Chris Christie came to the Road to Majority conference to discuss–surprise!– presidential character.
Earlier in the day Ralph Reed, the conference host, rejected the idea that conservative evangelicals were part of a Trump “cult.” He said that Christians do not worship Donald Trump, they worship God.
But the response on the conference floor to Chris Christie’s speech provided evidence to counter Reed’s claims. Nothing Christie said about leadership or character contradicted Christian teaching. In fact, his talk drew heavily from Christian ideas about sin and forgiveness. Yet when Christie tried to apply these Christian teachings to Donald Trump, he got booed. That seems like cultish behavior to me. For the Christian Right members gathered in Washington this weekend Trump is untouchable. (It is also worth noting that Christie was the first speaker at the conference to criticize the former president).
Christie was also the first candidate to open his speech at Road to Majority with a Bible verse. He said he was going to read from Romans 5:3-5, but he actually only read from Romans 5:3-4: “Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and it is character that produces hope.” He read from the evangelical-friendly English Standard Version. Christie used the verse to show how his political career as a Republican in New Jersey, a blue state, forged his character,
Christie got applause when he said that as governor of New Jersey he did not fund Planned Parenthood. But he also expanded his pro-life views to include poverty. He connected his views on poverty to his championing of charter schools. Charter schools, he argued, gave poor parents the opportunity to send their kids to a better school than, presumably, the local public school. Christie also connected his pro-live views to his work against human trafficking.
Christie’s lead-up to his attack on Trump started with a reference to his Catholic faith. “When I sin…I must take responsibility.” When Christie said that character requires the asking of forgiveness–to God and others–when one makes mistakes, the Road to Majority crowd gave him very tepid applause. Christie went on: “Beware, everybody, of a leader who never makes mistakes. Beware of a leader who has no faults. Beware of leader who says when something goes wrong it’s everybody else’s fault. And he goes and he blames those people for anything that goes wrong, but when things go right everything is to his credit.”
Christie reminded the audience that he was the first candidate to endorse Donald Trump in 2016. He was also the chairman of Trump’s transition team, the chairman of Trump’s opioid and drug abuse commission, and even played Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden in Trump’s debate prep. He once supported Trump, but he can no longer do so because Trump “has let us down.”
And then came the onslaught: “Trump is unwilling to take responsibility for any of the mistakes that were made, any of the faults that he has, and any of the things he has done. And that is not leadership everybody. That is a failure of leadership.”
At this point the crowd begins to boo. Christie continues over the boos:
You can boo all you want. But here’s the thing. Our faith teaches us that people have to take responsibility for what they do. People have to stand up and take accountability for what they do. And I cannot stand by, and as soon as I’ve started to be critical, after all of that, after he offered me White House chief of staff, now what he does is call me names, and belittle me. And I will tell you, if all you do…is disagree with someone and in return you get that kind of treatment, I’ve joined a great list of Americans like Rex Tillerson and Jim Mattis and Mark Esper and Mick Mulvaney and John Kelly and all the rest. And you can love him all you want, but I will tell you that doing those kind of things makes our country smaller. It makes our country smaller and it makes us lesser.
Christie got a small amount of applause for some of these lines. You could also hear people screaming at him in disgust when he named the members of Trump’s cabinet who left the administration.
The pro-Trump viewers of the Right Side Broadcasting Network did not hold back during Christie’s speech:
- Mute slimy Christie
- Christie is the worst of the worst slime
- PIG SWINE BODY & MIND
- No one else bashed Trump, but this pig will.
- SLOBBBB A slob
- He may tone down the Trump hate here, but I don’t trust him
- christie is a freemason,,,,so anything he says is a lie
- Chief of Doughnuts Christie is Speaking!!
- He already had weight loss surgery. Now look at him. No self discipline.
- Nope – you have to go to confession. Tell the truth, Christie
- Leave in disgrace, Lardass
- YOUR FAITH IS NOT MY FAITH IN JESUS CHRIST IN BIBLE
- Traitor revealed
I imagine some of these commentators are evangelical Christians.
I don’t think Christie has a chance to win much of the Christian Right vote, but he left the stage with his integrity in tact. He delivered a message that the Christians who attend the Road to Majority conference need to hear. They can boo Christie, but they have no satisfying answer to his critiques of Trump’s character.