Chris Christie

On Stage at CPAC, Chris Christie is Grilled While Ted Cruz is Pitched Softballs

Two very different sessions for two very different GOP politicians.


Gage Skidmore / photo on flickr

NATIONAL HARBOR, M.D.—Two very different GOP presidential hopefuls sat for two very different question and answer sessions in the 1 p.m. hour at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) just outside Washington, D.C., this afternoon.

Up first was New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who was given a friendly but pointed grilling by conservative radio host Laura Ingraham. Ingraham started out by positioning Christie as a CPAC outsider, noting that he is not a regular on the conservative talk show circuit. At CPAC, this is the equivalent of raising an eyebrow and saying, "So, what are you doing here?" Ingraham's questions continued in this vein, which was understandable. The average CPAC attendee is skeptical of Christie, who has not always gone out of his way to cozy up to the conservative base. Ingraham's questions reflected this sense of wariness.

Christie, for his part, was perfectly game, defending his record as governor against questions about his handling of the state's budget, and arguing that, in order to beat Hillary, Republicans need to prioritize defending the middle class. ""I don't mind rich people," he said, "but we need to be standing up for the people who haven't had a wage increase, adjusted for inflation, in fifteen years." He attacked minimum wage hikes as a non-solution, declaring that no parent believed a minimum wage hike would really solve all the economic problems for their kids.

After a brief, boring interlude in which Carly Fiorina gave a bland and generally unmemorable speech (she talked about her background and took a few swipes at Hillary Clinton), Texas Sen. Ted Cruz took the stage. Cruz started his performance—and that's what it was—with a refrain-heavy speech that sounded more like a sermon. It was a sermon about crisis: "America is in jeopardy," he warned. And it was also an opportunity to butter up the audience. The "men and women who are gathered here are gathered to fight for our country" he declared. And those people—CPAC attendees—were set to "play a critical role in reigniting the miracle that is America."

Unlike Christie, the CPAC crowd loves Cruz. His speech was his way of saying he loves them back.

Cruz's speech led into another Q&A session. But this one wasn't hardball. It was little league. Fox News host Sean Hannity came out and teed up a series of easy hits for the Texas Senator, finishing with a question that was barely a question: "Why does Ted Cruz love America?" This is the political interview equivalent of handing a marksman a shotgun and saying, "Here, shoot this barn. Sure, get as close as you want."

The differing treatments mostly suggested the different ways that the CPAC crowd, which is made up of the most conservative part of the conservative base, feel about the two politicians. Christie is an outsider, to be questioned skeptically; Cruz is one of their own, to be treated with respect and adoration.

Gage Skidmore / photo on flickr

In another way, however, the two sessions were remarkably similar, in that we learned very little from either. Christie handled himself well, but mostly stressed his New Jersey bona fides and his aggressiveness—what he referred to as his "passion."

"I'm going to speak my mind, and I'm going to be direct," he said when questioned about his sometimes combative style. "Sometimes people need to be told to sit down and shut up."

Cruz, meanwhile, talked up his antipathy toward Washington. "Take the power out of Washington and bring it back to the American people," he said. It was a theme he came back to several times. "The biggest divide in this country is between career politicians in Washington and the American people," he said later. Asked to describe Hillary Clinton in a word or three, he said, "Washington."

In other words, both Christie and Cruz offered slogans, platitudes, and simplified autobiographical character sketches, but little else. They talked about who they were more than what they had done. That's fair enough at this early stage. Neither are officially running yet, although it's clear that both are seriously considering a campaign. But eventually both will need to find ways to talk more substantively about their records and their policy ideas. "Talk is cheap," warned Cruz. Indeed.

(All quotes are rough but close transcripts from notes.) 

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  1. Christie alt-text: I once ate a block of cheese THIS big.

    1. “It was a sub sandwich, I tell ya! Like THIS!”

    2. Ted Cruz looks like he’s doing karaoke of The Supremes

      1. Kruz looks like pee-wee herman when he taped up his face.

    3. Explains why he’s completely full of shit.

  2. “the CPAC crowd, which is made up of the most conservative part of the conservative base”


    it may appear that way to the *cosmotarian eye*…

    but i think this guy might disagree

    1. That guy might be a liberal, killing bin Laden isn’t what one might call a part of the left/right divide.

    2. Aren’t these guys your new bffs. Sure beats hanging out with old school libertarians who talk about imperialism. Fuck that… This is the 21st century and libertarianism is all about lowering tax rates on job creators.

  3. Grilling Chris Christie is a bad idea. The outside will get burnt long before the middle even warms up.

    1. I like my governors extra rare.

      1. Beer keg governor?

        1. Beer battered fish?

    2. I’ll bet he cooks up great. Low and slow like a boston butt. Good dry rub and the outside meat caramelizes with the fat. That is just about the only thing he would be good for.

    3. It’s a fact. Can’t grill a monstrously huge mountain size chunk of meat and expect it to cook through evenly. Besides, when the meat is 99% fat there’s bound to be a serious grease fire.

  4. Christie kissed Obama’s ass three days before the 2012 election, which put us in the horrible mess we’re in now. He has no chance at the nomination.

    Cruz is a totally unpragmatic attention whore and will hopefully self-destruct early on in the primary season.

    1. Oh, I think he’s pragmatic. Hannibal Lector-level pragmatic.

      Otherwise I agree on all points. This frightens me a little.

  5. “Sometimes people need to be told to sit down and shut up.”

    -Chris Christie, supporting the free exchange of ideas

    1. People like Christie never seem to realize they themselves are often the one that needs to sit down and shut up

      1. Except he doesn’t need to sit down, he needs to go for a jog.

        1. Interesting coincidence, today I gave a speech on the topic, “No one likes to be told ‘sit down and shut up’. “

        2. At a burn rate of about 400 calories per hour Christie would have to continue jogging non-stop for decades just to reduce himself to morbidly obese.

  6. Cruz at least sounds like a limited government guy 75% of the time. Christie could just as easily be a Democrat.

    1. Agreed. Cruz is far from perfect, but a GOP that goes from Romney to Cruz is at least moving in the right direction.

      1. Couldn’t agree more.

    2. Cruz is a Theocrat and a Dominionist. These are NOT “Small Government” ideologies, they are Religiously Controlled Governments.

      1. Sounds good to me!

        Cruz is only marginally distinguishable in ideology from Rand Paul.

      2. We already elected Jesus, what more do people want?

  7. Cruz Alt Text:

    “STOP! In the name of love!”

    1. Fuck. I should have scrolled down.

  8. “I don’t mind rich people”

    Okay, so Christie’s not a Democrat.

    1. “But I do mind gun and property rights.”

      1. +1 300 year old firearm

      2. “And I like to mess with the teacher’s unions.”

        No, he is not a Democrat.

        1. ISn’t that also one of Cuomo’s passtimes?

          1. Yes, Cuomo is also pushing back against them & pushing for more charters too. Baby steps but still welcome I guess.

    2. What do you mean? Democrats don’t mind rich people either as long as the campaign check shows up on time.

  9. Is Rand Paul in attendance? I would like to hear about how he was received at CPAC. I also wonder about Ben Carson.

    I am predicting a Walker/Carson ticket for 2016. Sheldon Adelson will do EVERYTHING he can to shut out Rand Paul.

    1. JJ Walker and dead Johnny Carson?

      I’m in.

      1. Dead Johnny Carson has my vote.

      2. That should be as good as Scott Walker / Ben Carson. In both cases, you will get a sizeable chunk of the African-American vote to pull the rug out from the Democrats. Yeah, I know that’s a cynical thing to say. But that’s what watching politics for a long time does to you.

        1. No, Ben’s a conservative so he doesn’t count. Which is to say that one can be born an African-American, but one becomes “black” once one is baptised in the Progressive church. This is why Clinton is sometimes referred to as our first black president.

    2. I met Scott Walker at a FL Chamber of Commerce even at Disney. He’s a damn good retail politician. I am not betting against him.

  10. “America is in jeopardy”

    What a typical Red State alarmist. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to finish reading these remarks on an unregulated internet, then live my life without health insurance without penalty.

  11. So.. conservatives host conservative conference and person with less conservative reputation treated with more skepticism than person with more conservative reputation?

    1. I’m actually surprised he wasn’t treated more roughly, and put on the spot about gun control.

  12. OT

    UPS joins FedEx in refusing to ship DefDist’s Ghost Gunner CNC mill.…..unner-mill

    The writer of this piece is trying to invoke an “unjust law” argument but reverses it making the 2A an “unjust right.”

    Incidents like this underscore the fact that although US gun law is some of the most scrutinized in the world, there will always be disagreements between what companies and individuals believe is legal and what they believe is right. Wilson and his supporters think that what they are doing is both, but corporations are obviously not so sure.

    1. I think this falls into gay wedding cake territory.

    2. Table top milling machines with names people don’t like?

  13. Parapundit has made some right-leaning and counter-intuitive arguments for raising the minimum wage. I don’t want to see the rich swinging from lamp posts, but that is the trajectory of western governance. I am a guest at a Koch brothers web site and wish no ill upon my hosts.

    1. Wait, you’re just a guest?

      I was told I had to take the money, hookers, blow, and orphan child slaves or they wouldn’t let me post. (And I had to be their shill on any other website I commented on too.)

      1. You are wearing your monocle right now aren’t you? We’re watching you…

  14. The leftist media are just going to ignore paul and cruz like they did Ron Paul. Fox will elevate Bush and Walker and let them duke it out without ever asking one question about Bush’s involvement with the likes of the Fanjuls in FL.
    Both of them will be vilified in the main running and Hillary will be ushered in as a goddess; a disgusting, obnoxious, heinous walking porcelain goddess.

    1. Ron Paul was his own worst enemy during the primaries, if the man would have just stopped all the conspiratorial nonsense, and stopped blaming everything on blowback the man might be president now.

    2. The media won’t ignore them when they say stupid shit that tanks their campaigns.

      1. They won’t ignore Hillary either when she says stupid shit like ‘don’t let anyone tell you that businesses create jobs’. Oh wait, yes they will.

    3. The GOP establishment want anyone but Paul. They know that he will mop the floor with Hillary in the debates and they don’t want that.

  15. Cruz believes he has been chosen by his God to change things. If this is the type of person conservatives ans libertarians look up to and support, they will only lose in the end, because it shows they are dangerous and stupid!

    1. Meanwhile Obama wasn’t chosen by God…he thinks he is God…with his “this is the moment” speech.

      All politicians have the messiah complex.

    2. Oh no, I dont want to look dangerous and stupid!
      How can we avoid this fate, CP? How?

      Please help us!

    3. If I was worried about looking dangerous and stupid to strangers on the Internet, I would’ve gotten rid of the webcam and the ferrets years ago.

  16. Google pay 97$ per hour my last pay check was $8500 working 1o hours a week online. My younger brother friend has been averaging 12k for months now and he works about 22 hours a week. I cant believe how easy it was once I tried it out. This is wha? I do……

  17. So, there were only 2 candidates at the CPAC, Christie and Cruz? I thought there were going to be more.

  18. When does Nigel Farage speak?

    1. Wrong side of the pond, bro.

      1. He’s scheduled at CPAC

        1. I hope they got approval from the White House for that.

  19. I’m ambivalent about Christie but I think that Cruz is terrible. The conservatives that support Cruz are Hillary’s biggest asset.

  20. Chris Christie supports gun control, ENDA, and the Dream Act. He is not conservative in any meaningful way.

    1. I think skunkman, already knows that.

  21. Yeah, but peter all pro-life religiosity, gay-bashing, drug war promoting, and war mongering aside, isn’t ted Cruz ten times better than someone like Bernie sanders, who has said he’ll end the drug war, keep abortion legal, bring the troops home. You’ve got to overlook the warts on the right wing to get at what is really important– lowering tax rates on billionaires.

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