Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie campaigns at Franklin Pierce University
Published: 12-07-2023 3:50 PM
Modified: 12-11-2023 1:51 PM
Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie said a lot of people in his business complain about young people – that they don’t vote or aren’t involved or don’t care.
But Christie, who was at Franklin Pierce University Thursday to take part in the school’s “Pizza and Politics” series the day after a Republican presidential debate at the University of Alabama, said that while young people should get involved in politics, “I’ve got to give you a reason to get involved.”
The event was the first stop on Christie’s two-day campus tour, and he gave three reasons why young people should get involved: that the gift of being an American – “There are people all over the world who are literally dying to get here” – comes with a responsibility, that everyone has a right to express themselves and make themselves heard and that decisions being made today affect their futures.
“I’m 61 years old, so more of my life’s in the rear-view mirror than through the windshield,” he said.
“Politics and Pizza” is organized by the Marlin Fitzwater Center for Communication’s PoliticsFITZU, the student media organization that covers political news and events. Christie followed North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum, who appeared Dec. 1 before dropping out of the Republican race Monday, and Democratic U.S. Rep. Dean Phillips of Minnesota, who spoke Monday.
Although it started approximately a half-hour late because Christie was in transit from Alabama, the session lasted approximately the hour allotted, and featured the candidate answering questions in the DiPietro Library from the audience and student hosts Coleby Vasoll and Jenna Parent.
“We definitely over-prepared and had a lot of questions I wish we could have asked him,” Parent said.
One of those questions was about guns, in particular Christie’s changing position on an assault weapons ban from being for one to being against it, in light of the October shootings in Lewiston, Maine, that left 18 people dead and 13 injured before the shooter, Robert Card, died by suicide.
Christie focused his answer on the importance of mental health treatment, saying that Card has been institutionalized, that the Army had determined that Card, a reservist, shouldn’t have weapons and that his family said he had mental health problems.
“It wasn’t that they didn’t have a law,” he said. “It wasn’t that they didn’t have the capability to do it. They didn’t do it.”
Although he said he does not generally favor forgiving student loans, he would for students entering certain areas, mental health treatment being one of them. He also spoke about the stigma of seeking help, as most people would not decline treatment for cancer, heart disease or diabetes.
“The reason is us, because we call someone like that ‘crazy,’ or ‘nuts’ or ‘out of their mind,’ ” he said.
Treatment also formed the basis of Christie’s answer regarding the war on drugs, as he said the country should stop putting people in jail for minor crimes or who are addicted, because drugs get into jails and people do not get rehabilitated.
“We should save those jail cells for the people who profit from it,” he said.
Applying the same point as he made about treatment for mental health problems, Christie said people in prison with cancer or other diseases can get medical treatment.
“Why are we treating someone with the disease of addiction any differently?” he said.
Answering a question about why Americans are struggling despite the improving economy, Christie said it is because prices are too high, and that inflation is increasing because the government is spending too much money.
“During COVID, we had to spend more. It was a necessity,” he said. “But today, we’re spending as much as we did during COVID.”
Christie also called for producing energy more aggressively, including natural gas pipelines to lessen the need for heating oil, which is expensive and not great for the environment.
“Climate change is real, and we contribute to it,” he said.
Christie also supports continuing to invest and solar and wind energy, as well as nuclear power. A Monmouth University poll released in August showed that 41% of people surveyed in New Jersey support a nuclear reactor in the state, including 53% of Republicans. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, New Jersey got 46% of its energy from natural gas and 44% from nuclear power.
Answering a question about fentanyl, Christie said the answer is to get more people into treatment, and that he would send the National Guard to the border to fight illegal immigration. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’, a fellow GOP candidate, has said he supported deadly force against suspected cartel members carrying drugs in backpacks, which Christie compared to former President Donald Trump – the current Republican front-runner – saying he’d build a wall on the Mexican border and that Mexico would pay for it.
“TV tough-guy talk may sound good to some people, but it never happens,” he said.
Christie said he agrees with most of how President Joe Biden has handled the war between Israel and Hamas, with the exception of the hostages being held by Hamas.
“These are innocent people,” he said. “These are not soldiers.”
If the military presented him with plans to safely rescue the hostages, Christie said he would send troops to do so both to send a message to terrorists and show Americans that the country “won’t be pawns in geopolitical terror games.”
The banners at the side of the stage said “Christie on Campus: Direct questions, direct answers,” and with New Hampshire’s primary coming up Jan. 23, Christie said people should be demanding answers of candidates before they vote, citing his stance on sending the military to rescue hostages in Gaza, that the United States should defend Taiwan if it is attacked and that Trump is unfit to be president again.
“You may agree with some of those answers. You may disagree with some of those answers,” he said. “The only person you agree with 100% of the time is you.”