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Christie: I'm a "Fighter," but Not Ready to be President... Yet

Chris Christie
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, R- N.J. gestures while speaking at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington, Wednesday, Feb. 16, 2011. AP Photo/Evan Vucci

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie on Wednesday lambasted what he characterized as a pass-the-buck Washington political culture and urged legislators to work on "doing the big things and being courageous."

Christie, who was announced Wednesday morning as the GOP pick to serve

as Vice Chair of the Republican Governors Association (RGA), delivered a speech today at the conservative American Enterprise Institute on the "big problems" in America today.

"I think people are ready to hear the truth," he said. "I really think it's extraordinarily important for those of us who believe that our country is off on the wrong track to begin the conversation ... about how we fix the problems that ail our states and our country in a direct and blunt way."

An increasingly prominent conservative voice on the national stage, Christie today addressed issues like the longterm stability of Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, as well as issues like government pension programs and the education system.

He cast himself as a "fighter" taking on President Obama, teachers' unions and the ways of Washington. As he has repeatedly, however, he brushed off the idea of a possible presidential bid -- at least for now.


(Watch excerpts from Christie's remarks at left.)

"Apparently I actually have to commit suicide to convince people I'm not running," he quipped.

"There are people who will run just because they see the opportunity. And I'm not stupid. I see the opportunity," he said, but added, "that's not a reason to run for president."

"You have to believe in your heart and your soul that you're ready to be president. And I don't believe that about myself right now," he said.

Also, he added, "My wife will kill me."

Christie emphasized that there was "no political advantage to me coming in and telling [constituents] the truth" about tough political and economic realities. But, he added, the time has come for national political leaders to confront those issues head on.

"The old playbook says: lie, deceive, obfuscate, make it to the next election," he said. "Political strategy in Washington is all about waiting it out... These are hard things, but they're not impossible to do."

"If you ask for the responsibility of leadership, then you've got to delive," Christie continued. "There's always some measure of risk in that. Always. But if you're just here to mark time, then leave. There's something else you can do."

Christie spoke about the need for "a return to fiscal sanity," and his take on the necessary reforms for the health benefit and pension systems, as well as the American education system.

"If you look at those three issues they are not, in and of themselves, Democratic or Republican issues," he  argued. "Each governor across America is confronting these same things that I'm confronting in New Jersey."

Pointing to ominous statistics about the future of troubled entitlement programs like Social Security, Medicare  and Medicaid, Christie urged specific, immediate action.

"We have to fix Medicaid because it's not only bankrupting the federal government, it's bankrupting every state government," he said.

He also argued for raising the retirement age for Social Security.

"When we say entitlement programs we should be specific," he said.

"You're gonna have to raise the retirement age for Social Security. Whoo hoo! I said it and I'm still standing here. I did not vaporize into the carpet. We have to reform Medicare... Once again, lightning didn't strike!"

Taking a jab at President Obama, Christie argued that "investments" in technology and transportation were merely the "candy of American politics" - and not what the U.S. needs to salvage its economy.

"He thinks the 'big things' are high-speed rail, high-speed Internet access," Christie said of Obama. "If we don't fix the real big things, there are going to be no electric cars on the road... We're not going to be able to care about the niceties of life, the investments that Washington wants to continue to make."

"That's not we need to be talking about," Christie emphasized.

The New Jersey governor made no apologies for his brash, seemingly confrontational style of politicking.

"Some people say I'm too combative, some people say I'm too much of a fighter," he said. "I'm fighting now because now is when it matters the most."

"Leadership, in my opinion, is not about waiting," he said.