Chris Christie, know-it-all
Chris Christie is known as a combative, take-no-guff governor who, when asked a pointed or critical query, often scolds or browbeats his questioner.
That’s not just a matter of manner. It’s also a habit of mind. Or, to put it another way, Christie is not just an occasional bully. He’s also a know-it-all, something he demonstrated on Tuesday during an appearance at the New England Council’s Politics & Eggs public affairs forum.
As he tested the cool and overcrowded presidential waters, the New Jersey governor didn’t content himself with simply outlining his stands and explaining his reasoning. Like the self-styled expert at the end of the bar, he suggested that contrary opinions were wrong-headed or ridiculous.
Take global warming. Christie acknowledges that climate change is real, and that human activity contributes to it. But when I asked if he supported a tax on carbon emissions, Christie said no, declaring that “a carbon tax is just another excuse by folks who like to tax.”
Actually, plenty of well-known conservatives support a carbon tax, particularly if it is offset by reductions in other taxes. That list includes economists Greg Mankiw, who chaired George W. Bush’s Council of Economic Advisers; Douglas Holtz-Eakin, former director of the Congressional Budget Office; and Arthur Laffer, father of supply-side economics. So, too, does former Secretary of State George Shultz. That’s hardly a group of taxaholics.
Asked, apropos of an Atlantic City controversy, if eminent domain should be used to force one private property owner to sell to another private person or concern, Christie told a reporter that that “depended on the circumstances,” then asserted: “A generalized answer to that is just sophomoric, and I won’t give one.”
Actually, a private-owner-to-private-owner application of eminent domain has been a heated issue across the ideological spectrum since the US Supreme Court’s 2005 decision in Kelo v. City of New London. It’s neither sophomoric to answer nor ask a question about its appropriateness.
On to Iran. In his remarks at Saint Anselm College, Christie declared that the nuclear pact the Obama administration is negotiating with that country would allow Iran to become a nuclear power. When I asked afterward how he justified that assertion, Christie said that “the president is permitting them to continue to develop high-grade uranium, and that’s going to lead to them having a nuclear weapon.”
Adding that “everybody from Secretary Shultz to Secretary Kissinger wrote extensively about this in The Wall Street Journal,” he said: “I don’t think you will find many experts who are not connected to the Obama administration who believe this is a good deal or a deal that won’t lead to a nuclear Iran.”
Some context. Yes, Iran’s stockpile of enriched uranium has gone up. But that has happened several times during the negotiations, only to return to the stipulated level. Further, Iran has kept its agreement only to enrich to 5 percent during the negotiating period, the International Atomic Energy Agency has confirmed. Weapons grade is approximately 85 to 90 percent.
Yes, Shultz and former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger coauthored a highly skeptical Wall Street Journal guest column outlining their concerns with the pact. Still, other independent nonproliferation experts say that the Obama-Kerry approach, which would track Iran’s nuclear program from mining to waste, is a promising one.
In other words, before the pact is even complete, Christie is substituting simplicity for complexity — and falsely asserting that expert opinion is on his side.
A lightly informed know-it-all does not a compelling candidate make.