This thing goes about an hour and five minutes, and if it’s not the best political speech in the last 10 years or more it’s close.
Christie swears up and down that he’s not running for president, but he’s not going to do himself any favors in dispelling questions and speculation giving speeches like this.
The subject matter is mostly fairly dry stuff – fiscal discipline and reining in entitlements. But Christie is one of those guys who’s incapable of boring an audience. He could read names and addresses out of the phone book and you’d still see the passion and intelligence and truth pouring out of the fat guy in the suit.
He says the public employee pensions and fringe benefits are to state government what Social Security and Medicare are to the federal government – which if he’s not going to run, more or less lays down a marker that whoever does run on the GOP side won’t get his support without talking about them. He talks about leadership and character; he says if you’re just in office to mark time rather than to achieve, you should get out.
The tone isn’t nasty, but it is combative. Pugnacious. Self-assured. Unafraid. And unfazed by conventional wisdom.
There’s a great line in it where he says raising the retirement age for Social Security is a necessity – and then notes that he didn’t vaporize for having said so. Christie has said the unsayable in New Jersey for over a year and he’s more popular now than he was when he got elected.
Ann Coulter said at CPAC last week that if the Republicans couldn’t convince Christie to run, then the party is doomed because Mitt Romney will be the nominee and Romney can’t beat Obama. Maybe she’s right, and maybe not. But whoever the GOP does run – even if it turns out to be Romney – is going to have to adopt Christie’s tone, his confidence, his honesty and his seriousness.
Christie’s not as rock-ribbed a conservative as most of us on the Right might like to see. But in the end that doesn’t matter. He’s a leader. He’s willing to do what’s necessary. As he says, he’ll at least try to do the Big Things. Not the “candy,” as he described Obama’s alleged Big Things from the State of the Union speech – high speed rail, internet service, electric cars – but the truly big things. Entitlements. Changes to the size and scope of government.
If he doesn’t actually get into the race – he acknowledges that he has an opportunity, but says he doesn’t believe he’s ready for the job – those who do will need to emulate this man if they want to win.