Gov. Chris Christie
Conservative Political Action Conference
Gaylord National
National Harbor, MD
March 6, 2014

[Transcript © DEMOCRACY IN ACTION  / video]

All right, all right.  Thank you.  Thank you all very much.  Good to be here; good to be here.  Thank you all for your warm welcome.  I want to start off with a story from New Jersey.  A few years ago, our pension fund and our public employee health benefit fund together was over $130 billion in debt, and we put together a plan to do the things that they should be doing here in Washington. DC on entitlements.  Raise the retirement age.  End cost of living adjustments.  More penalties for early retirement, and more money being put into the system by the people who are actually benefitting from it.  And after we proposed this you can imagine that I was extraordinarily popular with the public employee unions. 

And so we decided to do what we do in New Jersey.  Not to go to the Chamber of Commerce and have a lunch; I decided to go to the New Jersey Fire Fighters convention.  Went to the Fire Fighters convention, and I was introduced.  And it was significantly a longer walk to the stage than it was up here.  And that entire time I was being bathed in the love of the public employee unions.  When I got up to the stage, the person running the convention said, governor, I'm sorry for the reception.  I said, "no, no, no." 

I came up to the podium like this and I said, as they were booing the hell out of me, I said, "Come on you can do better than that.  Let's go."  And they did.  And then I said to them – I had a prepared remarks to make, and I took them and I tore them up and I threw them at the side of the stage. 

And I said to them, "Here's the thing.  I understand that you're angry, and I understand that you feel deceived, and I understand why you're booing.  The only thing I don't understand is why you're booing the first person that ever come here and told you the truth.  The truth is that if we don't change these pensions, you're not going to collect them.  That's the truth.  And the fact is that for each and every one of you, you may hate me now, but ten years from now, after I've made the changes that need to be made and you're collecting your pension, you'll be looking for my address on the internet to send me a thank you note for saving your retirement for your and your families."

The amazing thing that happened was that after I was done with those remarks xx and I ended, six minutes, seven minutes tops xx I walked off the stage and two-thirds of the audience was cheering.

Here's the reason why and what I want to talk to you about this morning.  The fact is, we've got to start talking about what we're for, and not what we're against.  And the reason for that is very, very simple.  And it's exactly what I said to CPAC in Chicago in 2012.  The reason we have to start talking about what we're for and not continuing to rail against what we're against is because of one simple reason.  Our ideas are better than their ideas and that's what we have to stand up for.

And if you need any further example of that just look at what's going on in terms of what they're for in Washington, DC.  What they're for in Washington, DC is to have the leader of the Senate Democrats stand up and rail against two American entrepreneurs who have built a business, created jobs and created wealth and philanthropy in this country.  Harry Reid should get back to work and stop picking on great Americans who are creating great things in our country. 

And that's typical.  It's typical of the contrast between what's happening with governors and what's happening in Washington.  And there are lots of examples that I could tell you about and I am going to tell you about.

Governors are about getting things done.  Governors are about making government work and keeping government out of people's lives as much as they can.  And we've got lots of examples of it.

Look at what's happening in Wisconsin with my friend Gov. Scott Walker.  Scott Walker stood up for collective bargaining reform, and you know what's happened to the teacher's union in Wisconsin?  Their membership is down 60-percent because Scott Walker made it voluntary to join the union in Wisconsin.  People are voting with their feet.

In Ohio, John Kasich stood up against the crazy ideas that Democrats had in Ohio that was causing economic depression in that state, and what you have now in Ohio because of John Kasich is lower taxes and more jobs and an unemployment rate that's lower than the national average.  That's getting things done in a state like Ohio with John Kasich.

How about Michigan.  How about Michigan, where Gov. Rick Snyder has made Michigan, the home of the UAW, a right to work state.

And in Florida, Rick Scott has taken, in Florida Rick Scott has taken an unemployment rate that he inherited well over 11-percent and brought it to under the national average, and because of free market, conservative ideas has created over 450,000 new private sector jobs in three years in Florida.

That's because governors, Republican governors across this country, have stood up and done things, not just talked about them.  And what you see in Washington is people who only want to talk.  They can't stop talking.  The most dangerous ten feet in Washington, DC is between anybody who wants to start talking at a camera.  This is what they're about.

And you can see it in example not only with the dysfunction in Congress, but one story that I love about the president.  You remember when they set up this whole super-committee thing, right?  Way back when they were trying to resolve the budget problems and all the rest.  They set up a super-committee, and after the super-committee got nothing done, what did the White House say?  The White House said the president never met with the super-committee or got involved with them because he knew they were doomed to failure.  Man, that's leadership, isn't it?  You're the leader of the government.  You see something getting ready to go off the rails and what you decide to do is stay as far away from it as possible.  Well my question then, my question now is the same question I had then.  If that's your attitude, Mr. President, what the hell are we paying you for?

Leadership is about getting in and getting something done and making government work.  Leadership is not about standing on the sidelines and spitballing.  And that's all we see, all across Washington, DC, but it's not what we see in the states.

Here's another thing we've got to stop doing.  We have to stop letting the media define who we are and what we stand for.  Because when we talk about what we're for, no matter what state we're in, our ideas win.

Look at what we've done in New Jersey, a state that Barack Obama won by 17 points in 2012.  Today the fiscal year 2015 budget I proposed just a week ago has $2.2 billion less in discretionary spending than the state was spending in 2008.  Now if you had said that a blue state would do something like that, you would have said that we were crazy, but we continue to talk about our ideas. 

That government needs to be smaller.  We have 6,000 fewer state employees in New Jersey today than the day I was sworn in as governor.

For the first time in 105 years, teacher tenure has been reformed so that we can finally have accountability in the classroom.  Teachers who teach, stay; teachers who don't, go.

And, when they said it could never be done, now twice, twice for the first time since Roe vs. Wade New Jersey has elected a pro-life governor of New Jersey.

And this is what I mean about the media.  I got asked a question last year.  "Governor, you're very popular in a blue state.  How can you export that to the rest of the country given the intolerance on social issues in your party?"  And I said, well, let me ask you a question.  I said, you say the Republicans are intolerant.  Well I'll just tell you this.  At our national convention, we've had people like Tom Ridge and Colin Powell and Condi Rice speak at our national conventions, even though our party platform and I don't agree with their position on abortion.  Tell me, sir, the last pro-life Democrat who was allowed to speak at a Democratic convention.  And I said, by the way, don't strain yourself because there's never been one.  They're the party of intolerance, not us.

The fact is that we have to take these guys on directly.  You know I'm shy and retiring and I don't like to speak my mind, especially regarding the media.  But you know what we need to start saying is, what we need to start saying is that we're not going to put up any longer with them defining who we are.  But the way we have to define ourselves is to say what we're for.

So that when we say that we're pro-life and we're proudly pro-life, that doesn't mean that we're pro-life just when that human being is in the womb.  We need to be pro-life when they leave the womb as well, for every step of their lives.  And what's that mean? 

It means we have to be in favor of an educational system that's accountable so that child as they grow can have a world-class education.

It means that we have to be in favor of a society that creates opportunity and jobs for them, not one that has the government control what they think is good or fair in our society.

And it means when those children fall victim to disease, a disease like drug rehabilitation, we need to rehabilitate those kids because every life is precious, every life is precious no matter where they are in society.

We need to make that difference.  So when we say we're proudly pro-life, we have to be pro-life throughout their entire lives, not just through parts. 

And, when we say that we want to make a difference in our society, we need to make a difference through the type of free-market reforms that have always worked in our country, and we don't need, Mr. President, your opinion on what income inequality is.  We don't have an income inequality problem, we have an opportunity inequality problem in this country because government's trying to control the private market.

You know in the end, we have the type of people in statehouse throughout this country who can make a real difference in our country's future.  We have to stay focused on the task at hand.  You see as I travel around the country as the chairman of the Republican governors what I feel more than anything else is a frustration in our country with everyone who believes that government no longer works for them; that government just works for itself.

And we need leaders now who are willing to say not only that we are against Obamacare, which we are; we need leaders who are going to say not only that we're against higher taxes, which we are; we're against a bigger government; we're against more intrusion into our constitutional rights; we're against all those things.  But we need to also talk about what we're for. 

We need to talk about the fact that we are for a free-market society that allows your effort and your ingenuity to determine your success, not the cold, hard hand of government determining winners and losers, which is what this administration has been all about.

And we need to make sure that we are for America being a leader in the world and we are for a strong national defense, not one that allows other countries to run us over all over the world. 

When other people around the world struggling for freedom used to look to America, they looked to an America that was an example to them as to how a free and open society could govern itself.

After the last number of years of dysfunction in Washington, DC and lack of leadership at the White House those folks are finding it harder now to look at an America the want to emulate, an America that's governing itself effectively and providing to its people a safe and civilized society.  If we want to once again lead the world, it's not just about the might of our arms; it is about us making ourselves once again an example about a free, open society that craves and treasures liberty over else can govern itself in an effective an functioning way.  We're not doing that.  And we're not the only losers; the rest of the world loses if we don't do that. 

And so what I think we need to go out and charge out of this conference to do over the course of 2014 is to keep the House of Representatives, win back the United States Senate, win more Republican governorships and show people that Republicans know what we stand for and we know how to get things done in this country and we need to lead the world again.

But to do that, I'll remind you of just one simple truth in this democracy.  We don't get to govern if we don't win.  And it's not only bad when we don't get to govern because we don't get to mold and change our society.  What's worse is they do.  And they're doing it to us right now.

So please, let us come out here resolved not only to stand for our principles but let's come out of this conference resolved to win elections again.  That's what I intend to do for the next year and I hope you'll join me.  Thank you very much.

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DNC response:

At CPAC just now, Chris Christie gave a 15 minute speech where he attacked the media, defended the Koch brothers and railed against Washington, DC. What we didn’t hear from Christie was anything about his failed economic record in New Jersey. While President Obama has led the nation to 47 consecutive months of private sector job growth, what has Christie given Jersey?

Since Christie took office, private-sector job growth lagged ranking 46th out of all 50 states.

Under Christie, New Jersey has the third worst credit rating in the country and faces further downgrades.

While manufacturing in the US has expanded by 5% since 2009, in New Jersey it’s CONTRACTED by 4.5%.

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. For more on Christie’s failed economic record, check out this post on