Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie
On this week's episode, Rich and Jarrod are joined by former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie for a wide-ranging conversation on Trump's responsibility for the January 6th riots, reimposing sanctions on Iran, why Liz Cheney wanted to leave the GOP leadership, and more.
[00:00:07] Rich Goldberg: There’s new prime minister in Israel and a new president in Iran, but is anyone in Washington paying attention?
[00:00:13] Jarrod Bernstein: Plus, Joe Biden, hasn’t been president for six months, but would-be contenders for the 2024 Republican nomination are already making moves. Our special guest, former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie.
[00:00:24] Rich: Don’t push pause. You’re listening to Jewish Insider’s Limited Liability Podcast.
[00:00:49] Rich: Welcome back to Episode 18 of Jewish Insider’s Limited Liability Podcast. Jarrod, I’m thinking this is Season 3 season opener, so we’re going to call it that. I’m Rich Goldberg your host alongside–
[00:01:02] Jarrod: Jarrod Bernstein.
[00:01:03] Rich: Jarrod, two big news items out of the Middle East over the last couple of weeks. First, a new prime minister in Israel, Naftali Bennett taking the reins of power with an incredibly diverse but fragile razor-thin governing majority in the Knesset. Bibi Netanyahu finally ousted after 12 years as prime minister, is now settling in as leader of the opposition. Lehavdil, as we might say, in the Jewish community, the Islamic Republic of Iran, holding more of a selection than an election with the Supreme Leader installing a possible successor in Ebrahim Raisi as the new president of Iran.
Raisi, just for those who may not know, under US sanctions today, responsible for sending thousands of Iranians to their deaths in 1988, 2009 at the Green Revolution, and over the last couple of years as head of Iran judiciary, a Torquemada of our times, if you will. The question I have for you, Jarrod, will this change anything for Democrats in Washington, either when it comes to the politics of Israel or the politics of the Iran nuclear deal?
[00:02:07] Jarrod: A reset is what was needed in the US-Israel relationship, particularly as relates to the Israeli right and the American left. I think what bothered Democrats more than anything about Bibi Netanyahu were not necessarily his policies, but his lack of predictability and his appetite to make a deal with pretty much whoever was most expedient. I for one believe it’s about Bennett and his ideology, just knowing where he stands and being able to deal, even if we aren’t always ideologically aligned between the Israeli government in power and the American government in power.
[00:02:41] Rich: Listen, my take is Democrats have said, “Oh we’re not anti-Israel, we’re just anti-Netanyahu.” I’m not saying all Democrats, obviously Jarrod, but some Democrats who I perceive to be anti-Israel, that’s what they hide behind. Here we are, no more Netanyahu, no more Bibi to hide behind, a very diverse government, Arabs sitting in the government for the first time in Israeli history, and this government is just dedicated to stopping the Iran nuclear deal as the Netanyahu government was.
I guess the question then is when you look across the Middle East at Raisi becoming president in Iran and a new government in Israel, if I’m Joe Biden, Raisi stood up at his first press conference and said, “We will never negotiate a longer and stronger deal. We’ll never negotiate over missiles and terrorism.” Even this new government in Israel says, “Don’t go back into the Iran deal.” I have to ask you, why can’t the Biden administration simply say, “You know what, let’s not go back into the Iran deal. Let’s choose another path.”
[00:03:43] Jarrod: That’s the thing, Rich, what is another path? I think the Biden administration is making every attempt at a diplomatic solution to this crisis. They’re trying to avoid a regional war and potentially a global war if other players get involved. I think that the goals here are the same, there may be different tactics, but the Biden administration is not ready to give up on a diplomatic solution, and it seems like Republicans are.
[00:04:09] Rich: I can’t understand how somebody says, “I fully support the security of the State of Israel. I’m with Israel. I will defend Israel, and I want to give billions of dollars to the government, the regime that wants to wipe Israel off the face of the earth, that is funding militias, terrorist groups to do that, that’s building missiles to do that.” If the JCPOA actually stopped Iran’s nuclear program, you would have a very strong case. Unfortunately, it does not. It’s time for something different. That something different is listen to your allies in the Middle East, isolate, put pressure, and make the regime choose between its own collapse and something much better than the JCPOA.
We can argue about this all day long, but we do have a special guest. The 2024 presidential elections still more than 1,200 days away, but names of would-be GOP nominees already being floated. Former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie is one of those names. Also coming out with a new book. He joins us today on Limited Liability Podcast.
[00:05:15] Rich: Governor Christie, thanks for coming on the podcast.
[00:05:17] Chris Christie: Richard, my pleasure. How are you?
[00:05:19] Rich: We’re doing great. Listen, the top news of the week is out there. We have to start with this. There is going to be a new Sopranos prequel movie. The trailer is out. America wants to know what does Chris Christie have to say about it.
[00:05:33] Christie: Great news. I love The Sopranos. One of the greatest shows of all time. Look, anything that features New Jersey, except for the Jersey Shore, I’ll take.
[00:05:45] Rich: There it is. There’s the headline. No, but seriously, big top news of the week besides the prequel, President Biden ordering airstrikes on three facilities along the Iraq-Syria border in response to escalating UAV strikes against American interests by Iran-backed militias. Your initial reaction to what you’ve seen so far from the news?
[00:06:05] Christie: Look, I think the president is doing the right thing here. I’ve not been a fan so far of Joe Biden’s foreign policy, but in this instance, I think he’s doing the right thing. I really believe that it seems like every Democratic president who’s come in of late comes in with this idea that somehow they don’t have to be as close to Israel as the Republican president has been. They don’t have to support Israel in the same way, even though they give lip service to it.
I hope that what Joe Biden’s going to recognize over the course of time now that Benjamin Netanyahu is not there, who Democratic politicians used as a boogeyman because of his closeness to Republicans, I hope that they get the politics away from it and they get back to the simple fact that Israel is the only democracy in the Middle East and our best ally. I think every type of strength we can show in the Middle East against the terrorist groups that, not only attack Israel but attack other folks in the Middle East, is something that’s positive for us to do. We need to show resolve in that regard.
[00:07:17] Rich: Obviously, while this is all unfolding, the Biden administration sitting in Vienna, they’re negotiating indirectly with the Iranians, trying to go back into that 2015 nuclear deal. Very controversial, Obama made the deal, 2015, Trump pulled out of the deal, 2018, here we are, 2021, a Democratic president trying to go back in. You have congressional Republicans saying no matter what he does, we’re going to try to get out of the deal again, reimpose sanctions, where do you come down on the Iran nuclear deal?
[00:07:44] Christie: The Iran nuclear deal was a bad deal. It was a bad deal because it didn’t deal with their missile technology. It’s a bad deal because it didn’t deal with the rest of their behavior in the region. It’s a bad deal because it gave them back so much of their money, which they’re using now to fund the very groups that you were just talking about in your first question. That makes it a bad deal. By the way, sanctions were working against them. You saw in Iran uprisings beginning for those who were opposed to the Islamist government. We needed to give that time to continue to play out.
I think it was a bad move by President Biden. I think unfortunately, because of the far-left wing of his party, the president wants to just do everything opposite of what Donald Trump did. Donald Trump wasn’t wrong about everything. Maybe it’s time for him to reflect upon this based upon the quality of the policies. The fact that John Kerry is anywhere near any of this, anywhere near within 10 miles of the White House makes me increasingly nervous.
[00:08:56] Jarrod: Governor, just to follow up on that, and I promise you, we will come back Former President Trump in a little bit, do you think when the Iran nuclear deal was signed that there was a better deal to be had given the state of the other players in the negotiation in the P5+1?
[00:09:09] Christie: No deal is better than a bad deal, Jarrod. They needed the United States too. We are the indispensable party and we were the indispensable party in there. I think that China, Russia, and some of our European friends were much more concerned about the economics than they were concerned about that. This is one of the reasons why our independence with oil and natural gas allow us to take a much harder position. They’re much more dependent upon Middle Eastern oil and natural resources to be able to continue to run their economies. I understand the different pushes and pulls, but I think no deal is better than a bad deal.
[00:09:49] Rich: Jarrod, I do have to point out, there is some incredible irony that the administration’s policy today is to be against American-made energy but for Iranian-made energy by lifting oil sanctions on Iran. That seems a little off to me. I do have one question, Governor, and then Jarrod. I think I’m cutting you off a little bit to come back.
[00:10:09] Jarrod: It’s okay. I’m used to it.
[00:10:10] Rich: Congressional Republicans say that if Biden does go back into the deal, which seems likely, lifts the sanctions, the minute there’s Republican control of the White House again, they want to see the sanctions reimposed. Would you agree with that?
[00:10:24] Christie: Yes, I would, for the reasons that I talked about before, but there also comes a point where we’ve got to have some consistent foreign policy that doesn’t change on big, important issues like Iran every time the white house changes. I have some concern about that. Look, to me, the idea of Iran being able to be making the money that they will make and what they will use that money for, especially now with their new president, who is probably the most radical Iranian president in the past decade. This is not good news. I think it’s a problem.
I think President Biden is making a mistake. Remember what Bob Gates said about Joe Biden, who worked for both Republican and Democratic presidents, that on every major foreign policy issue of the last 20 years, Joe Biden’s been wrong. I doubt that he’s going to end that streak anytime soon.
[00:11:18] Jarrod: Governor, you alluded a minute ago to the change in administrations in Israel offering an opportunity for a reset of US-Israel relations. We had Foreign Ambassador Ron Dermer on a couple of weeks ago, talking about the sort of inside baseball that went into the speech by the prime minister at the Capitol to oppose the Iranian nuclear deal. I guess my question is, for you as someone who’s been very bipartisan over the course of his career, would you have had it go down that way?
We heard Ambassador Dermer tell us that the Israeli side never gave their heads up to the White House and that Speaker Boehner actually told them he’d handle it. What do you make of all that, this concept that we used to have, the politics ended at the water’s edge? Which I think in my mind was a really key moment that started this fracture that maybe had been brewing for a while in US-Israel relations, particularly with Democrats.
[00:12:14] Christie: There are a number of instances where I could say to you that I think that Prime Minister Netanyahu could have handled certain things, his relations with the United States, more deftly. Now, I agree with a lot of the policy positions he ultimately took, but I’m talking about how he handled the relationship. By the way, so could Barack Obama have handled that relationship better. In the end, I think that foreign policy is about two ideas, the principles that you share, and the relationship of the principles. EOS on the first one, AOS on the second.
To me, that’s where Netanyahu at times was not as deft as he could have been. I think President Obama was not nearly the supporter of Israel that he should have been. You’re seeing in a lot of the House Democrats that same type of approach. I want to know from them, they really think that the world would be a better place if Israel were weakened, that the Middle East would be more peaceful if Israel was weakened? Doesn’t make any sense to me at all. I bet you if you talk to Jordan privately, the Saudis privately, the Emiratis privately, they don’t want a weakened Israel either, because guess what, all of them are afraid of the same thing, Iran.
[00:13:44] Rich: That’s a great segue. We talk about the Emiratis and the Gulf and other Arab nations. The Abraham Accords, obviously, last year upended this conventional wisdom that we had in Washington, and for years, that Arab-Israeli peace couldn’t happen until the Palestinians had an independent state. It does seem a little bit that the Biden administration falling back into that old way of thinking of seeing them restart the funding to ANERA that Trump administration cut off; they restarted funding to West Bank/Gaza programs, even though there’s a law in place that that shouldn’t be happening until the Palestinians end their pay-for-slay program.
How do you see the Israeli-Palestinian conflict today in the broader context of what’s going on in the Middle East?
[00:14:24] Christie: It’s becoming less relevant, Richard. I think that many of the other Gulf countries are saying, “Look, the Palestinians are unable to say yes.” They’re absolutely unable to say yes, but the Israelis have offered them a number of deals that should have been acceptable to them and aren’t because they just don’t want to say yes. They want the conflict to continue. Frankly, other Gulf countries are looking at this and saying to themselves, “We have economic interests. We have diplomatic interests. We have national security interests that are best served by being at peace with Israel and we’re going to stop subjugating all of our national interests to the Palestinians interest.”
I think it will always be relevant, but I think it is less relevant today than it has been in the last 25 to 30 years.
[00:15:28] Jarrod: Governor, I wanted to shift gears a little bit and ask you about your relationship with Former President Trump. You have historically been known as one of the most straight-talking members of your party. You’ve famously on a number of occasions put commonsense and getting the job done ahead of partisanship, sometimes to your own detriment.
[00:15:47] Christie: Yes.
[00:15:48] Jarrod: Yet you supported President Trump for election, you supported him for reelection, what changed or did anything change from one to the other?
[00:16:00] Christie: No, nothing changed, Jarrod. Look, let’s start off with the very clear statement that I didn’t want Donald Trump to be president, I wanted to be president [unintelligible 00:16:09].
[00:16:11] Jarrod: Fair enough.
[00:16:12] Rich: You’ve got the easiest get out of jail card. That’s great. I like that.
[00:16:16] Christie: There are these other people who sit around the sidelines carping, I got on the stage and ran against him. It didn’t work out, and so then my, the choice I was left with was Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton. Well, to me, I’m picking Donald Trump. Policies that he pursued in the main, not all of them, but the policies he pursued in the main are ones that I support and that’s why I supported him in 2020 against Joe Biden.
Now, do I like Joe Biden a little bit more than I like Hillary Clinton? Yes, I do. I’ve known Joe Biden for 35 years. We both went to the University of Delaware. We’ve known each other from sitting at Delaware football games together over the years. I think Joe Biden is a good man. I really do. I don’t have anything bad to say about Joe Biden personally, but he has become a captive of the left-wing of his party and he’s not the same guy that I knew 20 years ago. The guy I knew 35 years ago.
I say to people all the time, American democracy is not about getting to pick your favorite, it’s getting to pick from who’s left. It was Donald Trump and Joe Biden, in that instance, I voted for Donald Trump and helped him. I think I’m still being the same pragmatic conservative I’ve always been, which is the principles they are the most important thing, and I’m going to vote for the principles above any individual person.
When you compare the principles of Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden versus the policy principles of Donald Trump, that’s why I was with Donald Trump. [unintelligible 00:17:48], to be clear as you know, both when I was in office and when I left office, since I’ve left the office and been with ABC, when I’ve disagreed with the president, I’ve said so publicly. I’ll continue to because that’s who I am.
[00:18:03] Jarrod: Governor, to that point, as a former senior law enforcement official you were a US Attorney. One of the most sacred duties in our law enforcement system is that of the US Attorney. What is your take on what happened at the Capitol on January 6th? What, if anything, does it say about some of the Republican base? We talk a lot on this show about what’s going on on the left side of the Democratic Party, as we should, but tell us about January 6th and what you think it means, if anything, about the Republican base.
[00:18:35] Christie: January 6th was an awful moment in our country’s history and something that as I was watching it, I couldn’t believe that I was seeing what I was seeing. I think that what it says is, and I said this at the time, that the president ginned this up over the course of months, not on January 6th, but going all the way back to the summer of 2020 when he was talking about the election being stolen.
Look, I’ve said this all along, Bill Barr has now said this publicly in the last couple of days, there’s just no evidence of it. I can’t say how many really smart people have come to me and said they believe the election was stolen. I said, “Where was it stolen?” “Pennsylvania and Michigan.” “Okay.” I said, “Where did they steal in Pennsylvania?” “Philadelphia.” “All right. Do that the president got a higher percentage of the vote in Philadelphia in 2020 than he did in 2016?” “Oh, we didn’t know that.”
“Not just more votes because more people voted, but a higher percentage of the vote. He lost Pennsylvania in the collar counties outside Philadelphia. He lost it by 100,000 votes more this time than he did to Hillary Clinton in 2016, and he lost Pennsylvania by 80,000 votes. There’s your ball game. Michigan? He got a higher percentage of votes in Detroit than he did in 2016. In fact, Joe Biden got 1,000 less votes than Hillary Clinton did in the city of Detroit. Please.” Look, if they showed me evidence that this election was stolen, I would have been right up there fighting with others to make sure that we got an honest election result. There’s no evidence to prove it.
When you continue to stay it though, and you’re the president who’s continued to say it, you’re going to gin people up, then once you gin them up, you can’t control it even if you want to. That’s what January 6th turned out to be was people who came to the Capitol grounds angry who were then ginned up by some speeches outside the White House, but I think that fuse was already lit even before those speeches. Those people went up to Capitol Hill and created mayhem. That’s just unacceptable. Unacceptable that the president played any role in that.
[00:20:54] Jarrod: Governor, do you think he bears some responsibility for what happened on January 6th?
[00:20:59] Christie: Of course. It’s just what I said. That responsibility began to be born, Jarrod, in the summer of 2020. What I disagree with people on is two principal issues when we talk about January 6th. One, that it was the speeches on January 6th that incited the crowds. No, it wasn’t. Those crowds came there angry and convinced that the election had been stolen. Second, that somehow January 6th is proof of the weakness of our democracy.
In fact, it is proof of the strength of our democracy in my view, because by 4:00 AM that next morning, every member of the House, the Senate were back on the floor, doing the job they were elected to do and confirm the election of Joe Biden. That shows you how resilient our democracy is, how strong it is, and that even though there were people on that floor that disagreed, that’s fine. That’s part of democracy. They get to vote and say they thought the election was stolen. I disagree with them, but at least they were there as were the others, and they did their job, including the vice president.
That was the strength of our democracy. This whole thing that our democracy was under threat. I never felt that democracy was under threat. I felt the lives of individuals in our democracy was under threat. That was the real threat of January 6th. I never felt American democracy was not going to do the right thing. The right thing was to follow the evidence, and the evidence was that Joe Biden won the election.
[00:22:24] Rich: Governor, I want to come back to something you just talked about when you mentioned the Philadelphia suburbs and the election result. When you look forward now to the 2022 midterm cycle and also to 2024 for the presidential cycle, what do Republicans need to do differently to win, and will Donald Trump still play some role in that framework?
[00:22:49] Christie: Of course, the former president will play some role. He obviously wants to do that, and there are lots of places in the country where him playing a role will be very positive for the Republican Party, but what we need to be doing is talking about tomorrow and not yesterday. Losing parties look backwards, winning parties look through the windshield. They look forward. We need to articulate our counter vision to what, by that time, Joe Biden and Kamala Harris will have been doing for nearly two years. If we’re not articulating that vision, we’re not going to win. If we’re talking about how things got stolen from us in 2020 and how wrong or right, that’s ancient history.
Here’s what I know, Richard. I don’t know everything that happened in every election district in every state in 2020 but I do know that Joe Biden won a majority of the vote; he won a majority of the electoral vote, he’s sitting in the White House, he’s signing executive orders, he’s [unintelligible 00:23:48] sessions of Congress. He’s the president of the United States. Donald Trump is not going to be reinstated in August or September or anytime between now and January of 2025 We have to stop talking about that crap and we have to start talking about issues that matter to the American people and why our ideas are better than the Democrat’s ideas.
[00:24:13] Jarrod: By the way, I agree with you 100%. Rich, you can put that in the logbook somewhere.
[00:24:17] Rich: Loo at that. If you’re ready to announce your own presidential bid, you have the first donor here, Jarrod Bernstein, wonderful.
[00:24:23] Jarrod: Governor, my question, I believe all that, but how do you square that with what’s going on in the Congress where a tried-and-true Republican in Liz Cheney, she will never be confused for getting a majority in my assembly district in Brooklyn, she gets purged from the party leadership solely on her non-allegiance to Donald Trump. What are Republicans in the House and Senate thinking?
[00:24:56] Christie: I disagree with you on that. Let me tell you why I think she’s out of leadership. Remember, she said all the things she said, and they had a first vote and she was kept, then she kept saying it over and over and over. Enough. You’re on the record. We heard you. Anybody thinks that Liz Cheney supports Donald Trump after the first set of statements? You think anybody thinks that she thinks that what happened on January 6th was okay? Do you think anybody thinks that Liz Cheney thinks that Donald Trump actually won the election?
Let me tell you what I think. I think Liz Cheney wanted out of leadership. I think she didn’t like it anymore, and when she won that vote the first time she said, “Oh God, that didn’t work. Okay. Let me keep saying it.” Finally, they were like, “Look, you can’t keep talking about this stuff. We don’t want to talk about it, we want to talk about what the Democrats are doing. Stop.” She kept going. “Okay. You’re out.”
I would disagree with the premise of your question that when she expressed herself, and she has every right to do, on the issues that we’re talking about, they had a leadership vote and she won by more than three to one in the Republican caucus. If you’re going to continue to– I had somebody who said to me, who was offering me a position on a board of directors one time, they said, “Look, there’s two requirements for being on this board of directors. You must always tell me the truth even if I disagree with it,” and the second point was, “and don’t be a pain in the rear end.”
[inaudible 00:26:29] two things can coexist. I could tell you the truth. If the leadership says, “Okay, we hear you. We support your right to say it, but we’ve heard it. Now, enough. Let’s move on to the other issues,” and you go, “No, no, no. I’d really like to continue to talk about the thing that you’ve asked me not to talk about anymore because it’s not good for the party.” Well, then you don’t want to be in leadership. I like Liz. I most of the time agree Liz’s policy positions, but enough already.
You don’t want to be leadership, don’t be in leadership. Go to Wyoming, win your seat again, which I’m confident she will do. Then she’ll come back and she’ll figure out the way she wants to assert herself in the party. My guess knowing Liz Cheney is she’s got plans to do something else. I don’t know what but something else and she’ll figure it out. The Cheney family has never been lacking either ambition or cleverness. I don’t think she’s lost any of those genes from her mother or her father.
[00:27:33] Jarrod: Fair enough. Governor, I have one more and then I know Rich has a few more questions for you. Governor, you were famously very ill with COVID. Great to see that you’re doing well and recovered.
There was an article in The New York Times in the last week or 10 days that shows there’s a direct correlation between vaccination rates and the results of presidential voting. With people who voted in areas that voted heavily for Donald Trump’s having some of the lowest vaccination rates and therefore some of the highest COVID rates because they’re unvaccinated as somebody who is a Republican and a loyal member of the party but who is very ill with COVID, what do you make of all this? Have we really politicized an issue that ought not be politicized and it’s going to ultimately cost people their lives?
[00:28:28] Christie: Yes. I think that there were mistakes made. Let’s talk about what the mistakes were, Jarrod. I think, first, folks kept moving the goalposts on this in the public health realm, so people began to not believe before the vaccines even came out, some advice that was being given by public health experts. Secondly, there are people out there, and I ran across this when I was governor, that are generally anti-vaccine, not just this vaccine, but any vaccine. There’s a pretty significant anti-vaxxer movement out there. New Jersey, mandates more vaccines than any state in the country. I would hear from the anti-vaccine people constantly when I was governor.
Now, I’m a pro-vaccine person. My wife and I vaccinated our children with all the required vaccines. Our entire family has been vaccinated with either the Pfizer or the Moderna vaccine. For some people, it’s an anti-vaccine issue. Those generally tend to be more libertarian-type folks, Jarrod. I think the lack of confidence in some areas of the country in the public health experts, the lack of confidence in vaccines, in general, contributes to it, and there has been a political element to it, but this one you can’t blame on Donald Trump.
Now, he’s the guy who put all the money behind Operation Warp Speed. He came out very early and appropriately, saying he had taken the vaccine and he encouraged others to take the vaccine, that he and Melania had both taken it. He never really made any public statements that I’m aware of where he showed a lack of confidence in it. The last thing I’ll say to you on this one is that I did a focus group with Frank Luntz, with 30 people from around the country, who were all Republicans, different ages, and different areas and different types of Republicans like traditional establishment Republicans, Trump Republicans, all of whom came onto the call saying that they would not take the vaccine.
When I got done telling my story, almost half of them now said, “Okay, we’re going to consider taking the vaccine.” I also think that people have not gotten all the facts they need to get on it. I think one thing one of the folks said, he said, “I want to be educated, not indoctrinated.” He doesn’t want people telling him conclusory things like you must take the vaccine because it’s good for you and it’s good for the general public. He wants to know the facts.
When he got educated with the facts, as I shared it with him and former CDC head Dr. Tom Frieden did, he was on that call as well; we got nearly half of those 30, 14 out of the 30, who said that they were going to get vaccinated. I do think there’s still hope for this. I think we’ve just got to keep pushing, it’s going to be a process. There is an element of politics to it, but I think it’s much more not Republican-Democratic politics, but libertarians, anti-vaxxers, who also happen voted for Donald Trump. I think it’s not the Trump part that’s pushing it, it’s the other part and the fact that those people also happen to vote for Trump.
[00:31:56] Rich: Governor, I do want to come back to foreign policy a bit. Before I do, you said something earlier; we were building towards it, was you were looking forward through the windshield towards 2022-2024 and you were talking about the need to focus on the issues, not on all the stuff in the past. What are those issues in your view? What are the top issues Republicans should be running on?
[00:32:17] Christie: First and foremost is education. I think we’ve all seen in the last 15 to 16 months that our public education system was severely damaged by the COVID crisis and the actions that many governors took in the COVID crisis. Public education has been set back and public education students have been set back. That’s not just at the K to 12 level, it’s also at the university level as well. I had a child who went to a private Catholic school, a daughter, she went to school in-classroom last September and did the whole year with the exception of one week where there was a bit of an outbreak at her school where they did virtual. The rest of the time they were in the classroom.
Except for that one time of one week, there was no significant outbreak in the school. If a child got it, that child was sent home, and they quarantined for 14 days and did virtual learning, and then came back. We didn’t shut the whole school down. I think that hurt and what it’s led to because it’s been led by the teacher’s union because they didn’t want to go back to work. The fact is that they’ve started to have greater rein to do other things like what’s being taught in our classrooms.
I’ll give you one example of this, Richard. I live in a very Republican town in a very Republican county in New Jersey. They do exist. My niece who is in now the sixth grade she was given a project. It was called the American Dream, myth or reality. It seems like a reasonable essay they have to write. They said “but you have to write your essay from the written materials that we give you.” Every piece of written material that she was given supported myth, not reality.
My niece said the heck with it, I think the American dream is a reality, so she writes the American dream is a reality and she gets a C on the paper. When she goes to the teacher and says, “Why did I get a C?” the teacher says to her, “Because you didn’t write it from the materials I gave you.” Now, look, I’m not someone who believes that we should ever whitewash the mistakes that America has made. America’s made mistakes over time, but we have been much more of a force for good than for bad. Our students should learn both so they can make their own decisions. I think education is a huge issue.
Second, China. China is going to be our adversary for the next 80 years. We better get on understanding that they’re an adversary and start taking much stronger steps towards winning that fight both by strengthening in ourselves and weakening the leadership in China. I think third, inflation is going to wind up being a huge issue here, Richard. Joe Biden, you saw that picture early in his presidency where he went to visit Jimmy Carter and Rosalynn Carter, he and Jill Biden.
Let me tell you something, that picture is going to wind up being very prominent when after 2022 we have a Jimmy Carter-like economy in this country where unemployment remains higher than it should and inflation winds up getting very high. Jimmy Carter is the guy in the ’76 election who coined the phrase misery index, the combination of unemployment and inflation. I got a feeling that his buddy Joe Biden is going to be getting whacked around with the same misery index that Jimmy Carter created and which ultimately cost him his presidency.
We need to be talking about inflation and how we’re going to create jobs and livable wages in a circumstance where inflation is running at a much, much higher rate, 3, 4, 5 times what we’ve been used to over the last really year since Reagan got us out of the inflation spiral in the mid-80s. We have not suffered significant inflation since then. We’re talking now about 35 years. That’s going to be a big issue for us to be talking about as well.
[00:36:17] Jarrod: Governor, he’s too humble to mention it, but my co-host, Rich Goldberg, is a Navy reservist who deployed to Afghanistan. The United States is on the cusp of pulling its last troops out of Afghanistan, your view on the president’s decision but the only caveat to the question is if you’re going to say we stay in, what would you change about our policy if it was to stay in Afghanistan?
[00:36:51] Christie: Here’s the thing. I don’t think we need a huge number of troops in Afghanistan, but I think pulling all of them out is a mistake. Look, we still have troops in Germany, World War II ended 75 years ago, we still have troops in Germany. We still have troops in South Korea. In the places where you’ve had major conflicts over the decades, we maintain troops there as a symbol of our resolve to not have those places go backwards.
I think in Afghanistan, allowing the Taliban to have free rein there without any risk of retaliation by American troops leaves us vulnerable to the very same thing that happened that led to 9/11 and have that become a terrorist training center for the Middle East and for other parts of the world. I don’t disagree with the fact that it’s time to bring most of our troops home, but if we still have troops in Germany and we still have troops in South Korea, it doesn’t seem to me to be unreasonable to say we have some small number of troops there to attempt to keep the Taliban on us.
[00:38:07] Jarrod: Governor, I would just push back on that and saying in Germany and South Korea, both functioning democracies where our troops there actually help protect them from outside invaders. The Afghans can’t get Afghanistan right. I guess the thought is that what are a few thousand American troops going to do that the Afghani government can’t do other than become targets, but again–
[00:38:31] Christie: Jarrod, I hear what you’re saying, but let me just add this before Rich jumps in, which is we’re going to find out. Okay, we’re going to find out. If we have a re-emergence of Al-Qaeda or some other type of group like that that’s using Afghanistan as a training and watching off-center, then you and I can get back on the podcast and we can talk about whether those troops would have made a difference or not, but we’re going to watch now and see what’s going to happen.
I think that while right that Germany 75 years later is now a functioning democracy. It wasn’t in 1945, 1950 when we kept troops there. It took Germany a little while to come around. We had Germany divided by the Cold War. We still had troops there when they were reunited after the Cold War was over. I understand the distinction you’re making and I think an intellectually honest distinction, but I think that’s looking at it from a today perspective of what Germany and South Korea are today, not what they were when those conflicts ended.
[00:39:38] Jarrod: Rich, anything you want to add on this topic or–
[00:39:40] Rich: No. I tend to agree with the governor on this. I think it’s a terrible decision to pull out precipitously and we already have top generals that are warning that we’re likely to see a civil war or worse very quickly. I think the 1990s will be calling very soon, and that did not work out well for US National Security. Governor, I do want to come back a little bit into the national politics discussion. You said that you have been friends and known Joe Biden for a long time, I’m curious, your views on the vice-president. She’s gotten a lot of attention recently on the border issues, et cetera. Obviously potentially could be the nominee for the party come 2024. How do you rate how the vice-president has been doing?
[00:40:26] Christie: I was never impressed with her when she was in the Senate, so it’s not going to be surprising to hear that I’m not impressed with her now. I just don’t think there’s a whole lot there. I think that’s why she did very poorly in the presidential race. It wouldn’t have been who I would have picked if I were Joe Biden as vice president, but when you’re the nominee, you get to make the choice. I don’t think she brings a whole lot to the table. Because he committed to picking a woman, that was his commitment, I think there’s a lot of other Democratic women who could have been significantly better vice-presidents than Kamala Harris.
[00:41:10] Jarrod: Who would you have picked, Governor?
[00:41:12] Christie: I’m not going to say that. Why am I going to help the Democrats? Also, if I like the person, an endorsement from me for a Democratic woman would end her career. Who wants to do that to the party? Maybe I actually like them and want them to be a positive voice in national politics for a while. I’ll respectfully pass on that one, Jarrod.
[00:41:31] Rich: Okay. As we transition to our lightning rounds, the obvious question that people want to know is are you going to run for president in 2024.
[00:41:40] Christie: I think that’s the obvious question that I’m not going to answer because I haven’t decided. I honestly have not decided. Look, I’m 58 years old, I’m not ready to retire. On the other hand, I’m not going to run for president for the experience. I’ve already had the experience of running for president. It’ll have to be that I believe that I’ve got something that’s unique to offer, that I’m the best person for the job, that there’s a pathway to victory, and that my family supports me. If the answer to all four of those questions after the 2022 elections is yes, then I’ll run. If the answer to any one of those four questions is no, then I won’t.
The proof of my honesty in that is there were lots of people who wanted me to run in 2012 and when I didn’t think I was ready, I said, I’m not ready and I’m not running despite the fact that the timing then politically might’ve been very advantageous for me. 2016, I felt I was ready when perhaps the timing wasn’t as politically advantageous and it didn’t work out well, but I ran. I’ll make this decision on the merits, Richard, and I’ll make it when we get to 2022 because believe me, I don’t have a clue as to what 2022 is going to look like. We’re just all hoping to get through 2021 without any re-emergence of COVID-19 and get our lives back to normal.
The one good thing that I saw this past weekend was I’m on the board of directors of New York Mets. I saw on Saturday 30,000 people back in Citi Field to see Jacob deGrom pitch; it felt like the summer in America for the first time in a while, and that was a really good feeling.
[00:43:17] Jarrod: Governor, I was going to ask you about that. I grew up a Yankee fan, but I don’t dislike the Mets. What is the new ownership group like?
[00:43:24] Christie: The group is Steve and Alex Cohen.
[00:43:28] Christie: It’s a very small group. Look, I’m biased about this because Steve and Alex have been friends of mine and Mary Pat for over a dozen years now, but he is an extraordinarily bright, successful, funny, interesting guy. I think the world of Steve. He’s a Mets fan, he’s been a Mets fan his whole life. It’s a dream come true for him to own the team that he rooted for growing up. He asked me to be on the board. For me, I’ve been rooting for the Mets since I was six years old, went to my first game in 1968 and so for me it’s a dream come true also. Steve is a great guy and I am confident that within his timeframe of five years, he’s going to bring a World Series Championship to Queens.
[00:44:17] Jarrod: Wow. All right.
[00:44:19] Rich: That’s a bold prediction– [crosstalk]
[00:44:21] Christie: Mark that one on the podcast.
[00:44:23] Rich: You have to steal it from my Cubbies, but that doesn’t look that difficult at the moment. We always ask our guest if you have a favorite Yiddish word that you’ve picked up over your career.
[00:44:35] Christie: Richard, where are you from?
[00:44:38] Rich: I’m from Chicago.
[00:44:40] Christie: Okay.
[00:44:41] Jarrod: We don’t hold it against him.
[00:44:41] Christie: Jarrod, are you from Brooklyn?
[00:44:44] Jarrod: Originally from Long Island but of Brooklyn stock.
[00:44:48] Christie: I grew up in Livingston, New Jersey, which was not a majority Jewish town but a plurality Jewish town. In other words, I went to more bar and bat mitzvahs in my 13-year-old year than I have fingers and toes to count literally, so I picked up a lot of words over the years. I did get a tip from someone that you were going to ask this question and I was trying to decide between my two favorite words. I’ve decided that I can’t decide between the two of them, so I’m going to give you both. Chuppah and schmuck.
[00:45:22] Jarrod: [unintelligible 00:45:22], those are both great and they go together.
[00:45:25] Rich: This is now TBMA.
[00:45:27] Christie: I couldn’t break them apart. I just couldn’t.
[00:45:30] Jarrod: All right, Governor. Do you have a favorite Jewish food?
[00:45:33] Christie: Matzah ball soup.
[00:45:34] Jarrod: From a particular place, or just any hotel?
[00:45:37] Christie: From Tabatchnicks in Livingston, New Jersey. A great Jewish deli in Livingston, New Jersey. Tabatchnicks, they have extraordinary matzah ball soup. The best I’ve ever tasted.
[00:45:48] Jarrod: You can get them at any freezer aisle in the-
[00:45:50] Christie: Yes. There you go.
[00:45:50] Rich: -Chicagoland area. That’s wonderful. What is your favorite Jersey beach?
[00:45:55] Christie: It’s where I have a beach house now. It’s Bay Head, New Jersey in Northern Ocean County. My wife and I bought a house there after I left office. It is now my favorite place at the Jersey Shore.
[00:46:07] Jarrod: Fantastic. Former Governor Chris Christie. Thank you so much for being on the podcast with us. We look forward to reading the book, which is out. Is it out?
[00:46:16] Christie: It’ll be out November 16th. Little tease this week, but it’ll be out on November 16th, Simon & Schuster.
[00:46:22] Jarrod: Republican Rescue: Saving the Party from Truth Deniers, Conspiracy Theorists, and the Dangerous Policies of Joe Biden. Rich wanted to hear me say that out loud.
[00:46:31] Rich: Jarrod– [crosstalk]
[00:46:34] Christie: I may have to do voiceover in the audiobook, Jarrod.
[00:46:40] Jarrod: Thanks so much, Governor. We really appreciate it.
[00:46:41] Christie: Thank you. I really enjoyed it. If you ever want me back, give me a call.
[00:46:45] Jarrod: Absolutely.
[00:46:46] Rich: [unintelligible 00:46:46]
[00:46:55] Jarrod: Wow. That was fantastic, Rich. I got to tell you, that is the kind of common sense, no BS interaction I love to hear from politicians of any party, and particularly Republicans who have become so dogmatic of late. It’s great to hear Governor Chris Christie call those balls and strikes like he sees them.
[00:47:16] Rich: I think he actually sounds like most Republicans I know and talk to, straight talk, expresses back. I liked it as well. It was a great conversation. We didn’t ask him his favorite Springsteen song or album. That’s bad on us. I know you all want to know. Maybe we’ll get that from him after the show. Maybe if you come visit us on Clubhouse or something, we’ll talk about it if we find out, maybe when we have him back, but we’ll ask him as well. Jarrod, great show.
[00:47:44] Jarrod: If you like this show, help us get the word out to other people. Subscribe on your favorite podcast app. Leave us a review on Apple Podcasts or Spotify, and most importantly, tell your friends because it’s the best recommendation we can get.
[00:47:56] Rich: If you have comments, questions, show ideas, and tips, send us an email at podcast.jewishinsider.com. Until next time, this is Limited Liability Podcast. Thanks for listening.
[00:48:27] [END OF AUDIO]
About the Podcast
Limited Liability Podcast is a new weekly podcast for readers of Jewish Insider. Hear from the key players generating buzz and making headlines in conversation with two top political operatives, Jarrod Bernstein and Rich Goldberg. One Democrat, one Republican. Both hosts have extensive experience in the political arena and a deep rolodex to match. It’s Jewish Insider’s Daily Kickoff brought to life.
Jarrod has 20 years of experience counseling institutions with complex organizational structures through times of uncertainty and crisis. He has advised on and executed ventures in both public and private sectors on a wide variety of topics. Bernstein served in both the Bloomberg and Obama administrations in senior communications, community outreach, and counterterrorism positions, including assistant secretary at the Department of Homeland Security and associate director of public engagement at the White House. He has been featured on CNN and other networks as an expert commentator on a variety of Homeland Security topics. Bernstein regularly advises clients in communications, government relations, disaster management and combating bias.
Rich is a Senior Advisor at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. Rich previously served on the White House National Security Council and led the Trump administration’s efforts to counter Iranian weapons of mass destruction. A Chicago native, Goldberg previously served as chief of staff to former Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner and as a senior adviser to former United States Sen. Mark Kirk. As a devoted Cubs fan and former Navy intelligence officer, Rich enjoys his whiskey neat.