Former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie spoke out against former President Donald Trump in a speech Thursday night and said the GOP needs to get rid of him and his cult of personality.
Christie, in a speech at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, Calif., Did not mention Trump’s name. But there was no doubt who he was referring to when he described the Republican Party dragged into a moment of peril.
He also directly confronted Trump’s insistence that he had somehow won the 2020 election, a baseless conspiracy theory the former president and his allies have promulgated since his loss to Joe Biden in November. .
Pretending we won when we lost is a waste of time, energy and credibility, said Christie.
Former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie. (Lorenzo Bevilaqua / ABC via Getty Images)
We need to clear the brush, on our side and theirs, before the new plantings can begin, he added.
The former governor, who ran for president in 2016, is believed to be considering another candidacy in 2024. And his speech on Thursday was his first major attack on Trump and the former president’s influence on the GOP, which he called pernicious and damaging to the Conservatives. goals.
The speech was also noteworthy in that Christie is the first possible candidate in 2024 to lay a firm scorer against Trump, who remains widely popular among the Republican base.
Other possible candidates for 2024, such as Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and Texas Senator Ted Cruz, have carefully avoided hitting Trump, who is reportedly seriously considering running for president himself. Nikki Haley, who served as U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations and is reflecting on her own White House candidacy, spoke out against Trump’s role in the Jan.6 riot on Capitol Hill earlier this year, but quickly returned on those comments amid criticism from pro-Trump conservatives.
While denouncing Trump in his speech, Christie also linked himself to a very conventional set of GOP positions, implying that Republicans can win over the policies pushed by the former president as long as they reject him and the fanaticism that he inspires.
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We don’t have to change our policies to win again, he said. He spoke at length about Biden’s radical agenda and the need to confront China, to contain spending, to defend public order, to control migration across the southern border, to fight liberal prejudices in the media. general public and reduce the size of government. .
But time and time again in her speech, Christie returned to the themes of truth and lies, implying that under Trump the Republican Party had strayed.
Former President Donald Trump at a rally in Wellington, Ohio, in June. (Stephen Zenner / AFP via Getty Images)
All this lie has hurt our nation, our party and ourselves, he said.
Christie also aimed to death at Trump’s divisive rhetoric and habitual lie, which he said had twisted the GOP.
If the requirement in today’s policy for your support is to say a bunch of things that are not true, no, thank you. If it requires bending to a person’s will rather than championing ideas for the good of all, then count me. No man or woman, no matter what office they have held or how much wealth they have acquired, is worthy of blind faith or obedience. It’s not who I am, and it’s not who we are as Republicans, no matter who demands that we tie our future to a bunch of lies. We deserve much better than being misled by those who are trying to gain or retain power, he said.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, Christie again characterized Trumpism by inference and not directly as an authoritarian movement, and rejected conservatives who have adopted right-wing foreign leaders like Hungarian Viktor Orbn as role models.
We must reject those who try to lure us into rabbit holes, into alliances with bad actors and into the grip of authoritarianism. Authoritarian dictators are not strong leaders to be admired. These are tyrants who hope to deceive the crowd once again, he said.
Christie also recalled the struggle of the Republican parties with the John Birch Society, a far-right movement of the 1950s that pushed conspiracy theories and called President Dwight D. Eisenhower a Communist sympathizer. Mainstream Republicans fought back against the John Birch Society and other radicals and successfully purged them of the GOP, which paved the way for more palatable conservatives like Ronald Reagan to win the presidency.
Christie said it was another time for Republicans to fight extremism within their ranks.
Members of the far-right Proud Boys at the Kentucky Freedom Rally in August. (Jon Cherry / Getty Images)
We must discredit the extremists among us as we have done before, he said. We need to give up conspiracy theorists and truth deniers, those who know best and those who are just plain crazy.
It’s a step most GOP members have avoided since Trump captured the party. And Christie, while sometimes critical of Trump when he was president, was also instrumental in securing Trump’s nomination.
In 2016, some party members criticized Christie for aiding Trump by effectively eliminating Florida Senator Marco Rubio from the Republican nomination contest in the New Hampshire primary. As Rubio won in the polls and gained momentum, Christie sued him directly during the election campaign, then humiliated him in a televised debate three days before Granite State voters went to the polls. The Rubios campaign has never recovered.
And Christie never honed his considerable prosecutorial skills for six years as an American lawyer in New Jersey against Trump, a decision many GOP members found puzzling and disturbing at the time. But the disappointment of Trump’s GOP opponents pales in comparison to their horror when Christie shocked the political world by endorsing Trump weeks after the New Hampshire primary. He was arguably the first truly influential establishment Republican to back him, giving the reality TV personality and businessman much needed credibility.
Trump and Christie at the White House in 2017 (Jim Watson / AFP via Getty Images)
Christie was briefly part of Trump’s inner circle during the campaign and was considered a candidate for Cabinet office, but was effectively exiled by the president’s son-in-law Jared Kushner, according to Christies’ account. Christie had sued Kushner’s father, real estate baron Charles Kushner, for crimes that included a bizarre ploy to blackmail his own brother-in-law by sending him a prostitute, filming their sexual encounter, and then using this band against him.
Yet Christie remained an outside adviser to Trump for much of his presidency and did not completely break with him until after the Jan.6 insurgency, sparked by Trump’s avalanche of lies about the results of the vote. Trump supporters, Christie told ABC News, launched their assault on Capitol Hill because the president constantly lied to them about a fraudulent election.
He said Trump violated his oath and betrayed the American people by inciting a violent insurgency, then doing nothing for hours to quell the attack.
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