After months spent repeatedly bashing Donald Trump, New Jersey governor Chris Christie now finds himself in the unenviable position of trying to attempt to explain his endorsement of the very GOP candidate he disagreed so vehemently with just a few weeks ago.
On ABC’s This Week with George Stephanopoulos, Christie was asked numerous questions about his past positions on such Trump policy claims as Mexico paying for a wall along the United States border. And Christie, in turn, struggled to explain why he now supports Trump when he spent his entire campaign opposing Trump at nearly every turn.
“I tell everybody who goes to a Donald Trump event, if he gets asked a question, just ask him how,” Christie said at one of his many rallies. “First, he says he’s going to build a wall across the entire border between the United States and Mexico. How? How is he going to make the Mexicans pay for the wall? How? They are a sovereign nation.”
Watch Christie mock Trump in the video below.
Christie, who attempted to run on the slogan that he “tells it like it is,” now says that he does believe Donald Trump to be capable of convincing Mexico to pay for the wall, and that he has plenty of time to explain to the American voters how he plans on doing so before the actual election.
“You know, George, this is a February — this is February of a campaign,” Christie said defensively.
However, the presidential campaign has been rolling along for eight months, and the wall proposal was one of the first claims Trump made. Many believe he has had ample time to explain how he plans on forcing Mexico to build a wall.
Christie could not answer with any specifics, but implied that Trump would get the wall built and paid for through “diplomacy and other tools,” while highlighting Trump’s “strong leadership.”
“Strong leadership is able to exert those things and be able to talk to folks about what advantages and disadvantages are of certain policies. The fact of the matter is that there won’t be any question about Mr. Trump’s strength and his resoluteness in terms of getting the things done that he’s wanted to get done.”
The most specific explanation as to how Trump would be able to build a giant wall along the Mexican border and then force the sovereign nation to pay for it relied heavily on Trump using the United States’ trading relationship as a leverage against Mexico.
“Listen, I think what he’s talked about is the trade relationship and working on the trade relationship and he talked about that yesterday. And using that as a lever to get them to do things on immigration.”
The wall is not the only assertion Trump has made that Christie took issue with during the campaign. Perhaps even more difficult to explain than his sudden belief that Trump could get the wall built is Christie’s sudden support of a candidate who proposed to ban all Muslims from entering the United States — a position that Christie did not agree with as a candidate.
Christie first asserted that Trump’s proposal was now acceptable because Trump had tweaked his policy proposal in order to exclude U.S. citizens. Next, Christie claimed that Trump’s ban on Muslims in the U.S. was not as important as Trump’s “tough stance” on national security.
“Mr. Trump has talked about the idea of making sure we restore NSA authority, he’s — which some people in this race have not been in favor of, like Senator Cruz. He has stood up and said that he wants to make our military stronger, which we need to do. He’s stood up for law enforcement in ways that other candidates in this race have not done.”
And in a more geographically sensitive matter, Christie now has to defend his support of a candidate who claimed he saw Muslim Americans in New Jersey — Christie’s own constituents — celebrating the September 11, 2001 attacks.
“I don’t think he means it as that at all, as a slander of my state’s citizens,” Christie explained. “What I think, though, is when I say he’s — can be trusted, this is a guy who, when he makes promises, he keeps them. Um, and I’ve seen that over the course of a 14-year relationship with him.”
It is because of Trump’s views on Muslims and Christie’s repeated condemnation of those views that the New Jersey governor’s sudden endorsement of Trump is confusing to many. As a candidate, Christie specifically and repeatedly spoke against judging all Muslim Americans on the actions of a few extremists and spoke of his nomination of Muslim American Sohail Mohammed to a New Jersey judgeship, as well as his repeated outreach to his state’s large population of Muslim Americans.
Chris Christie’s seemingly inexplicable about face on all issues Trump, from their views on immigration to social security, has left many scratching their heads… and speculating that, perhaps, Christie has his eye on a possible vice president nomination. Or, barring a vice presidential pick, certainly a plum cabinet position could be on the horizon for Christie in a Trump presidency.
Then again, as the Washington Post reported, Chris Christie simply cannot stand either Marco Rubio or Ted Cruz, the only two real contenders left battling Trump for the GOP nomination.
“If you think there are only three candidates who have any chance at all of being the nominee and you actively don’t like two of them, then you are left with Donald Trump.”
That is as good — or bad — of a reason as any of them.
[Image credit: Bryan Thomas/Stringer/Getty Images]