By Michael Aron
Chief Political Correspondent
Gov. Chris Christie hasn’t held an open press conference for weeks, so when he did today, it was a chance to ask whether, coming out of the George Washington Bridge scandal, he is still a viable presidential candidate.
“Who knows? I don’t know. And I think the only New Jerseyans all that concerned about that are you guys. I walked on the baordwalk in Point Pleasant and Ocean Grove, got a lot of people encouraging me to consider my options for the future, but that’s easy for everybody else to say. These are gonna be my decisions and Mary Pat’s decisions ultimately about whether we run for president or don’t,” Christie said. “Believe me, Michael, whatever decision I make in that regard, I can tell you this, it won’t be a decision based upon viability, because anybody who tried to predict where politics is gonna be a year, a year and a half, from now when the Republican nomination for president will be decided is just looking into a crystal ball. It doesn’t make any sense.”
He was also asked about his veto last week of a gun bill that would have limited ammunition clips to 10 rounds. Some parents of Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting victims had been lobbying for it. Christie said he has great sympathy for them, but rejects their argument that in the time it takes a madman to reload, a life or two could be spared.
“So are we saying then that the 10 children on the clip they advocate for are less valuable? If you take the logical conclusion of their argument, you get to zero, because every life’s valuable,” Christie said. “So why 10? Why not six? Why not two? Why not one? Why not zero? Why not just ban guns completely?”
When asked how he responds to those who see every move like last week’s gun veto through the prism of presidential politics, Christie said, “Well, it’s unavoidable, but it’s the press and partisans. Regular people don’t see it that way, they really don’t sit there and say I wondering he did that because he is running for president. Fact is, I’ve had to put up with this since 2010. You all have been asking me about running for president since 2010. So is every action I’ve taken since 2010 been through the prism of the presidency? I don’t think so. And so it’s part of what I need to deal with. I deal with it. So it is the way ti goes.”
On his deal with Senate Democrats to fill eight of 21 judicial vacancies in Essex County, he seemed in no mood to renominate the judges, the governor said, “I kept up my end of the bargain, Michael. I nominated all of them, the ones they wanted, the ones they requested. I nominated them. They said in return they would move them all through as a package on June 30. They did not. When they didn’t keep their end of the bargain, I was under no obligation to keep mine. And if you do, you’re a schmuck. People call me a lot of things in this job. That’s not one of them.”
On whether his appointee to chair the Port Authority, John Degnan, is sufficiently independent of the governor, Christie said, “I think if you’re calling into question the independence of a guy who served as chief counsel to Gov. [Brendan] Byrne, as attorney general under Gov. Byrne, and ran as a Democratic candidate to be governor of New Jersey, and somehow people think what? He’s a puppet of mine? You know John Degnan, Michael. So you should refute it.”
The governor leaves tomorrow for an annual business conference he attends in Sun Valley, Idaho. Then he goes to Nashville for the National Governors Association conference this weekend. But he answered a lot of questions today from a press corps with pent-up curiosity.