Christie lionizes Reagan, bemoans Obama in Reagan Library keynote address

In his keynote address at the Reagan Library tonight, Gov. Chris Christie heaped praise on the late President Ronald Reagan, contrasting the GOP leader’s union busting activities with what he sees as President Barack Obama’s ineffectual, paralyzed performance in the White House.

Bemoaning a president “who has not yet found the courage to lead,” Christie also criticized the Republican-controlled House of Representatives for stoking a “debt ceiling debate that made our democracy appear as if we can’t govern ourselves.”

Tantalizing the GOP with leaked word of a soft no versus longtime hard no on his own 2012 presidential aspirations, Christie referred to his past answers that he’s not running for prez.

As for why the country found itself slipping and in dire need of new leadership, Christie ultimately put the blame on Obama.

“We hope and wait for our president to stop being a bystander,” the governor said.

Christie repeatedly credited Reagan’s  “American exceptionalism” as a stark contrast to Obama.

He doubled back on Obama’s famed speech at the 2004 Democratic National Convention in which the then-state senator from Illinois bemoaned a divided America.

“Now even as we speak there are those who are willing to divide us,” Obama said then.

Christie said Obama now “prepares to divide our nation with a re-election strategy to save himself… insisting we must tax and take and demonize those who have already achieved the American Dream.

“That may be a good re-election strategy, Mr. President,” Christie added, “but it is a demoralizing message for America.”

When did the state senator become do divisive? the governor wondered.

Christie delved lightly into foreign policy during the half hour speech, telling the gathered crowd that domestic failures translate into foreign policy failures as well.

“There is no better way to reinforce the likelihood that others in the world will opt for more open societies and economies than to demonstrate that our own system is working,” Christie said.

The governor repeated familiar themes throughout the speech, including his oft-mentioned head-on style.  Problems need to be addressed and fixed, Christie said, without regard for partisanship and politics.  True leadership means delivering harsh truths and standing up to, not running from, difficult problems.

“It is a simple but powerful message – lead on the tough issues by telling your citizens the truth about the depth of our challenges.  Tell them the truth about the difficulty of the solutions,” he said.  “This is the only effective way to lead in America during these times.”

The speech at times sounded like it was made on the stump as Christie advocated for school reform and touted his victory in shepherding through changes in the state’s pension and health benefits programs.

Christie continually contrasted his leadership style to that of Obama, condeming the president repeatedly for failing to take charge during difficult times.

“We hope that he will shake off the paralysis that has made it impossible for him to take on the really big things that are obvious to all Americans and to a watching and anxious world community,” Christie said. “Yes, we hope. Because each and every time the president lets a moment to act pass him by, his failure is our failure, too.”

After the speech, Christie took questions from the audience.  The governor’s defiant everyman tone was markedly different from the more formal manner he adopted during the speech and gave California Republicans a glimpse of the man that has enthralled national Republicans, who are all but demanding Christie jump into the race for president.

Two questioners asked Christie directly if he planned to run for president. In answer to one, Christie pointed to a montage of his past “no’s” posted by Politico earlier today.  To the other, Christie gave a longer, more heartfelt answer, promising that he was listening to those asking him to run and is “taking it in.”

Opinions differed on whether Christie had slammed the door on any national aspirations, with one camp feeling he had given an unequivocal “no” and another who felt the recent speculation deserved to be addressed – and dismissed – by the governor.

Christie lionizes Reagan, bemoans Obama in Reagan Library keynote address