Chris Christie at the Reagan library: Put "difficult truths" before "comfortable lies"

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie
New Jersey Governor Chris Christie
Getty Images.Mandel Ngan

New Jersey governor Chris Christie will deliver a high-profile speech on "Real American Exceptionalism" tonight at the Ronald Reagan Library in Simi Valley, California. The speech comes as conservatives dissatisfied with the Republican presidential field step up their pressure on Christie to jump into the fight for the GOP nomination

In advance excerpts of the speech released by his office, Christie says nothing specific about the 2012 presidential race, opting instead to focus broadly on what America must do to live up to its claims of being exceptional.

"A lot is being said in this election season about American exceptionalism," Christie plans to say. "Implicit in such statements is that we are different and, yes, better, in the sense that our democracy, our economy and our people have delivered. But for American exceptionalism to truly deliver hope and a sterling example to the rest of the world, it must be demonstrated, not just asserted."

The New Jersey governor plans to argue that American greatness has long been grounded in innovation, ingenuity, determination and "the strength of our democratic institutions," as well as the nation's ability to come together to fight enemies, help allies and prioritize the public interest in domestic crises. That was done, he will say, "through strong presidential leadership...through Reagan-like leadership."

"Unfortunately, through our own domestic political conduct of late, we have failed to live up to our own tradition of exceptionalism," Christie plans to tell his audience. "Today, our role and ability to affect change has been diminished because of our own problems and our inability to effectively deal with them."

Christie has repeatedly categorically denied that he is considering a presidential run, but he has also sent mixed signals, among them his decision to meet with prominent GOP donors who want him in the race. On Tuesday morning, a political mentor, former New Jersey governor Tom Kean, said Christie is now giving a presidential run "a lot of thought."  His brother, meanwhile, said Christie remains committed to forgoing the race, saying "If he's lying to me, I'll be as stunned as I've ever been in my life." 

In his speech, Christie will argue that America must go beyond "setting an example" by succeeding at home and "be prepared to act," and to lead the world.

"This takes resources--resources for defense, for intelligence, for homeland security, for diplomacy," he plans to say. "The United States will only be able to sustain a leadership position around the world if the resources are there--but the necessary resources will only be there if the foundations of the American economy are healthy. So our economic health is a national security issue as well."

A fiscal conservative who has clashed with unions in his state, Christie will argue the United States is capable of meeting that challenge - but that doing so requires facing reality.

"Today, the biggest challenge we must meet is the one we present to ourselves," he will say. "To not become a nation that places entitlement ahead of accomplishment. To not become a country that places comfortable lies ahead of difficult truths. To not become a people that thinks so little of ourselves that we demand no sacrifice from each other. We are a better people than that; and we must demand a better nation than that."

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