The hot exchange of tonight’s Republican presidential debate in New Hampshire was between New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida. Christie tried to condescendingly preach to Rubio about why his time as a senator is far inferior to running The Garden State. While Rubio did point out the nine credit rating downgrades under Christie’s watch, he didn’t push back with any specifics, and so Christie pivoted and went for the jugular, accusing Rubio of repetitious, simplistic platitudes.
Christie’s attack is hollow for several reasons, including the charge of repetition: Christie doesn’t seem capable of finishing a debate without mentioning his time as a U.S. attorney after the terrorist attacks of 9-11. He repeatedly says this qualifies him to fight the war on terror, yet Politifact points out he flubs his facts on this claim. Christie hasn’t been connected with any high-profile wins in the fight against ISIS or other problems in the Middle East, and Rubio is more qualified to discuss the war on terror given his experience as a member of the Foreign Relations Committee. This became clear in the conversation about foreign policy, when Rubio understood U.S. policy nuances surrounding the recent North Korean missile test and how defense budget cuts diminish American security as Russia, China and Iran expand their armaments.
There’s also the Washington Bridge scandal that shows Christie lacks the judgement to select a team that refuses to put petty politics ahead of real people. Sure, there hasn’t been an explicit link proven yet between Christie himself and the affair, but this national scandal further taints his credibility.
But the biggest stain on Christie’s governing record, as I have previously explained in Forbes, is how he has completely mismanaged his state’s finances, leading to significant financial strain on the taxpayers and residents of New Jersey. This lapse of leadership is inexcusable, and it completely disqualifies Christie from touting his governing abilities. Economic issues are at the forefront of voters’ minds, and Rubio did not push back enough to call out Christie for leading a bond rating downgrade by all three major rating agencies: Fitch, Moody’s Investors Service and Standard and Poor’s.
For example Moody’s (disclosure: my former employer) downgraded New Jersey in April 2011 and again last May for Christie’s leadership in enabling “weak financial position resulting from recurring revenue shortfalls and increased reliance on one-time budget solutions, most recently seen in sharp cuts to pension contributions.”
Moody’s also slapped on a “negative” outlook on the state, meaning that Christie hasn’t done anything to stanch the bleeding. Or as Moody’s says, “Without meaningful structural changes to the state’s budget, such as pension reform that dramatically improves pension affordability, the state’s structural imbalance will continue to grow, and the state’s rating will continue to fall.”
Christie loves to talk about reforming Social Security during the debates, yet his absentee governance of the New Jersey pension system does nothing to burnish his credentials.
Rubio has come under fire for being a first-term senator with no executive experience and that he could end up like President Obama: a flawed president whose lack of leadership has resulted in a tepid economy and the worst global refugee crisis since World War II. It was smart of Rubio to point out that while Obama has been a weak leader, he has indeed accomplished much of his intended plan to “fundamentally transform the United States of America.” Rubio is correct: Obama has done significant damage, and his lack of executive experience didn’t make him any less adept at realizing his 2008 presidential campaign promises.
America needs an Oval Office occupant who has a tangible vision about how to restore national fiscal strength. Christie’s resume suggests his vision is cloudy at best, and we deserve better.Photo by Gage Skidmore Photo by DonkeyHotey
Carrie Sheffield is the founder of Bold. She is passionate about storytelling to empower and connect others. A founding POLITICO reporter, Carrie contributed on political economy at Forbes and wrote editorials for The Washington Times. After earning a master’s in public policy from Harvard University, she managed credit risk at Goldman Sachs and researched for American Enterprise Institute scholar Edward Conard. She earned a B.A. in communications at Brigham Young University and completed a Fulbright fellowship in Berlin.