tv University of Chicago Institute of Politics - Chris Christie CSPAN May 31, 2018 10:52am-12:01pm EDT
on that note, it's 9:45. let's stop here. this will segue nicely into the future of the conservative movement on our next panel. thanks. [applause] >> i don't think there's ever going to be a wall that this -- that -- is part of a bath forum today on the role of social media in dimock see. live coverage begins at noon eastern, here on c-span on her website and on the c-span radio app. commencement speeches all this at 8 p.m.ime time eastern, the apple ceo, tim cook, the governor john kasich, kate brown, and luis gutierrez. friday at 8 p.m. eastern, jimmy carter, betsy devos, mark meadows, and atlanta mayor keisha bottoms.
on c-span, c-span.org, and the free c-span radio app the in former new jersey governor chris christie talks about the trump presidency and the future of politics with university of chicago institute of politics director david axelrod. this is about one hour and 10 minutes. >> governor, welcome, so happy to have you here. groucho marx once said that i would never belong to a club that would have me as a member. in that sense, this president seems to be a bit of a marxist. [laughter] that he seems to be more enamored of an interested in the input from both friends and allies outside of the white house than the people inside of the out how -- inside of the white house. old friendsof those
now, that is as a previous opponent. we will get to that. how often do you talk to the president? ask it to friends. since he has been president, average of once a week. >> do you call him donald? snow, no. >> i always get that question. >> mr. president. >> do you draw on your own experience as governor? what kind of advice do you give him? ask you then what kind of advice he takes. >> i generally don't talk about the nature of what i tell him, but you know, we have known each other for a long time. the president and i became friends back in 2002. we have known each other for 16 years. in that respect, i don't really hold much back. >> i didn't think that was one of your burdens anyway. >> it's not and he knows that and he will come right back at me when he disagrees, but the nature of the relationship is such that i'm not looking for
anything? each is unusual, as you know, for any president. someone's always looking for something and that was certainly my experience as governor, too. i give him my advice as i see it. and we continue to talk. i suspect he must find some value in it. >> as someone who has these insights into has been a friend for years, who was an opponent as well, explain him to us. because, you know. understandks need to -- let me back up for a second, you don't need to understand everything. you are americans, you don't have to understand if you don't want to. makese press generally the mistake of making him much more complicated than he is. . have told him that that's not insulting.
i don't think the complicated means smart for that complicated means strategic. complicated means difficult to figure out. and he's not. he has been doing these deals for his entire career since you ran for president. thingsd for outrageous and was willing to settle and when he got into fights he would andand then get sued settle. creating conflict problems to resolve them. such -- how does that translate? is it different running the trump organization than the united states government? >> i think it does and the way it has translated so far depends on the nature of the issue.
health care, complicated, complex, not easy to resolve politically. even when people want to get to a resolution, it's really hard, there are so many complexities and differing opinions on every little it of it. you tax reform on the other hand, anyone who knows -- you has tried to file their taxes knows it's complicated, but the principles are fairly simple and direct. >> do you agree with higher or lower taxation? businesses charge lower taxes will use that money to create more jobs and opportunity? you believe one of those camps or the other. he was able to bring success where he didn't have it in the health care situation. because of his approach, success or failure is very situational to the topic
rather than to the people he's dealing with. think with more conventional politicians it's the relationships that they have with the individuals involved that plays a bigger role in success or failure in these topics. >> you talk about this orientation he has a surrealist a guy to make outrageous demands and then back off from there, it seems first of all as we were talking earlier, to me, this is my observation, he crossed some kind of rubicon before the end of last year and said to himself -- you know what, i didn't get here listening to these geniuses . i got here by following my own instincts and that is what i am going to do. we saw him say he was going to apparently jong-un, without a lot of forewarning to his national security team. policyunced this tariff kind of on his own.
now he is running into the reality of that. what are the dangers of this improvisational approach, particularly as it relates to national security issues. >> i think it's in the execution. the approach of catching people offguard is generally not a bad strategic two things, but now it's in the execution and he's got to be ready. when he walks in that room with kim jong-un, if at in fact happens, he's going to have to be ready for whatever this guy may throw in his direction. it will take time, effort, and his, briefings with one thing i will tell you about him, though, is that he is obsessed with success and
completely, completely -- i don't want to say afraid but almost repulsed by failure. you can see this in his reaction to the election and all those other things. when pushed to the wall, my experience with him has been he will be ready. that does not mean he will get good results. who knows? kim jong un is no easy guy, either. who knows what he will come into the room and ask for. but i think the improvisational approach is fine in trying to break down old barriers, but once you get there, you cannot grab a shortcut. >> the thing is these things are interconnected, right? so he took a step to pull out of the iran agreement. today, the secretary of state made a very muscular speech about what would be demanded of iran now, and it seems like he cannot really accept less from north korea now, which is a nuclear power, and in a more
threatening position and is exporting its weapons to other maligned forces around the world and so on. does he see those connections when he is improvising? mr. christie: i think he sees the connections, but i don't think he agrees with your premise. i think he sees north korea being in a very different situation now from iran for the reasons you said, in terms of how far along they are. north korea, for every bit of information we are able to get through the public stream, they are already a nuclear power. we are trying to deal with will we keep them that way or will we step down in some way. that's different than iran. it's my sense of it -- is that iran will be north korea unless he takes the approach he is taking with iran. he wants to prevent a president six years from now, eight years from now, 10 years from now
having to deal with iran in the way he is having to deal with north korea. i think that is the way he views the connection between the two, and i don't think he would agree with you that he could not accept less from north korea than what he is demanding from iran because he would say it's apples and oranges. they may be the same problem, nuclear proliferation, but they are in two totally different places right now in the world. mr. axelrod: of course, he has already defined what he wants, which is complete denuclearization. mr. christie: sure, but every president has said that, so in that sense, he's very conventional. president obama said he wanted that. president bush 43 said he wanted that. bill clinton said they would never be a nuclear power. we have heard this before from everybody. so now, the question is will he be able to deliver me better than the last three or four presidents have? mr. axelrod: you said he is allergic to failure. so there is a piece in the times today talking about how the
-- he is having some misgivings about this meeting because prospect of failure is becoming more apparent to him. will he just -- whatever he gets, will he walk away and call it a success? mr. christie: it's hard to tell. that whatever is the key. i think he is going to have to be able to make the straightfaced argument that it's better than what he inherited, and if he can make that argument then he will call it a success, but i do think he has taken a sober approach to it. i don't think his expectations are unrealistic despite some of
-- the things that have been said in public. i think privately, he understands this will not be easy, and "the times" reporting today, i read that. it does not sound like him to me. i read the stuff in all the major media outlets, and this is not going to be, like, "oh, the liberal media," moaning by me. i just think that in general right now, reporters have this desire to really get to know who this guy is, and they think they are writing in his voice-based upon all the different leaking and other things going on, and i will tell you that the stuff i read, about 1/3 of it is right and about 2/3 of it is wrong, based on my experience, and i'm talking about the stuff i know. mr. axelrod: tell me which 1/3 is right. i want to get back to your relationship with him, but i also want to talk about your own political journey, because it has some implications for where we are as a country. in 2011 and 2012, people were urging you to run for president. you were a newly elected
governor of new jersey. and then after 2012, you were considered a prime contender. there were issues that ensued after your reelect that were -- mr. christie: were not good. mr. axelrod: were a bit of an iceberg. we will get to that as well. but the reason that you were appealing to people as a potential candidate, you were seen as a republican governor in a blue state who had worked with democrats and who had what were considered some moderate positions. you had accepted the medicaid expansion under the affordable care act. you had taken what was viewed as a more moderate position on guns. on immigration, you kind of shifted positions right before you got into the 2016 race, but you had been seen as someone who was more pro-immigration reform, and people said this is the
model of the kind of person who could win a general election. all of those things, including the fact that you hugged president obama in the midst of an international emergency -- mr. christie: you know that's not true. but we will get to that. we can talk about the hug, believe me. mr. axelrod: whoever hugged whoever, there was a picture that found its way into a lot of republican media. mr. christie: you have the picture? mr. axelrod: i don't. mr. christie: because we could show it. let's dispense with this one right away, ok? mr. axelrod: obviously a matter of concern. mr. christie: not a matter of concern, it just shows where politics are today in our country. so hurricane sandy happens eight days before the 2012 presidential election, 2012. i, up to that point, had been the keynote speaker at the republican convention for mitt romney and had been his number one surrogate and the first governor to endorse him in the
country in 2012. mr. axelrod: wasn't gentle on president obama. i can attest. mr. christie: yeah, i was not gentle on the president not only in the keynote, but in a number of places around the country where i campaigned for romney. i was better on president obama than romney was. mr. axelrod: depending on your perspective. mr. christie: that's right. where you stand depends on where you sit. president obama and i spoke daily from the night of the storm probably for two weeks, and sometimes multiple times daily. the second day, tuesday, week before the election, president obama calls me in the morning and says -- he asks me how things are, i give him a briefing of where we are. he says, "chris, i know this may be difficult for you, but i want to come tomorrow." i said, "you tell me where. i'll meet you."
it never crossed my mind -- and i mean this -- i knew the politics. i understood it was a week before the election, but he is the president of the united states in my state just suffered the second worst natural disaster in american history, so you don't -- we lost 365,000 homes in 24 hours. you don't play politics at that moment. the president showed up the next day. he gets off of air force one, and we do what normal, civilized human beings in the united states do. we shook hands, and the president took his left hand and put it on my shoulder. [laughter] mr. christie: just laid his hand on my shoulder while we were shaking hands. mr. axelrod: and you chose not to bat it away? mr. christie: no. even a guy from new jersey is not going to do that. you know?
[laughter] mr. christie: he pats me on the shoulder. what people have never asked is what was happening at that moment. because it had nothing to do with politics. it had nothing to do with the storm even in and of itself. he shook my hand and patted me on the shoulder and said, "you look tired. are you ok?" now, if the leader of the state of new jersey, republican, and the president of the united states, democrat, cannot have that conversation without it being politically injurious to the republican, then this country is completely screwed up. what i came to find is that this country is completely screwed up. [laughter] mr. christie: because i will tell you -- he alluded to bridgegate in one of the questions -- when i ran for president, i will tell you by a multiple of five or six, i would get criticized in iowa and new hampshire over the obama hug more than bridgegate or anything else that i did as governor.
the hug is an important thing to talk about because to me, it was never a question. one last thing i will say is it tells you in the subsequent time also tells you what a good politician president obama was and i assume still is, because the one thing that did get a lot of publicity that he did that was wednesday, so friday -- some of you may have read over the course of time if you have done any reading about me, they said i am a big bruce springsteen fan, and you have to be if you are from new jersey. i have been to 138 bruce springsteen shows. [laughter] mr. christie: first of all, i keep count, which should disturb you. i don't drink, i don't smoke, i don't do drugs. this is it for me, okay? as i told you, we spoke to
president obama every day. on that friday -- mr. axelrod: i was on the plane with his happened. mr. christie: i am in the emergency operation center in new jersey. we got to the point where it was not unusual for my assistant to come in and say the president is on the phone. ok, here's my daily phone call with president obama. we are ready to brief him. i pick up the phone. mr. president, how are you? "great, chris." remember, this is the friday before the election. there was nothing certain about the outcome of the election at that point. he asks me if things are going ok. i give him a little briefing. he says, do you mind if i put you on speakerphone. he has someone who once the talk to me. i said sure. so he gets on the phone i hear, "hey, chris, how you doing?" and it's springsteen. and he goes, "i'm on the plane with the president because when the going gets tough, they call in the guys from jersey." [laughter]
mr. christie: i had a four or five minute conversation with the president of the united states and bruce springsteen as they were on air force one, campaigning against the guy that i endorsed, but at that point, i didn't give a crap. i was talking to bruce. that is all i cared about. barack obama -- i have my issues with the president, and he knows them. we will get through our obama stage. the last thing, on the day he came to visit, we were walking around new jersey. we got on marine one to fly at the coast. it was at that press conference, where i said some very nice things about the president, and the reason i said nice things about him was because i got asked, and he deserved them. they said, how the president's been doing so far in response to the storm, and i said the president has met every request i made of him, and fulfilled every expectation i could have of him. this, of course, drove republicans to insanity, because
i had actually honestly answered the question. we got on marine one in the president at me and said, what you said that there was very nice and you did not have to do that. and i said no, mr. president, they asked me and i had to tell them. it's the truth and i have no problem with it. they will tell you when you are sitting across from the president on marine one, you're almost uncomfortably close. the chairs are really close to each other. you are almost knee to knee. then.a lot bigger than -- i'm like 100 pounds less than i was then, so i was really close to him. [laughter] mr. christie: and there came this awkward silence between us after this, and i felt like i have to be honest with the guy. i said, just so we're clear, you know i'm not voting for you, right? and he says, oh, no, i have no worry about that, chris. mr. axelrod: we didn't really need you in jersey. mr. christie: not for that. although he rushed there wednesday. he did not need me in jersey, but it helps in michigan and
some other places. i will tell you though that those relationships in politics have to be renewed if this country is going to do what it needs to do. duties ofe to put the your office ahead of the politics. if they don't -- most people pollyannat are being to you. i did it, and i paid the price for it in iowa and new hampshire. a lot of republicans are still unhappy about it. mr. axelrod: yes, and a few of the other positions i mentioned, but this in particular is important, because one of the reasons there is an institute of politics here is that if we don't find that way forward and find a way to respect each other, even as we have differences, democracy is going to have a very tough go, and, you know, the truth is that this last election, i was not
involved. i was a commentator. one of the pathways to success -- and we continue to see it -- is sort of to bang the tribal drums. the president has done that very effectively, and you know -- what is incredible is we were talking about this earlier. chris christie was the tell it like it is guy, get in your face guy, all of that, and you got kind of blown away because this guy saw you and raised you 10, but one of the ways he did it was banging that tribal drum. mr. christie: there are certain things you say in politics you do or you won't do. i'm more than happy to get in anybody's face about an issue that i care about where i think i'm right, and if i think somebody is treating me rudely, i'm going to treat them rude right back.
mr. axelrod: that's not by way of warning, by the way. mr. christie: yes, it is. yes, it is. [laughter] i see those cameras back there, they start to think, hey, i could be famous, my friends and family could see me tonight giving it to the former governor of new jersey. don't worry, it will come right back. that i am ok with. i appointed a muslim judge in new jersey. a guy that i knew very well, and when he had a senate confirmation hearing, the first question from the democratic chairman of the committee was, "will you explain jihad to us?" -- he said, "i could tell you what jihad is, but i never been involved in jihad." then the senior republican asked
him if he was going to impose sharia law as a sitting superior court judge in new jersey. mr. axelrod: not the best example of bipartisan cooperation. mr. christie: right. they were all banging on the guy. i got asked about it at a press conference the next day. i said, listen, this is crazy stuff. he's an american and a lawyer. he's going to impose american law and new jersey law, and i'm tired of dealing with the crazies. it got a lot of attention. that kind of stuff i'm willing to do, but purely doing it just for political gain -- that is going to come back around and bite you. it just always does. if i really care about something and you are being tough with me, i'm going to be tough with you back. but -- mr. axelrod: have you had this discussion with the president? mr. christie: sure, many times. many times when we were running, we talked about this. mr. axelrod: yelling across the stage a few times. mr. christie: and backstage. in the car, on the phone. we had a number of conversations
about some of the stuff he was saying and the way i would react to some of the stuff he was saying and i would give my critique of the wall and other things. and he did not like it. but it wasn't my job to make him happy and still isn't. mr. axelrod: winning probably made him happy. he probably points that out to you. mr. christie: he tells me all the time, you are so smart, how come i won and you lost? we can have a longer conversation later about that. right now, you are right. you are here, i'm not. mr. axelrod: up until three days after his election, you were his transition director. you endorsed him shortly after you dropped out of the race, got a lot of attention because you were one of the first to endorse him, and he became his transitional chief. three days after the election, you were removed as transition chief.
not by him, but obviously with his assent. just a cut to the quick on that, you had a relationship with the kushner family that was not all that warm, having put jared's father in prison when you were the u.s. attorney. let us stipulate that. how would things have been different if the transition plan you have been working on for months been implemented, and would it have made a difference given the nature of the man on top? mr. christie: absolutely. what people forget about government is when you are the governor, when you are the president, there is so much you can do. it's too big. and so you need to fill those positions beneath to have people who are consistent with your philosophy. i can tell you right now in the government, there are still -- i want to say hundreds, but let me be conservative and say dozens and dozens of obama folks who have never been removed or replaced because no one worked on removing or replacing them.
they don't leave unless you ask them to. for the most part. some of them leave to go make money someplace else, but many are committed to government. they don't leave. and so you say, "i want x done" to your cabinet secretary and he or she says yes, sir. and they go down and tell their person, and when they get down to that next level, that person goes, "yeah, i'll move that over here and we'll see if they ask again." it matters. it would matter with this president. on the things he was for, it would matter. he would be getting better -- mr. axelrod: was the cabinet itself? to answer your macro question, 75% of what has happened that has been perceived or reported as negative would not have happened. and the president has not -- a small fraction of the people that were on our list recommended to him and vetted were not even considered.
it was an enormous mistake. and again, i am not saying anything that i have not already said to him as recent as a couple weeks ago. this was an enormous mistake, and it has -- i don't believe that they have yet caught up, and i think under the circumstances of the way it is to run a government of this size and power and complexity, it will be very, very hard to ever catch up in terms of giving those 73 days away, because those 73 days were populated by things that were being done by a team of 125 people for five months before the 73 days started. big mistake. mr. axelrod: you seem very relaxed and enjoying your life. mr. christie: i am. i am here, for god's sake. i'm relaxed. who can beat that? mr. axelrod: that's right. if the president called you and -- and said chris, i need you to come in and be my chief of staff
or be my white house counsel -- mr. christie: i don't think that would work. mr. axelrod: first of all, what would that conversation be like and what would your conversation with your wife be like? mr. christie: well, this will give you a clue -- i would relish the conversation with the president. [laughter] mr. christie: i will tell you, i have already been offered six different positions in the trump administration. i said no to all of them. he asks why, and i said i am not interested in what you offered me and and i do not need a new title. i have plenty of titles. u.s. attorney, governor, rga chairman, father, husband, son, brother. i have plenty of titles. i am only going to washington if i feel like there is something i can do that will make a real significant difference that i think i have the ability and the skills to do. so i could never say never to anything. you understand once you have this in your blood, it's in your blood. you never say never. my wife knows that.
as for the conversation with my wife, i will relate one short story. while i was still governor in september of last year, we went out to dinner with a friend of mine from high school and his wife. they are not very much into politics. at one point they said, when you get out -- like it is prison -- when you get out, are you going to go work for trump? before i could answer, mary pat piped up and said, "you know, bill, we are actually hoping that chris finally reaches his financial potential." [laughter] mr. christie: i want you later -- if you remember nothing from today, remember that sentence. when you are eating dinner later, unpack it, because there's multiple levels of meaning. each one of those words has a meaning when my wife uses those words. that's what happens when you are married 32 years. things get unpacked pretty quickly. mr. axelrod: one of the things you have been linked to is that he sounded you out about attorney general.
mr. christie: we have had conversations about that job over the course of a long time. but that job was never offered conversations about that job to me, if that is what you're asking, no. mr. axelrod: one job that was offered to you that you accepted was heading his opioid panel. i know that is an issue important to you. where are we as a country, and what are we not doing to deal with this scourge? mr. christie: first off, we are just not telling the truth to each other. remember, this year, if we stay on case with the first quarter, -- on pace with where we were in the first quarter, 74,000 americans will die of an opioid overdose. to give you some perspective, that will be more than the number of people who will be killed in car accidents and through gun violence in this country combined in 2018.
to give you some more perspective, it will be 22,000 more people than died in the worst year of the aids epidemic in the mid 1980's, 22,000 more. 52,000 was the high in the aids epidemic. it was 1986. what i want to know is where are the marches? i was alive in the mid-1980's. and i remember the aids crisis. i remember that the way the aids crisis really got on the pathway to being dealt with was there were marches everywhere. men and women marched on state capitals and on washington, d.c., to say it to president reagan and to congress it is unacceptable to have people dying at this rate in our country. we need to invest the money we have to in order to get a treatment, if not a cure for this disease. here we are today, now 30 years later, and aids is a chronic disease, but it doesn't have to be a fatal disease.
not only that, but then president bush took what we learned here from our investment and has spread into africa and all over the world to save lives -- millions of lives -- around the world. how do we live with ourselves that we are not doing the same thing on opioids? i don't know. man, i can't imagine if there is a person in this room who has not had their lives touched by this drug. one way or another -- you personally, family member, friend, roommate, classmate, someone. and it's not going to go away. not just by clicking our heels and hoping it does. when the president asked me to do that, it is one thing i was willing to say yes to him on. i will just tell you one thing. it can happen to anybody. don't think it can't. don't think because you are at the university of chicago -- and
if you are at the university of chicago, you are a pretty smart person and a pretty accomplished person already. no matter where it is you have come from, you have the potential for an extraordinary future ahead of you, but not if you do this. if you have an addictive personality and just take it once and take it from a doctor prescribing it to you and do it exactly as the doctor tells you to do, you could wind up addicted, and you will not be more than a couple of steps away from being at the university of chicago to being a heroin addict on the streets of chicago prostituting yourself to get drugs. mr. axelrod: how much are the pharmaceutical companies responsible, how much are doctors responsible, how much are the chinese responsible for sending fentanyl into this country, and other purveyors? mr. christie: yes, yes, and yes. i will tell you why. this epidemic did not start on a
street corner in chicago, new york, or san francisco. it started in doctor's offices and hospitals. when doctors did not learn what they needed to learn about the natures of these drugs. doctors were not educated the way they should have been, and did not take the time to educate themselves. do you know why? because they don't get paid for that. writing the script is easier than a follow-up visit, and they get paid for writing up a script. they do not get paid for a follow-up visit. the greed of the medical profession helped to cause this. the greed of the pharmaceutical industry helped to cause this, because they were not honest with the doctors about the risk. they were not honest with anyone about the risks. and part of the reason was they were hiding it, and another part of the reason was they did not spend the money to do the research to find it out. and their greed entered into that. and for the chinese, it is an act of war.
the more americans that get hooked on opioids, the better chance they have of taking us down. it's a long run, but let me tell you something -- someone told me a long time ago about the chinese, the difference between chinese and americans. americans, they say, time their tasks with a stopwatch. the chinese time their tasks with a calendar. what they care about is the long haul. they figured to get more and more of us addicted. it's an act of war. they will get short-term benefits and long-term benefits. everybody in that sense is responsible. the united states government is responsible in part because we do not treat it as a disease. it is a disease. it is not moral failing. i want to test this out. every, talk about this, i test it out in the audience -- i want anyone in this room who has not made a judgment that they would like to take back raise their hand. great. the perfect score continues.
you're just lucky, i suspect, that that bad judgment was not to take opioids. that is it. you could have an addictive gene or addictive personality. if you do, the first time you take it, you do not ever get to take it back. that is a disease in my identification, and that means we have to treat it. just say no sounds great because i don't want people to start and we should never stop saying just say no. but a lot of people are saying yes. what do we do with them? well, you made or call and not get what you deserve. mr. axelrod: just the other day, a father with two infants crashed his car. the children blessedly were saved. he passed out. there are more lives than just your own involved. if you have questions, line up
right over there by the microphone in the center aisle. we will take student questions first. lots of students here. i encourage you to step forward. while you're doing that, i want to ask just a couple of other things. you are a ormer u.s. attorney. you spent seven years in the justice department. how do you think the president has handled this probe? just this morning, he suggested the fbi infiltrated his campaign, and he essentially ordered the justice department to investigate that. how does that hit with you as the former u.s. attorney, and what do you tell him about this? gov. christie: i told him many times there is no way to make an investigation like this shorter, but there are lots of ways to make it longer. he has executed on a number of those ways to make it longer. mr. axelrod: you worked closely with bob mueller. he was at the fbi when you were u.s. attorney. what is your observation of him? particularly this notion that he is a partisan running a partisan
mission? gov. christie: i think he made some mistakes in hiring early on. i think he did not vet some of the people he hired on. mr. axelrod: because they contributed to democrats? mr. christie: no, it was not the contributors. it was the that the fourth on tech. you can vet for that. it was not the contributors that bother me as much as the back and forth. that is something you can set -- vet for. these people brought it to work. he made mistakes, but bob is not partisan. he is an honest guy. he is a hard-working guy. he is smart. you cannot argue that the investigation has not been effective so far. a number of guilty pleas, couple of indictments. in a year, it's good work. i do not question bob mueller's honesty or integrity.
i never have. having worked with him for several years, i still wouldn't. mr. axelrod: you also said he should not be fired. gov. christie: he cannot be fired. mr. axelrod: what about rosenstein? gov. christie: first of all, sessions was recused. you have to evaluate the new attorney general and if he or she has the background, experience, character to be able to do the right thing, and i'm sure they would be asked a lot of direct questions by senators on both sides of the island confirmation hearings about how they would deal with that investigation, right? i think sessions and rosenstein are different animals than mueller. they are the president's cabinet members, as for sessions, and sometimes for rosenstein. if he does not have confidence in them anymore, he should fire them. if the president of not have -- does not have confidence in the person or people serving him in his cabinet, he should fire them because you are not going to utilize them.
he cannot fire mueller. i do not mean he cannot legally, he probably legally could, but i told him over and over again, he cannot do it. he has to be permitted to finish his investigation. mr. axelrod: was he right to demand this investigation -- mr. christie: the president can demand whatever he wants. there was a bunch of things you could have done. that is within the range of appropriate. you could have been more aggressive or less aggressive. i know the ig personally, michael horowitz. good guy, smart guy. bit of a protege of michael chertoff. i think he will do a good job. mr. axelrod: questions? >> i'm originally from caldwell, new jersey. mr. christie: grew up in
livingston, so we are neighbors. >> i took the transit train daily for years. through my four years of taking the train, i saw numerous delays at the tunnels into penn station continued to deteriorate. i was wondering what you see as a solution for nj transit problems after your tenure. gov. christie: it is also amtrak that uses those tunnels as well. they are actually amtrak's tunnels. it was an absolutely awful project. it did not go to penn station in new york. it went to a terminal that cost $1 billion to build in the basement of macy's eight floors down. you had to the escalator all the way up and walk -- and you are familiar with the area -- from macy's to penn station to go uptown, downtown, crosstown. it was a bad project. it was a project where new jersey was screwed.
let me tell you why. new york state and new york city put no money into the project. zero. 0. who was really benefiting from it besides new jersey? every real estate owner and developer in new york, doubling the number of people coming from new jersey into new york. they paid nothing into the project. federal government has about $3.5 billion in. new jersey paid the rest. new jersey was on the hook for every dollar of cost overruns. i know it's hard to believe that a enteral -- federal transportation project that was going to tunnel under the hudson river for the most populated island in america would have a cost overrun or two, but even the department of transportation secretary was telling us that their projections -- and i love this about the federal government. they said the budget is $8 billion. however, we are projecting $3 billion to $5 billion in
overruns. wouldn't that mean it's really $11 billion to $13 billion daca but every bit of that was on new jersey. we did not have the money. we did not have the money. what is happening now is the gateway tunnel, championed by amtrak, getting two new tunnels, a 50-50 split between the federal government and state governments. new jersey and new york sharing evenly on the 50%. it goes to penn station in new york. you can just get out, get in, and take your subways or metro-north wherever you want to go. better project. right now, senator schumer and the president are in a fight about everything. so the president is playing around and schumer is playing around with the funding issue, but it got funded and work has started in the last budget. i think it will happen. the president knows it needs to happen. so i think it will happen. i think that is the long-term
solution which will be a better solution from the commuters' perspective and will be fairer to the taxpayers of new jersey because unlike the position mike bloomberg and eliot spitzer took, andrew cuomo is taking the responsible position that new york is benefiting as much as new jersey and needs pony up the money. >> thank you. mr. christie: you're welcome. and sorry about new jersey transit. my wife rode it for years and never came home and said, "that was great to cope when i was governor, she was writing it and it made her even happier with me. >> my name is james. i'm a 30 year. i am from new jersey. gov. christie: another neighbor. >> my question is about your performance during the 2016 republican debate. i happen to think you performed exceptionally well. gov. christie: me too. [laughter] >> the only thing is it must've
been hard coming down in the polls. how did you strategize in order to gain position on stage, and how well do you think you performed reflecting back at the mr. christie: you cannot strategize on position, because position was determined by polls, so i was always down on the end, which stunk. eight times in the varsity debate and one time in the jv debate. that was a bad night, david. it was actually kind of fun. when i got down there, i realized why it was the jv the debate. the guys down there, we killed them. it was great. and it was relatively easy. one night it was not bad. during the commercial breaks, they said what you doing here? why are you here?
i'm sorry, it was one bad, you know, mcclatchy poll, so it was very stressful to be on the edge of that. because every poll that came out, you are watching. it's like salary cap and football. you are recalculating like now what's my average? they have to find a better way to do that. it really should not be done by polls. it really shouldn't. it creates an inherent disadvantage for you. that being said, when you get on the stage, it's up to you. like, no more crying and complaining. i'm down the left side with the right side, and i'm three away from trump as opposed to being one away from trump, cry me a river. you are running for president. put on your big boy pants and let's go. people say to me all the time, were you nervous in debates, i was never nervous in debates. not once because that was the only time i had my own fate in my own hands. media could not filtered. they could not decide not to cover me and run another hour-long trump speech.
it still makes me laugh when jeff zucker complains about tru mp. you made him. three town hall meetings in a day, maybe i would reach 1000 people. i would come back to the area that has no room service. you get back late, there is nothing to eat. you order a bad domino's pizza. it comes to your room. i'm from new jersey. domino's is bad. you are from chicago. bad pizza. you go in and turn on the tv and cnn has their camera on the trump podium. he is not there yet. as soon as he reaches the podium, we will be right there. and then keep that on for 20 minutes, then he would come on and speak for an hour, uninterrupted, no commercials. mr. axelrod: probably got better pizza. gov. christie: definitely got better pizza. my point to you is the debates
were the moment when you could take your own fate into your own hands. the strategy for me was to find out, and usually i would get anywhere between eight and 10 minutes and a 90-minute debate, so it was to figure out in those eight to 10 minutes how do you reach the people sitting on their couch who really are objective and want to know who the hell am i supposed to vote for? mr. axelrod: do you think it did not work because of all the coverage trump got outside of that? mr. christie: i do. the debates became almost anti-climactic. mr. axelrod: cable folks would say he would call in, he made himself available. mr. christie: let me say this. we are on c-span, right? complete bullshit. i just wanted to do that for c-span.
mr. axelrod: talk about getting people off their couch. mr. christie: by the way, chuck todd, john dickerson, george stephanopoulos never called me and asked me to do a phoner into a sunday show. never before happened in presidential campaigns. i wanted to be on, i had to come in. even then, they did not always invite you because maybe where you were in the polls or what you said that week was not interesting enough, but if donald trump decided to pick up the phone and call, they took the call. they cannot tell me he made himself more available. forget it. any of us would have done it. they wanted him because he created ratings. he had been doing it for 10 years on "the apprentice." he understood the business of television. he manipulated the president of nbc, cnn and fox news. and he said it. you remember. "if i don't come to the debate, the ratings will come down, so i want these type of questions or i want to be in the center." i'm not blaming him for it. if he had the leverage and he
used it, but i'm tired of hearing these networks complain about donald trump. they created him. mr. axelrod: where in jersey are you from? >> i'm from naperville. thank you for being here. my name is claire and i am a senior. like you, i am a huge fan of bruce springsteen. why do you think his music resonates with so many people? gov. christie: i think it resonates with people all over the world because it is honest. there is raw emotion in what bruce does both in terms of his writing and his performing. people love to feel. i have been to 130 eight shows. i cannot wait for 139. it's because he makes you feel a certain way. he makes you think and feel. imagine if you are a kid from new jersey.
it is 1975 and you are 13 years old. born to run comes out. he is talking about the exxon sign and you know where that is. he is talking about highway nine and you have driven on highway nine. he's talking about all these places, and people say new jersey sucks, but let me tell you something -- this guy is writing about us. as great as he is, he's making us feel great. it particularly resonates with people from new jersey because we have a chip on our shoulder. benjamin franklin called us a keg tapped at both ends, right? when you have a chip on your shoulder, people like bruce make you feel particularly proud of the great and the emotion that new jerseyans have. that is why i like him. mr. axelrod: let me add one postscript. if you have not read his autobiography, you should. one of the things he does is very courageously talk about his
own battles with mental illness. mr. christie: yup. mr. axelrod: the more people are open about those battles, other people will get the help that they need. it also speaks to the humanity of him. it is a very moving book. gov. christie: i saw springsteen on broadway. the day after i left office. it was my first act as a civilian. one of the great lines he has in there is my whole life, i made a fortune, and embarrassing fortune over writing about men and women who worked 9:00 to 5:00, who worked five days a week. i have never worked a 9:00 to 5:00 in my life. he says this is the first job or i have ever worked five days a week. i am a total hypocrite, but it -- i made a lot of money off of it. that kind of honesty he gets to in his book i think will only make him more endearing as time goes on. >> governor christie, thanks for being here.
mr. christie: i'm sorry about the sweater. being a reds fan is tough. mr. axelrod: no, that's a university of chicago sweater. mr. christie: i'm sorry for you, sorry for me. >> i wanted to come back to the opioids question. you talked about the role of the pharmaceutical companies. i was wondering if you talk about the huge number of lawsuits from states, counties and even cherokee nation towards the opioid manufacturer. where do you see the future of that and will the federal government play a role in that? gov. christie: i think it will be the next coming of the tobacco legislation that ultimately led to the enormous settlements around the country. the disaster that they rot, and i think that is ultimately where it will -- the disaster that they wrought.
>> governor, i'm not from new jersey. gov. christie: i'm sorry for you. >> i dated a girl from new jersey. mr. christie: smart. smart. marry her immediately. >> you don't directly affect me, other than you run half the port authority, which i interact with every day when i am home. my question -- mr. axelrod: he was on one -- he is on one end of the keg. >> there are political conditions you and governor cuomo have utilized. how do you fix the port authority? mr. christie: i am probably the wrong guy do ask that question. i tried, and i failed. i think you have to admit that will when you are in public office and things don't work out. it didn't work out. there is such a history at the port authority.
the governors have a measure of control over the port authority, but you want to talk about a bureaucracy that goes on autopilot, the port authority is an example of a huge amount of money generated by its activities, not just the cross hudson river, with tunnels and bridges, but airports. three of the busiest airports in america are run by the port authority. >> and worst. mr. christie: to some extent, yes, to some extent, no. it is popular to say they are the worst. they are among the most, along with o'hare in atlanta, the most trafficked, in the most congested airspace in america. that's going to be hard to handle no matter what in terms of volume of the number of people you are moving.
newark airport now, two of its three terminals are new. we are getting a new laguardia airport. governor cuomo agreed on that together. those things will get better. the governor and i agreed to make investments in those two places. mr. axelrod: on the bridgegate thing, we all remembered what happened. it was in the final weeks of your election campaign. some of the people that works for you decided it would be a good idea to create problems for a mayor not willing to endorse you. mr. christie: that is the story. mr. axelrod: what did you learn from that? about hubris, power, and about your own deficiencies? mr. christie: i said to people, i wasn't responsible, but i was accountable.
there is a difference. i did not know anything about it, nor did people at the upper levels of my administration. that was proven by three different investigations, a u.s. attorneys investigation. i'm still accountable for it, right? you learn in politics that every personal decision that is made, not only by you, but by other people -- some of those decisions are made by those beneath me. they were close in title. there was the woman who was the acting deputy chief of staff. she replaced the guy who was managing my reelection campaign. she was his number two. i did not know her all that well. she did not work very closely with me. i worked with a guy who was running my campaign. in a reelection campaign with an incumbent, those lines start to
get blurred. mr. axelrod: clearly that was an abuse of power, right? mr. christie: right, if you believe the story. i don't believe the story. i don't believe that is why they did it, i don't. the reason i don't believe it is we could have cared less about that guy's endorsement. mr. axelrod: so why do you think they did it? mr. christie: i don't know. but i don't buy that. fort lee is a town this big. mr. axelrod: that is why i mentioned hubris. you ruined my segue. there was a story over the weekend about the president personally calling the head of the postal service and saying, you've got to raise the rates on amazon. broadly conjectured that he is not happy with amazon because of the washington post.
that was like him saying, we need to create some traffic for amazon. mr. christie: i don't like the analogy. mr. axelrod: is that apt? mr. christie: no. it would the apt if i went out and moved the cones, or ordered it. mr. axelrod: but should the president be calling -- mr. christie: the only way it is a good idea is if amazon was being grossly under charged and the taxpayers were be screwed -- were being screwed for some reason. absent that, no, i don't think it is a great idea. that kind of stuff will come back to bite you, if you do it in a way that is seen as abusive
and out of control. to me, what bridgegate did was -- you talked about me telling it like it is, an aggressive guy -- people loved that. they loved it until they thought you went over the line. not going over that line is really important. one of the things people have said about me overtime is that i understand politics. that is why that i would ever be involved with or create an atmosphere or sanction that sort of thing is crazy. i'm not that stupid. by a long shot. , if yous hubris goes
couldn't you couldn't get through the day. the abuse that you take waytimes in an unjustified but you can't go into the fetal position and stay in bed. it is not an option not going to work today. all you have to perform every day. you have to have an ego to get through some of the stuff that gets thrown on you. at that situation was come up for democrats and independents in new jersey, i got the benefit of the doubt frequently. >> my name is grace. aboutem very passionate
america. i would like to ask you about the cocaine epidemic. mr. christie: i think it's about the numbers of people that are affected by it than the color of their skin. america, ia role in understand that answer to all of you. it's much too simplistic. the numbers you are talking about here with the opioid epidemic is what is driving
this, not the color of their skin. when you have 74,000 people crack cocainer, has never come anywhere near that in a year. my guess is it would, thin one third of that in a year, probably less than yet -- that. it is affecting everyone. african-americans, hispanics, asian american are not immune from the opioid crisis at all. i think that's a little out of a too simplistic analysis of it. the attorney general wants to combat opioid abuse in the same way that crack cocaine is being dealt with as well. agreementot universal about how this works. thank you. i am a first-year student here, my name is tucker to.
do you think that given president trump's low approval ratings that it is possible for him to be reelected? >> yes. if 2016 prove nothing else, it prove that elections are binary choices. you had to of the least popular people in american electoral history on the ballot in 2016. the best way i can answer your question is to say it is absolutely possible, even likely when you look at the current crop of folks who are talking about running for the democratic party and. a united states
senator get ready for a trump reelection. washington u.s. senators in my view on the democratic side can win a general election. elizabeth warren or bernie sanders, cory booker who i really like but no way. they will see them as personifications of the problem. donald trump even after being there for four years will be seen more outside washington then cory booker or bernie sanders or elizabeth warren. nobody thought he would win last time. they just didn't. , and i was theim first person to endorse him.
i had been out there and i felt it. door to door go and introduce herself, i am married to governor christie. the conversation would say we love your husband. he's smart and direct and blunt, we love him. we are voting for the altra, but we love him. -- we are voting for donald trump, but we love him. you say you love chris? why are you voting for donald trump? just stinks and we need something different. i don't expect in the ensuing 2.5 years, that opinion markedly change. isept this divisiveness that leaving congress and the president to not get anything done. democrats stupidly talk