By Art Gallagher
The National Review’s Rick Lowry met with Governor Chris Christie last week. Here’s what the governor told Lowry about his non-candidacy for president:
Yes. Believe me, I’ve been interested in politics my whole life. I see the opportunity. But I just don’t believe that’s why you run. Like I said at AEI, I have people calling me and saying to me, “Let me explain to you how you could win.” And I’m like, “You’re barking up the wrong tree. I already know I could win.” That’s not the issue. The issue is not me sitting here and saying, “Geez, it might be too hard. I don’t think I can win.” I see the opportunity both at the primary level and at the general election level. I see the opportunity.
But I’ve got to believe I’m ready to be president, and I don’t. And I think that that’s the basis you have to make that decision. I think when you have people who make the decision just based upon seeing the opportunity you have a much greater likelihood that you’re going to have a president who is not ready. And then we all suffer from that. Even if you’re a conservative, if your conservative president is not ready, you’re not going to be good anyway because you’re going to get rolled all over the place in that town.
I just see how much better I get at this job every day, and I do, and I learn things. If not every day, at least every week. And my wife and I were actually talking about this last night. We had dinner together with the family after the [New Jersey budget] speech and she was saying how much better she thought I was yesterday than I had been before in my speech. She said, “You are getting better.”
That’s just the nature of life. So, I see the opportunity, I recognize and understand it and I’m really flattered that people think of me that way. But, if I don’t believe it in here [pointing to his heart], I’m not going to be a good candidate on top of everything else.
And remember in the context of sitting there on election night 2009, and my wife and I were convinced we were going to lose. It is a bit to get your arms around, too. You’re a successful United States attorney and then within a year of that time you have people talking about you and I was running around campaigning for folks. All of these handmade “Christie for President” signs in the crowds when I was in Michigan and Iowa and all the other places that I went, Ohio and Pennsylvania and Florida. It’s also been overwhelming, too.
Like I said before, I am who I am and people have to trust, they don’t have to but they should trust, my instincts on this. I know me better than anyone else knows me. If I felt like I was ready, I’d go, but I’m not. But I’m also not going to go if I don’t think I’m ready.
When I walked into the Governor’s office last January there have been some difficult days in the job. There has never been a day where I’ve felt like I’m over my head, I don’t know what to do, I’m lost. I don’t know whether I’d feel the same way if I walked into the Oval Office a year and a half from now. So, unless you get yourself to the point where you really believe you have a shot to be successful, then I don’t think you have any business running for it.
Lowry noted that Christie is better prepared than Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama were when they took office. I would add Truman, Kennedy and Carter to the not as prepared as Christie list of modern day presidents. Since FDR, the only prepared chief executives America has had were Eisenhower,Johnson, Nixon, Reagan and George H. W. Bush.
Unless a Republican leader emerges in the coming months, the “readiness” argument will become weaker and weaker to a country hungry for leadership. Unless that Republican leader emerges the pressure of Christie to fill the leadership vacuum will increase.
I don’t know Christie that well, but I don’t think the question of seeking the presidency is truly a matter of readiness for him. I think it is a matter of calling. A truly great president is called to the office, as Reagan was.
Christie is conducting his governorship as a mission he is called to. He is in the process of becoming a transformational governor. His leadership is having national consequences. He appears to be called to the work that he has started in reducing the size and cost of government on the state and local level.
If Christie is called to a higher office, like the presidency, such calling will probably not happen until there is significant progress in New Jersey and elsewhere throughout the country where his example is making a difference.
For Christie to seek the presidency because of the opportunity when the level of accomplishment in his current calling is far from complete would diminish his current work and the future opportunity. Christie frequently says “I know who I am.” Who he is is someone who doesn’t leave a job undone to take a “better” opportunity.
If Christie stays on his current course as governor and a national leader in bringing fiscal sanity to state and local government he has the potential of making a bigger difference, domestically, in the quality of life and freedom for Americans than any modern day president.