TIME 2016 Election

Asked About Christie, Bobby Jindal Says Next Election Can’t Be About ‘Personalities’

Bobby Jindal
Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal delivers the keynote address during Faith and Freedom Coalition's Road to Majority event in Washington on June 21, 2014. Molly Riley—AP

Amidst 2016 rivalry, the governor of Louisiana stops short of criticizing the New Jersey governor directly

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal looks and acts a lot like a presidential candidate these days, with a policy-focused agenda and clear strategy for distinguishing him from some of his Republican rivals.

Before a fundraiser Sunday for a local politician in Franklin, Tenn., TIME asked Jindal about the stylistic differences between him and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who made news over the weekend by dodging national policy questions. “Rather than focus on what other people may or may not be doing, I’ll just say I’ve always been a policy guy,” Jindal responded.

“The next big elections can’t be ones about personalities or just about slogans,” Jindal continued, in an apparent reference to Christie’s persona. “I think it’s incumbent upon our Republican Party to earn our way back to the majority. Let’s provide those specific answers.”

Jindal, who is known as a studious wonk, recently founded a policy group, called America Next, in an effort to win “the war of ideas” for conservatives. “When I did the 100 pages [of policy when I first ran for governor] the political consultants said it was a foolish thing to do,” Jindal said. “Who knows, but it’s just the way I am. I can’t imagine engaging in the political process without getting into the specifics, and I think people deserve that.”

This is not the first time that Jindal has made public comments about Christie, or found himself positioned as a rival. In 2012, Jindal and Christie were locked in a contentious behind-the-scenes battle to lead the Republican Governors Association—a fight Christie won. After Christie was bogged-down in the Bridge-gate scandal, Jindal minimized Christie’s leadership role, arguing on CNN in February “no one governor is more important than the other.”

TIME 2016 Election

Here Are The Questions Chris Christie Doesn’t Want To Answer

Chris Christie
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie at a town hall meeting at Winston Churchill Elementary School, April 9, 2014, in Fairfield, N.J. Julio Cortez—AP

He is making moves to prepare for a presidential run but declines to answer questions like a presidential candidate.

Sometimes the straight-talking governor of New Jersey doesn’t talk all that straight.

Gov. Chris Christie casts himself as a decider, steering his state through rough economic waters, while setting himself up for a run for the White House. At the National Governors Association meeting in Nashville on Saturday, Christie lambasted the Obama administration’s Middle East policy and its inability to negotiate with Congress.

But he skipped as many issues as he took on. Just what he would do when faced with some of the nation’s hardest policy challenges remains unclear. The man who hopes to one day inhabit the Oval Office repeatedly noted that he doesn’t yet have the job—a rhetorical crutch to avoid saying what he’d do if he got it.

Here’s the list of the questions he dodged from reporters:

On raising the gas tax to pay for transportation infrastructure:

“Since I’m not in Congress or the White House I’m going to let them make those decisions. I have to make those decisions in my state. They can make those decisions down there.”

On whether the unaccompanied minors cross the border illegally into the united states should be sent back:

“I’m not going to get into all that. Again, that’s Washington’s job to figure these things out.”

Should the United States intervene militarily against Hamas?

“I’m not going to give opinions on that. I’m not the president.”

Has he decided on whether illegal immigrants in the United States should be presented with a path to citizenship as part of an immigration reform package?

“No, not as Governor of New Jersey I have not.”

He’s brusque, he’s brash. He’s famous for his back-and-forth exchanges with protestors and hecklers. And even in dodging questions, Christie has a matter-of-fact speech and abrupt delivery that suggest candor. But sometimes he still doesn’t want to answer the questions.

 

TIME 2016 Election

Christie: Gay Marriage “Settled” In New Jersey But Republicans Shouldn’t Give Up Fight

Chris Christie
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie talks with reporters at the National Governors Association convention, July 12, 2014, in Nashville. Mark Humphrey—AP

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie said Saturday that while same-sex marriage is “settled” in New Jersey, it’s not time for opponents to give up the fight.

Speaking to reporters at the National Governors Association, Christie said it is not time for Republicans to drop the issue, which is entrenched in the party’s platform but contributes to the party’s difficulty with younger voters. “I don’t think that there’s going to be some major referee who’s going to say now it’s time to stop,” he said, referencing his own opposition to the unions. “Certainly I’m not going to, because these are opinions that I feel strongly about.”

“The country will resolve this over a period of time,” he added, saying it is important for people to respect those who disagree with them on the issue. “But do I think it’s resolved now? No.”

Christie, seen as an all-but-certain candidate for the Republican presidential nomination in 2016, said the party should not attempt a national campaign on the issue. “It should be done state by state,” he said.

Nineteen states and the District of Columbia allow same-sex marriages, with most states’ legal bans currently under challenge in federal courts across the country. Many leading operatives have called on the party to soften its stance on same-sex marriage in order to return to the majority, but national Republicans have been slow to drop their opposition. Just four GOP lawmakers in Congress are in favor of allowing the marriages, and just one presidential prospect, Ohio Sen. Rob Portman, is supportive.

Christie dropped a legal fight to block same-sex marriage in New Jersey in 2013 after the State Supreme Court indicated it would not stop the unions, saying now: “Yeah, it is a settled issue in New Jersey.”

“When I know that I’ve been defeated you don’t bang your head against a wall and spend taxpayer money to do it,” he said, explaining his decision. “Absent a change in the legislature, I think at the moment it’s settled law in New Jersey.”

Asked whether the country could resolve in favor of traditional marriage despite the momentum behind the “marriage equality” movement, Christie replied “I don’t know, I don’t have a crystal ball.”

TIME 2016 Election

Here’s What You Need to Know About Chris Christie’s Latest Bridge Scandal

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie speaks during the Faith and Freedom Coalition's 'Road to Majority' conference in Washington D.C. on June 20, 2014.
New Jersey Governor Chris Christie speaks during the Faith and Freedom Coalition's 'Road to Majority' conference in Washington D.C. on June 20, 2014. Drew Angerer—EPA

Officials are investigating Christie's office's actions surrounding yet another bridge

The scandal over lane closures on the George Washington Bridge has hurt New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s presidential ambitions, but just when Christie seemed to be moving past it, another bridge scandal put him back in the news Tuesday for all the wrong reasons.

The New York Times, citing unnamed sources briefed on the matter, reports that authorities already looking into the Christie administration’s handling of what’s become known as Bridgegate are now also probing whether the governor’s office pushed for the illegal use of funds to renovate a different bridge. While it’s easy to label this as another Bridgegate, the questions surrounding each bridge differ dramatically.

For those trying to sort out the two scandals and what they mean, TIME offers the following guide to Bridgegate, Part Two.

What are officials investigating this time?

Officials from the Manhattan District Attorney’s office and the Securities and Exchange Commission are investigating possible violations of securities law. According to the Times report, Christie’s office repeatedly insisted that the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey provide funds to repair an ailing state bridge despite repeated legal counsel against the move. The Pulaski Skyway, located solely in the state of New Jersey, does not fall under the purview of the Port Authority.

Why does this issue fall under securities law?

The funds in question originated from municipal bonds collected for improvements to the Lincoln Tunnel, the Times reports. If the government collected money for that purpose and spent it on something else, officials could face prosecution for misleading bondholders. The involvement of both state and federal officials suggests that investigators are examining the potential violation of both state and local securities law. The SEC and the Manhattan District Attorney’s office wouldn’t comment. In an email, a spokesman for Christie said proper legal procedures were followed and noted that Christie has publicly discussed using Port Authority funding for the bridge renovation in the past.

What is the Pulaski Skyway?

The Pulaski Skyway is a New Jersey bridge that connects Newark and Jersey City—a stretch frequented by commuters, including many headed to New York City. It has grown increasingly dilapidated in recent years. The state had to install a net to catch falling debris from the bridge. In April, it closed for a two-year renovation funded in part by the Port Authority money in question.

What are the political implications of the latest scandal?

That remains to be seen. The first bridge controversy centers on allegations that Christie allies closed lanes leading to the George Washington Bridge as political retribution against a local mayor who wouldn’t endorse his reelection. The story badly damaged Christie’s reputation as a no-nonsense politician who puts governing ahead of politics. But in some ways, the latest scandal appears to suggest the opposite intent on Christie’s part. The Pulaski Skyway is a dilapidated overpass in desperate need of renovation. Repairing it undoubtedly serves the state’s interests, while closing lanes on a busy bridge that connects New Jersey and New York did not.

Still, despite the seemingly laudable goal of fixing a crumbling bridge, no politician wants another controversy, and that remains true here. Political observers still consider Christie a 2016 presidential contender, even though the Bridgegate controversy has undoubtedly stripped him of his early status as the GOP front-runner.

And what actually happened with the George Washington Bridge?

After the closing of lanes leading from Fort Lee, N.J., to the George Washington Bridge in caused enormous traffic jams in September 2013, allegations emerged that Christie staffers had planned the disruption to wreck havoc in in Fort Lee because the town’s mayor didn’t support Christie’s reelection campaign.

Aides have resigned in the face of question and Christie has sent others packing, but Christie has always maintained he knew nothing about the lane closures or what motivated them until after the fact. An internal investigation commissioned by Christie’s office cleared him of any wrongdoing. Still, New Jersey residents remain skeptical. A poll conducted after the report’s release suggested that only 32% of residents thought Christie has been entirely honest about the issue. And 47% said they thought Christie was directly involved.

The investigations into both bridges remain ongoing.

TIME Chris Christie

Christie’s Office Faces Probe Over a Second Bridge

Faith And Freedom Coalition Holds Policy Conference
New Jersey Governor Chris Christie addresses the Faith and Freedom Coalition's 'Road to Majority' Policy Conference on June 20, 2014 in Washington, D.C. Chip Somodevilla—Getty Images

The New Jersey governor's administration has reportedly been linked to a second bridge investigation that could bring charges of intent to deceive bondholders

Associates of New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie have been subpoenaed for a second investigation involving a New York bridge, the New York Times reports, even as federal investigators continue to investigate the Christie administration for politically motivated lane closings at the George Washington Bridge.

The bridge at the center of the second investigation is the Pulaski Skyway, an aging four-lane causeway connecting New Jersey to Manhattan that the Christie administration had lobbied the Port Authority for $1.8 billion worth of road repairs. Port Authority lawyers objected to the request, warning that the bridge was property of the state of New Jersey and therefore could not legally be funded by the Authority.

Eventually the two sides reached an agreement that re-characterized the bridge as an access road to the Lincoln Tunnel, which more than 40 blocks north of the Skyway. Bonds issued for the repairs described the project as “Lincoln Tunnel Access Infrastructure Improvements,” the New York Times reports. If that statement is found to be inaccurate, it could run afoul of state and federal securities laws, and prompt felony charges to be brought against its authors.

Deborah Gramiccioni, the Port Authority’s deputy executive director and a Christie appointee, told the Times the plan to fund the bridge had been “thoroughly vetted” by the New Jersey attorney general lawyers. Christie has previously made similar statements about the funding of the road repairs. “Dozens and dozens of lawyers from both sides of the river reviewed that financing plan and approved it,” he said in April, “as did the commissioners of the Port Authority.”

The investigation was spun off of a prior investigation into the administration’s alleged involvement in lane closures at the George Washington Bridge in Sept. 2013 as retaliation against local political opponents.

[New York Times]

TIME Morning Must Reads

Morning Must Reads: June 24

Capitol
The early morning sun rises behind the US Capitol Building in Washington, DC. Mark Wilson—Getty Images

In the news: Kerry in Iraq; Ex-Im debate ranges amid new investigation; primary Tuesday; Bionic future beckons

  • “U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry held crisis talks with leaders of Iraq’s autonomous Kurdish region on Tuesday urging them to stand with Baghdad in the face of a Sunni insurgent onslaught that threatens to dismember the country.” [Reuters]
    • “What’s not debatable are the echoes of Saigon in both Baghdad and Kabul. The final U.S. troops in Vietnam headed for home in 1973. Two years later, the North Vietnamese pressed south toward the capital of Saigon, from where Nguyen Van Thieu ruled.” [TIME]
  • “The U.S. Export-Import Bank has suspended or removed four officials in recent months amid investigations into allegations of gifts and kickbacks, as well as attempts to steer federal contracts to favored companies…” [WSJ]
    • House Majority Leader-Elect Puts Ex-Im Bank in Jeopardy [TIME]
  • “The number of children caught crossing the Mexican border without an adult has jumped tenfold and is overwhelming officials charged with caring for them in federal custody.” [Hill]
  • “As the tumultuous fight for Sen. Thad Cochran’s seat in Washington hurtles toward a close on Tuesday, this bitter reality has started to dawn on Republicans here: The larger battle for power within the Mississippi Republican coalition is only just beginning.” [Politico]
    • “If Charles Rangel is going to get pushed out of Congress, it won’t be without a dance.” [Politico]
  • “Investigations into the Christie administration and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey have zeroed in on possible securities law violations stemming from a $1.8 billion road repair agreement in 2011…” [NYT]
  • Science fiction come true: Moving a paralyzed hand with the power of thought [WashPost]
TIME Morning Must Reads

Morning Must Reads: June 23

Capitol
The early morning sun rises behind the US Capitol Building in Washington, DC. Mark Wilson—Getty Images

In the news: Iraq's struggling army; Domestic drones; Incoming House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy's views on Ex-Im and immigration; Chris Christie's compassionate conservatism; Scott Walker's "unelectable whiteness"; New Yorker's 9,000 word profile of Ted Cruz

  • “As Iraqi Army forces try to rally on the outskirts of Baghdad after two weeks of retreat, it has become increasingly clear to Western officials that the army will continue to suffer losses in its fight with Sunni militants and will not soon retake the ground it has ceded.” [NYT]
    • “U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry met Iraq’s prime minister in Baghdad on Monday to push for a more inclusive government, even as Baghdad’s forces abandoned the border with Jordan, leaving the entire Western frontier outside government control.” [Reuters]
    • What’s the Pentagon’s endgame in Iraq? [TIME]
  • Crashes mount as as military flies more drones in U.S. [WashPost]
  • “Incoming House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy said on Sunday he wouldn’t support reauthorizing the charter of the Export-Import Bank of the United States, placing in doubt the future of a major agency that facilitates U.S. exports.” [WSJ]
    • McCarthy’s role is debated in his land of immigrants [NYT]
  • How Rep. Steve Scalise smoked Rep. Peter Roskam in the House Whip race [Breitbart]
  • Paul Ryan Hammers the IRS [Slate]
  • Inside the Vast Liberal Conspiracy [Politico]
  • The Unelectable Whiteness of Scott Walker [New Republic]
  • Ted Cruz, The Far Right’s Most Formidable Advocate [New Yorker]
  • “New Jersey governor Chris Christie has a new cause: treatment, not prison, for nonviolent drug addicts. Can it soften his image—and the Republican Party’s?” [Atlantic]
TIME celebrities

Just in Time for Father’s Day, It’s Jimmy Fallon and Chris Christie With the Evolution of Dad Dancing

From the "Belt Grabber" and the "Dance You Do at a Springsteen Concert" to the "Republican Convention"

In honor of Father’s Day, Jimmy Fallon teamed up with Chris Christie, the Republican governor of New Jersey, in an epic dance medley showcasing the evolution of “dad dancing.”

And yes, they took it to the bridge …

TIME 2016 Election

Christie Cuts Pension Payments as Fiscal Record Shows Cracks

NJ Gov. Chris Christie
NJ Gov. Chris Christie Ethan Miller—Getty Images

The New Jersey governor was forced to cut pension payments to make up for lower-than-expected tax revenues, another dent in his brand as a no-nonsense reformer

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie moved Tuesday to cut more than $2 billion in state pension payments, which would cover a budgetary shortfall but is also sure to spark a political backlash.

The likely 2016 Republican presidential candidate cited the state constitution’s requirement to have a balanced budget for his decision to cut pension payments for inactive state employees. It would help close an estimated $807 million deficit in the current fiscal year, brought on by revenues that fell short of expectations. Christie said Tuesday he was caught off guard by how quickly he was again forced to confront the state’s burgeoning liabilities, blaming the state’s budget gap on overly-optimistic revenue projections by his budget economists and changes in federal tax law. He also criticized his Democratic and Republican predecessors for failing to make necessary pension payments. “We will not make the payments that apply to the sins of the past,” Christie said at a news conference.

The state will still make more than $1.3 billion in pension payments for those active in the system over the next 14 months, Christie said. He said he would present the legislature with a plan to reform pensions and benefits in the next month, and called on lawmakers to work with him to make additional changes. Christie’s decision exacerbates the burden on a stressed system, with the state putting its total unfunded pension liability at $52 billion, and calls into question one of his crowning achievements: a bipartisan 2011 pension and health care overhaul that helped propel him onto the national stage. The move comes after Christie changed the state’s pension formula earlier this year to save $900 million through the end of his term.

And it risked undercutting his political brand as a no-nonsense problem solver, a brand already hurt by the traffic scandal that put his White House hopes in peril.

“Maybe the folks in Washington, D.C. should tune in their TVs right now to see how it’s done,” Christie said last year when he handily won reelection by touting his record on reforming pensions and benefits. But Christie conceded Tuesday that the effort hasn’t made “much of a dent.”

“We’re still digging out of problems two decades in the making,” he said.

Under the 2011 agreement, Christie raised the retirement age for state employees and increased the rate at which they have to contribute to their pension and healthcare, while devoting additional resources to paying down the state’s unfunded liabilities. Indeed it was in defending the agreement that Christie first became a household name, as he bluntly debated critics in town hall meetings that quickly became YouTube fodder.

The announcement Tuesday reflected a scaling back of those plans. It came on the heels of another round of credit downgrades for New Jersey, with Moody’s Investors Service lowering the state’s rating from last week, following similar actions by Standard & Poor’s and Fitch Ratings. Those downgrades put New Jersey’s debt in the same troubled category as California and Illinois.

“The downgrade… reflects the weakened financial position resulting from recurring revenue shortfalls and ongoing reliance on non-recurring resources that have deferred structural imbalances into future years,” Moody’s analysts wrote. “Additionally, high and rapidly-growing fixed costs have pressured the budget and limited the state’s flexibility to make structural changes that would improve long-term budget balance. As a result, the state’s liquidity position has weakened to levels that provide minimal cushion against budget surprises.”

Democrats seized on the change to cast Christie’s fiscal stewardship into doubt.

“One would expect someone who has dug such a deep hole for himself to stop digging,” John Currie, who chairs the state’s Democratic Party, said in a statement. “Unfortunately, Chris Christie has not learned that lesson.”

The fiscal drama comes as Christie is fighting to restore his national image following the allegedly politically motivated closure of lanes to the George Washington Bridge by aides. The governor is also heavily traveling the country on behalf of other Republican governors and to boost his own political ambitions, most recently delivering a speech outlining some of his foreign policy principles on Sunday night. Christie used the 2011 agreement to burnish his credentials as a deal-maker capable of working across party lines, but a similar outcome on another agreement is far from guaranteed this time around. Meanwhile, Christie will have a hard time campaigning on a pension deal he was forced to scale back.

TIME 2016 Election

Americans Don’t Want D.C. Experience in 2016 Candidate, Poll Says

Candidates for the presidency can now count experience in the capital as a liability, a reversal from 2007

More Americans view extensive Washington experience as a negative trait in a presidential candidate than a positive one, according to a new poll, a marked turnaround from years past.

The Pew survey out Monday found that 30% of Americans would be less likely to support a candidate with extensive experience in the capital, compared to just 19% who said they’d be more likely to support such a candidate. The results mark a reversal from when Pew asked the same question in 2007, when just 15% said they’d be less likely to support a Washington insider and 35% said they’d be more likely to. In both years, a roughly equal amount said it wouldn’t make a difference.

The poll results could have particular significance for the 2016 GOP presidential primaries, since Republicans (and independents) are particularly unimpressed by Washington experience, with 36% saying they’re less likely to support a D.C. insider and just 15% more likely.

Partisan gridlock in Washington and continued brinksmanship like last year’s government shutdown are partly to blame for the decline in popularity of D.C. pols. A similar measure going back decades reveals a sharp decline, beginning in the Obama era, in how many people view Washington experience positively. In 1987, 66% told Pew that service in Congress was better preparation for the presidency than being governor of a state. That number fell to 55% by 2007, then plummeted to 44% in 2014. An equal number this year say being a governor is better preparation. The results bode well for potential candidates like New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush.

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