- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 16, 2011

The Republican brand’s hottest commodity says he makes no apologies for stepping on toes and bruising some feelings, telling a packed Washington audience he is a man on a mission and a man in a hurry.

“In New Jersey, they call me impatient. They call me lots of other things, too,” Gov. Chris Christie noted in what was billed as a “major national policy address” Wednesday at the American Enterprise Institute.

“Ladies and gentleman, I think it’s time for some impatience in America,” he said. “…I get four years as governor of New Jersey. I don’t have time to wait.”

The former state’s attorney’s willingness to take on entrenched interests in his state, highlighted in a string of viral videos in which he pugnaciously takes on his critics, has electrified Republican voters and spurred talk of a possible White House run for Mr. Christie in 2012 - a race he said again Wednesday he has no plans to enter.

But Mr. Christie in his remarks did dismiss President Obama’s new budget priorities as “candy” that ignores the country’s biggest funding problems, discussed the tough steps needed to tackle his state’s budget woes, and said it would be necessary to “separate the teachers from the union” to achieve real education reform.

Mr. Christie said that in recent years his state has become known less for policy leadership and more for a bad image — “The Sopranos” and “Jersey Shore.” While saying repairing the state’s troubled financial, education and pension systems was important, he emphasized that he wanted more for the Garden State.

“I said to the people of New Jersey when I was running in 2009 that if they gave me the opportunity to be their governor, then not only would the state go on a path towards fiscal recovery, but we would also lead the nation,” he said.

He noted that his predecessors had raised state taxes 115 times in the previous eight years. Right after taking office, he said that he learned that if he did not act immediately to end further planned spending, the state government would be unable to pay its bills by March.

After cutting spending, New Jersey had managed to escape from the current danger, but the governor said that the challenge is far from over. He said that the state is currently confronted with an $11 billion budget deficit on a $29 billion budget.

“This is a problem that took a decade to develop, and it’s going to take a lot longer than a year to fix it,” he said.

Mr. Christie also cast a critical eye at Mr. Obama’s recent State of the Union address, jokingly noting that the president had also referenced “big things” the country needed to do. The New Jersey governor said that it was interesting to note what exactly Mr. Obama had considered “big things” — including subsidized high-speed rail lines, better Internet access and more electric cars on the road.

“Ladies and gentlemen, that is the candy of American politics,” said Mr. Christie. “Those are not the big things. Let me guarantee you something: If we don’t fix the real ‘big things,’… we’re not going to be able to care about the niceties of life, the investments that Washington wants to continue to make.”

The governor said that New Jersey’s teachers unions are angry with him because they perceive he is attacking them. He said that he is not attacking the union members themselves, but rather the poor service of the union leaders.

Mr. Christie earned a round of applause when he recalled how he bluntly laid out his message to the teachers unions: “You do not represent the best that teachers have to offer; you often represent the worst.”

“We have great teachers in New Jersey, working hard and making changes in the lives of many children, but we don’t have enough of them,” said the governor. “One reason this happens is because the bad teachers who remain with lifetime tenure are crowding out the opportunity for the good ones.”

The New Jersey governor said his record to date was proof that politicians can take on hard issues and make tough choices and survive - if they are honest with voters.

“I did not run for this job for failure,” he said. “I ran for this job for success. For success, not just for me personally and my children, but success for my state, and hopefully to provide an example for the rest of the country, that you can do the difficult things.”

He joked that he has trouble making people believe his many public statements that he personally does not feel ready to consider a presidential run next year.

“Apparently, I actually have to commit suicide to convince people I’m not running,” he said at one point.

But with polls tracking his rising popularity among GOP voters, and with high-profile events like Wednesday’s speech, Mr. Christie did not shy away from striking a few presidential notes in his speech.

“It’s time for us to get to work, to find our greatness again,” he said at one point. “And I believe we will find our greatness through doing the big things, the really big things, that will lead America to another century of exceptionalism, and not a century of settling for second-best.”

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