BRET BAIER: Governor Christie, you’re not exactly the darling of conservatives. You tout your record as a Republican governor in a blue state. On Facebook, the most people talking about you, not surprisingly, come from your state of New Jersey, and one of the top issues they are talking about is the economy.
This — this may be why. Under your watch, New Jersey has undergone nine credit rating downgrades. The state’s 44th in private sector growth. You face an employee pension crisis and the Garden State has the third highest foreclosure rate in the country. So why should voters believe that your management of the country’s finances would be any different?
CHRIS CHRISTIE: If you think it’s bad now, you should’ve seen it when I got there.
The fact is — the fact is, in the eight years before I became governor, taxes and fees were raised at the state level 115 times. In the eight years before I became Governor, spending was increased 56 percent, and in the eight years before I became governor, there was zero net private sector job growth in New Jersey. Zero. For eight years.
So, what did we do? We came in, we balanced an $11 billion deficit on a $29 billion budget by cutting over 800 programs in the state budget. We brought the budget into balance with no tax increases. In fact, we vetoed five income tax increases during my time as governor. We cut business taxes $2.3 billion, and we cut regulation by one-third of what my predecessor put in place.
And, what’s happened since? A hundred ninety-two thousand private sector jobs in the five and a half years I’ve been governor. We have a lot of work to do in New Jersey, but I am darn proud we’ve brought our state back.
KELLY: Alright, gentlemen, we’re gonna switch topics now and talk a bit about terror and national security.
Governor Christie. You’ve said that Senator Paul’s opposition to the NSA’s collection of phone records has made the United States weaker and more vulnerable, even going so far as to say that he should be called before Congress to answer for it if we should be hit by another terrorist attack.
Do you really believe you can assign blame to Senator Paul just for opposing he bulk collection of people’s phone records in the event of a terrorist attack?
CHRISTIE: Yes, I do. And I’ll tell you why: because I’m the only person on this stage who’s actually filed applications under the Patriot Act, who has gone before the federal — the Foreign Intelligence Service court, who has prosecuted and investigated and jailed terrorists in this country after September 11th.
I was appointed U.S. attorney by President Bush on September 10th, 2001, and the world changed enormously the next day, and that happened in my state.
This is not theoretical to me. I went to the funerals. We lost friends of ours in the Trade Center that day. My own wife was two blocks from the Trade Center that day, at her office, having gone through it that morning.
When you actually have to be responsible for doing this, you can do it, and we did it, for seven years in my office, respecting civil liberties and protecting the homeland.
And I will make no apologies, ever, for protecting the lives and the safety of the American people. We have to give more tools to our folks to be able to do that, not fewer, and then trust those people and oversee them to do it the right way. As president, that is exactly what I’ll do.
PAUL: May I respond?
KELLY: Go ahead, sir.
PAUL: I want to collect more records from terrorists, but less records from innocent Americans. The Fourth Amendment was what we fought the Revolution over! John Adams said it was the spark that led to our war for independence, and I’m proud of standing for the Bill of Rights, and I will continue to stand for the Bill of Rights.
CHRISTIE: And — and, Megyn? Megyn, that’s a — that, you know, that’s a completely ridiculous answer. “I want to collect more records from terrorists, but less records from other people.” How are you supposed to know, Megyn?
PAUL: Use the Fourth Amendment!
CHRISTIE: What are you supposed to…
PAUL: Use the Fourth Amendment!
CHRISTIE: …how are you supposed to — no, I’ll tell you how you, look…
PAUL: Get a warrant!
CHRISTIE: Let me tell you something, you go…
PAUL: Get a judge to sign the warrant!
CHRISTIE: When you — you know, senator…
KELLY: Governor Christie, make your point.
CHRISTIE: Listen, senator, you know, when you’re sitting in a subcommittee, just blowing hot air about this, you can say things like that. When you’re responsible for protecting the lives of the American people, then what you need to do is to make sure…
PAUL: See, here’s the problem.
CHRISTIE: …is to make sure that you use the system the way it’s supposed to work.
PAUL: Here’s the problem, governor. Here’s the problem, governor. You fundamentally misunderstand the Bill of Rights. Every time you did a case, you got a warrant from a judge. I’m talking about searches without warrants…
CHRISTIE: There is no…
PAUL: …indiscriminately, of all Americans’ records, and that’s what I fought to end. I don’t trust President Obama with our records. I know you gave him a big hug, and if you want to give him a big hug again, go right ahead.
KELLY: Go ahead, governor.
CHRISTIE: And you know — you know, Senator Paul? Senator Paul, you know, the hugs that I remember are the hugs that I gave to the families who lost their people on September 11th. Those are the hugs I remember, and those had nothing to do — and those had nothing to do with politics, unlike what you’re doing by cutting speeches on the floor of the Senate, then putting them on the Internet within half an hour to raise money for your campaign…
CHRISTIE: …and while still putting our country at risk.
WALLACE: Governor Christie, I want to engage you and Governor Huckabee in a subject that is a big issue in both of your campaigns, and that is entitlement reform.
You say that you — to save the system that you want to raise the retirement age — have to raise the retirement age, and to cut benefits for Social Security and Medicare, and you say that some of the candidates here on the stage are lying.
Governor Huckabee says he can save Social Security and Medicare without doing any of that. Is he lying?
CHRISTIE: No, he’s not lying, he’s just wrong. I mean, so, there’s a difference — I’m the only guy on this stage who’s put out a detailed, 12 point plan on entitlement reform and here’s why — because 71% of federal spending right now is on entitlements, and debt service, 71%. And we have spent the last hour and five minutes talking about the other 29%, and no time on the 71%, and that makes no sense.
Now, let me tell you exactly what we would do on Social Security. Yes, we’d raise the retirement age two years, and phase it in over 25 years, that means we’d raise it one month a year for 25 years when we’re all living longer, and living better lives.
Secondly, we would need to test Social Security for those who are making over $200,000 dollars a year in retirement income, and have $4 to $5 million dollars in liquid assets saved. They don’t need that Social Security check. Social Security is meant to be — to make sure that no one who’s worked hard, and played by the rules, and paid into the system grows old in poverty in America.
If we don’t deal with this problem, it will bankrupt our country, or lead to massive tax increases, neither one that we want in this country.
WALLACE: …Thirty seconds.
CHRISTIE: Yeah, sure. And, I don’t disagree with ending Congress’ retirement program. I’m a governor, I don’t have a retirement program in my state, and I don’t disagree with that. But, here’s the news to the American people, he’s complaining about the lying and stealing. The lying and stealing has already occurred. The trust fund is filled with IOU’s. We can’t fix the problem just by ending Congress’ retirement, that’s worth about, “this” much.
We need to go at the fundamental problem, and the fundamental problem is that this system is broken. It has been stolen from. We have been lied to, and we need a strong leader to tell the truth and fix it.
BAIER: Governor Christie, what do you think of that answer? [on foreign policy]
CHRISTIE: Well, listen. You know, if we want to deal with these issues, we have to deal with them in a way that makes sense. I agree with what Dr. Carson said earlier. The first thing we need to do to make America stronger is to strengthen our military, and I put out a really specific plan: no less than 500,000 active duty soldiers in the Army. No less than 185,000 active duty marines in the Marine Corps. Bring us to a 350 ship Navy again, and modernize the Ohio class of submarines, and bring our Air Force back to 2,600 aircraft that are ready to go.
Those are the kind of things that are going to send a clear message around the world. Those are the things that we need to start working on immediately to make our country stronger and make it better. Those are the things that we need to be able to be doing. And as we move towards dealing with foreign aid, I don’t disagree with Senator Paul’s position that we shouldn’t be funding our enemies. But I absolutely believe that Israel is a priority to be able to fund and keep them strong and safe after eight years of this administration.
KELLY: Governor Christie? [closing remarks]
CHRISTIE: Well, thank you, Megyn. Listen, I was born into a middle class family in New Jersey. My dad came home from serving in the Army after having lost his father, worked in the Breyers ice cream plant in Newark, New Jersey. Was the first person to graduate from college. He put himself through college at night. My mom was a secretary.
I was appointed United States attorney on September 10, 2001. And I spent the next seven years of my career fighting terrorism and putting terrorists in jail. I’m a conservative, pro-life governor in a state where it is really tough to be both. A state like New Jersey, with lots of Democrats, but still we cut taxes, we balanced budgets. We fought the teacher’s union.
This president has had weak leadership, which has led to bad choices. We have got to stop worrying about being loved and start worrying about being respected. And that’s exactly how I’ll lead our country.