t sign a bill . . . like the one that was [recently passed] in New York,” he also said the state would “continue to pursue civil unions” for homosexual couples. This support, though tepid, puts him in the lonely company of . . . Jon Huntsman and Gary Johnson among the GOP field.

The Assault on Assault Weapons

During a 1995 GOP primary for a general-assembly seat, Christie — albeit as part of a ticket — distributed campaign flyers calling his opponents’ support for repeal of the federal assault-weapons ban “radical” and “crazy.” To this day, Christie opposes any effort to pass concealed carry in the state, and although he opposed a bill signed by his Democratic predecessor that limited New Jerseyans to one handgun purchase a month, his attorney general, Paula Dow, actively defended the law in court. Christie told Sean Hannity that New Jersey has a “handgun problem” and that he supports “commonsense laws that will allow people to protect themselves” while also protecting police officers.

Sharia and ‘the Crazies’

When some conservatives raised questions about Christie’s judicial appointment of Sohail Mohammed — an attorney who had spoken out against the prosecution of the Holy Land Foundation and Sami al-Arian, both of which would later be convicted for materially supporting jihadists — Christie called the criticisms “crap” and said he was “tired of dealing with the crazies.” While U.S. attorney for New Jersey, Christie also reportedly visited the Passaic mosque of imam Mohammed Qatanani, a Sohail Mohammed client who was later deported (though that decision was ultimately reversed) for lying to immigration authorities about his 1993 arrest by Israeli police — and his confession to having been a member of Hamas.

‘Illegal Immigration Is Not a Crime’

Christie stepped in it in 2008, when as a U.S. attorney and prospective gubernatorial candidate he told a largely Latino town-hall meeting that “being in this country without proper documentation is not a crime.” Christie explained that being in the country illegally is merely an “administrative” matter for federal border-enforcement officers, and only becomes a crime if a person re-enters the country after having been deported. While Christie was technically correct on the law — unlawful presence in the U.S. is merely grounds for deportation and not subject to felony penalties — he left out that undocumented entry to the U.S. is treated as a criminal matter. Moreover, his statements are likely to be seen by the GOP base as pandering, and put him in the same hot water in which Rick Perry has recently found himself. Christie also went on record saying state-based immigration-enforcement laws like Arizona’s are not the right approach. “This is a federal problem, it’s gotta have a federal fix,” said Christie. “I’m not really comfortable with state law enforcement having a big role.”

Solyndra on the Jersey Shore?

Though he now receives a score of “C−” from Environment New Jersey, the New Jersey Environmental Federation endorsed candidate Christie in 2009; it was the first time that group had endorsed a Republican for governor in nearly 30 years. To be sure, New Jersey’s industrial past and present make its environmental politics complex and unique. On the one hand, Governor Christie has pulled out of a regional emissions scheme and recently proposed to cut solar subsidies. And most of his “environmentalist” positions would likely be noncontroversial at the national level, relating to things such as aggressive cleanup of toxic sites and technological improvements to New Jersey’s nuclear plants that would reduce their negative impact on local waterways. But the governor has also taken stances likely to irk the conservative electorate, such as opposing offshore natural-gas ports for the state while at the same time championing offshore wind farms.

— Daniel Foster is news editor of National Review Online.


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