Baffling. Not only because this guy’s shtick is all about blunt talk, but because he’s discussed immigration many times before.
At least he was characteristically gruff with reporters asking him about it. That’s our guy.
The governor announced midway through a trip to Mexico — billed as a three-day trade mission — that he did not plan to offer opinions on repairing U.S. immigration policies unless he chooses to seek the Republican nomination president in 2016…
As the Republican governor tartly put it: “I understand everybody wants to start a campaign that I even haven’t decided I want to be in right now. I’m just not going to do it. I won’t have anything to say on immigration unless, and until, I become a candidate for the president of the United States.”
The governor insisted that if he decides to create a nationwide campaign — something he said he would announce early next year — then he would “articulate a full position on it and then you guys can pick it apart.”
I’m weary imagining having to endure that attitude every day for four years, and if a RINO like me is feeling that way now, imagine how conservatives in Iowa will be feeling after six months of it on the stump. But I digress. In fairness to him, he’s always been cagey about immigration. Back when he first landed on righties’ radar, after his made-for-viral townhall dressings down of union flunkies broke big online, he danced around the issue of a path to citizenship in an interview with Hannity. He’s been cagey about it all this summer too, despite the media badgering him for his opinion on the border crisis. (Nearly 2,000 young illegals, notes Charlie Spiering, have been sent to New Jersey so he should have some thoughts on this.) Typically he’ll only get as specific as the platitudes you hear in the first clip below, posted earlier today during his Mexico tour. But c’mon. It’s no secret where this guy’s sympathies lie. He’s a centrist northeastern Republican in the Giuliani mold who once said he agrees with New York’s governor on 98 percent of the issues. One of his core strategies in getting reelected governor was wooing Latino voters in order to show the national Republican donor class that he might have crossover appeal that other candidates wouldn’t have. That’s also why he signed New Jersey’s DREAM Act in January guaranteeing in-state tuition levels for young illegals. The best-case scenario with Christie, I think, is that he’d be another McCain, reliably pro-amnesty most of the time and then a bit more hawkish about the border whenever he’s due to face the electorate again. Can’t wait.
I guess his dodging really isn’t that “baffling,” though. What he’s doing is practicing strategic ambiguity. Apart from Ted Cruz, who’ll run to the right of everyone on amnesty to consolidate tea-party support, the 2016 field is in flux on immigration. Christie probably just wants to see who’s in and who’s out — and which side each of them is pandering to — before he plants his flag. Look no further than Marco Rubio to see why. Until recently, Christie could have tried to run to Rubio’s right by declaring the Gang of Eight bill a bad deal that didn’t do enough to secure the border. Now that Rubio’s distanced himself from the bill, though, that task is harder. Christie could react to that by running to Rubio’s left and trying to impress the donor class — except Jeb Bush and Scott Walker might end up jumping in and running even further towards the center, leaving Christie lost in the shuffle. What he’s really telling you in passing on this question is that, for all his supposed blunt talk, he’s willing to reshuffle his principles and pander on immigration — just as soon as he knows which side he should be pandering to. Somewhere Rand Paul is wishing he could have done the same on ISIS.