NewsBusters readers should be quite familiar with Ron Christie, the Republican strategist who loves to tangle with the liberal commentators on MSNBC.
Following his terrific encounter with Chris Matthews last week, NewsBusters spoke by phone with Christie about his experiences on the nation's most left-leaning cable news outlet as well as what it's like to be a black conservative in the year 2011 (video follows with transcript):
NEWSBUSTERS: Ron Christie is a former special assistant to President George W. Bush and deputy assistant to Vice President Dick Cheney. He is currently a Resident Fellow at the Institute of Politics at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, and has published two books, Acting White: The Curious History of a Racial Slur and Black in the White House: Life Inside George W. Bush's West Wing (Nelson Current). NewsBusters readers are likely most familiar with Ron’s appearances on MSNBC where he’s had some epic battles with hosts Chris Matthews and Ed Schultz. Welcome to NewsBusters, Ron.
RON CHRISTIE: Absolutely a pleasure to join you.
NEWSBUSTERS: Great. Ron, given the racially-charged atmosphere we’re currently in with a black president and a black presidential candidate, I hope you don’t mind if I begin with some questions concerning race and politics. Is that okay?
CHRISTIE: Please do.
NEWSBUSTERS: Good. First off, what’s it like to be a black conservative in America today, Ron, and I mean a REAL black conservative like you and Herman Cain – not a Colin Powell quote Republican?
CHRISTIE: Well, I have to tell you, it can be very difficult at times. People ranging from my family members to colleagues to people I encounter on a day-to-day basis saying, “What’s wrong with you” or “Why would you be a conservative?” And my answer’s always the same. It’s: "What are your core beliefs? What are your core convictions? What do you hold most important to you?"
And for me, it is a strong national defense, it’s reducing the size and the scope of the federal government, it’s reducing regulatory burdens so that small business can grow and thrive, and allowing individuals to control their destiny rather than a one size fits all solution in Washington. So, for me it was not a difficult choice to be a conservative, but there are some very difficult encounters that I have had in the past and I continue to have with people who confront you and want to be hostile about your political beliefs.
NEWSBUSTERS: Interesting. Another kind of a strange question here. Do you believe black conservatives and black liberals have different views about racism? We’re constantly seeing black liberals shout racism at the drop of a hat where it seems to me that black conservatives don’t see that as the cause for all conceivably offensive behaviors. Do you agree that there seems to be a difference between how both demographics view racism, and if so, why do you think that is?
CHRISTIE: Well, there’s no question. I think the distinction is a clear one and for me it’s a simple one. Do you believe that society owes you something? I believe that society doesn’t owe me anything other than the freedom of opportunity to thrive or fail on my own. You contrast that with people who believe that the government is there to pick winners and losers, and that the government is there frankly to adjudicate. And I look at those who utilize the race card as a weapon. And that’s exactly what it does because when you decry racism and when you allege somebody’s engaged in racist behavior what you’re really doing is stifling debate. You are trying to cower people into submission. And ultimately what it does when there are cases of real racism or legitimate cases that ought to be examined whether people are being discriminated against – I think it’s almost like the child who’s yelled “Fire” too many times in the theater - that the prudency is not what it could be because at the drop of a hat, people will cry racism as opposed to examining what are the true underlying issues that confront them.
NEWSBUSTERS: But why do you think black conservatives feel that way, and that seems like a reasonable position, but for the most part black liberals don’t?
CHRISTIE: Again, I think it’s a simple one. It goes back to what I said originally: the only thing I think the society owes you is the opportunity to compete as an individual and as an American citizen. And I think that when you start identifying your politics with your ethnicity, you’re going to run into trouble.
So, for example, any opposition to President Obama, some might say, is rooted in racism. And you look at the comments of Harry Belafonte, you look at the commentariat on television that say, “Oh well, he’s not legitimately black” or “He’s not authentically black,” and as a conservative I would say, “Well, what exactly does that mean? How’s one’s authenticity somehow diluted because you believe certain philosophical or political positions?” I just think it undercuts their credibility and it undercuts what their message is, which is, “We’re only going to look at black folks as black folks.” Whereas I think conservatives look at people as individuals regardless of their racial affiliation.
NEWSBUSTERS: No, and I agree with that. I’m sure you’ve seen there’s been some speculation of late that the media’s treatment of Herman Cain has a racial component. The sexual escapades of white Democrat presidential candidates like of course Bill Clinton and John Edwards seem to either be largely ignored or downplayed where just mere allegations directed against Cain have resulted in media attention like none of us could ever have imagined. Do you think there’s actually a racial element in that, or is this just merely the difference between how liberals and conservatives are treated by the media?
CHRISTIE: That’s a tough question. On the one hand I think Cain’s viability as a candidate came about because people were tired of the size and scope of Washington and they wanted a fresh speaker and they wanted a new perspective which I think he certainly gave them. On the other hand, I can’t ignore the fact as you just articulated that John Edwards was largely given a pass. Bill Clinton was largely given a pass. A number of white politicians who were in similar circumstances, “Oh it’s a personal matter” or “Oh it’s all about sex, it doesn’t have anything to do with job performance.”
I can’t help but think at some level the possibility of a black man having an affair or having an inappropriate relationship with a white woman, I can’t help but think that hasn’t fueled some of the coverage that he’s received.
NEWSBUSTERS: I think so, too. Finally on this issue, and I’m expecting a little giggle from you, are you tired of always having to answer race questions, and won’t we know that we’ve actually finally licked this problem when you no longer have to?
CHRISTIE: I think you’re absolutely right. Am I tired of it? No, I’m actually not. I tell you, I actually welcome the challenge because one of the things I’ve learned here at Harvard with my students is that I want people to question why they believe what they believe. And I put my students to the test of, you know, they’d say, “Why are you a conservative Republican?” I always would turn that on them and say, “Why aren’t you? Why is it you believe what you believe?”
Several of my students said, “Well, it’s because that’s what my parents think or my brothers and sisters and my friends.” And I say, “I’m not interested in what they think. I want to know what you think.” And a couple of them it stopped them dead in their tracks, and they were hard-pressed to identify why in a concrete matter they were Democrats and liberal other than that’s what everyone else is.
So, if I keep getting the question, and if I can change an opinion or cause one person to reflect on why they believe what they believe, I’m happy to engage in that dialogue.
NEWSBUSTERS: You’re I think 41, 42 years old, I’m a little older than you are.
NEWSBUSTERS: 42, I’m 51. Do you think that in your life the race issue with ever be done as a problem in our nation?
CHRISTIE: Not until people stop using race as a weapon and as a tool to advance their own political and ideological means. The election of President Obama has shown that America is willing to look at a candidate and an individual based on their attributes, based on their skills, and based on their appeal, and this was a barrier that I never would have thought we’d seen shattered in my lifetime.
But at the same time I think, frankly, race relations in my adult lifetime are getting worse rather than better. And it’s, “Well you’re a racist” or “You don’t agree with me” or “You don’t agree with the President. You must be racist.” We must step away from using race as a weapon, and instead, assess individuals on their own strengths and merits and weaknesses as individuals rather than their external appearance.
NEWSBUSTERS: It’s fascinating to me that you say that because I was born in 1960, and the son of very, very liberal parents. So I grew up worshipping JFK, RFK, and Martin Luther King Jr., and it amazes me that we’re 44, 43 years since King’s assassination, and to a large extent, well first of all, it shocks me that racism isn’t over as a problem 44 years later, and it shocks me in certain respects I agree with you. I think the problem, again in certain respects, is even worse than when I was seven and eight years old.
CHRISTIE: It is, and you can trace the evolution of the assassinations of King and Kennedy in 1968, and the rise of the Black Power movement, and the riots we had seen. Then heading into the '80s and '90s, I think there was a certain degree of racial tranquility, of Americans learning to live and work and interact with each other as individuals. But if it's one thing that really surprises me and upsets me, quite frankly in the era of Obama, is that it seems to me that there is a certain retrenchment based on race of, “If you don't support the President, you're racist.” Or “The Tea Party opposition is racist.” Or fill in the blanks. And, again, we have got to move away, and that's the only way that we can come together to fulfill the motto of this country which is E Pluribus Unum, out of many, one. And it seems to me that we're starting to be fragmented based on ethnic and racial lines rather than pulling and cherishing that which is most important which is our American citizenship.
NEWSBUSTERS: Well, and the sad part about that, Ron, is even for we conservatives, irrespective of the ideological differences that we had with Barack Obama, you weren't an American if there wasn't a part of you that was proud of the thought that America actually voted for a black president. And a lot of people thought that was going to usher out racism as we knew it. And yet it seems like it's made racial issues even worse.
CHRISTIE: Well, let me put it to you this way. I don't think anybody who's an American citizen could not look at the election, could not look at the inauguration of President Obama and say that wasn't a magnificent step forward for the country. And I think it is remarkable when you see the President, the first lady and their beautiful family stepping off Air Force One in a foreign land and recognizing that they represent all of America and who we are as a people. I take immense pride in that.
At the same time I've been very disappointed by the President and his administration for the way that they have handled matters of race. Eric Holder saying to the American people just a month after the inauguration that America has been a nation of cowards on racial matters I think didn't set a proper tone. I think President Obama that summer saying the Cambridge police officers acted stupidly in arresting Henry Louis Gates sparked a conversation on race that we didn't need to have by a president who by the oath he took to uphold the Constitution was supposed to be an impartial officer and not take sides. And the subsequent decision by the justice department not to prosecute the New Black Panther Party in one of the clearest cases of voter intimidation I think that we've seen given that it's on videotape now has Americans saying, “Why would the President and his administration not only refuse to look at the law in a race neutral manner, but appear to take steps that favor one racial group as opposed to the other?”
And my last comment to that was, the President in the 2010 election cycle when he mentioned Republicans can come along, but they have to ride in the back of the car. The reference of where we were in the Civil Rights movement and the inferiority of African-Americans having to sit in the back of the bus and to somehow insinuate that Republicans needed to be in the back of the bus I thought was just really, really poor form and not the sort of leadership and not the sort of tone the President of the United States should demonstrate.
NEWSBUSTERS: No. Agreed. Well, let's try to talk about something a little happier. You're a bit of a contributor to MSNBC these days on a number of programs from time to time. Do you enjoy being typically the lone conservative on a show facing unfriendly fire, or would you prefer to have some allies by your side from time to time?
CHRISTIE: No, I actually revel in it. I take great joy in being on programs, Chris Matthews' show Hardball for one. The Bill Maher show which I did for the first time last month. And pretty much anything on the MSNBC dial. Of being able to not only try to put forth not only the best position for conservatives, but to also demonstrate not through yelling, not through histrionics, but through the facts of why I believe our position and our ideological perspective is the correct one. Being the lone person there gives you ample opportunity because they often feed off of their own inaccurate comments and inaccurate facts.
It's like something I said on Hardball earlier this week: you're not entitled to devise and to have your own set of facts in a particular narrative. The truth is what the truth is. So I revel in it.
NEWSBUSTERS: What was interesting about that, that was Monday's Hardball (Ron Christie Schools Chris Matthews: 'The Facts Get in the Way of a Good Narrative'), and not only were you with Chris Matthews, but also the perilously liberal David Corn. Did it strike you as odd that they were both so woefully uninformed about the payroll tax holiday extension proposed by Obama and the Democrats?
CHRISTIE: Yes. I don't understand how anyone could go on national television and not have a firm grasp of what the facts are. Maybe it's my training as a lawyer that you either have the facts or you need to understand what the facts are. In that particular case, you can look at a temporary expansion of the payroll tax holiday, but you need to understand that there are permanent ramifications of doing so.
One, you're using a ten year mechanism to pay for a temporary tax holiday. Number two, by doing so, since money that ostensibly was going into the Social Security trust fund which we know isn't going to, but ostensibly, you're taking funds away from Social Security that aren't coming from the general revenue which will hurt the program. So, they can talk about things on an ideological or a political perspective, but I just merely stated the facts. The facts are you're going to harm Social Security, you're going to harm the middle class that you purport to protect, and at the end, looking at many economic reports that I've read, I don't believe that a two percent reduction in one's payroll tax liability is going to stimulate the economy. I just don't.
NEWSBUSTERS: Well, it didn't the last time we tried it. That was part of the previous bill that went into effect January of this year. It didn't really help, did it?
CHRISTIE: No it didn't. Now to suggest that raising it from two percent to 3.1 percent is going to somehow now have a stimulative effect is absurd on its face. I think that's the reason why the public holds the Congress and holds the President's handling of the economy in such low regard. Actions speak louder than words, and the American people were promised that the stimulus bill was going to do all of these wonderful things and it hasn't. The American people were told that the President's healthcare plan was going to reduce costs, was going to be not only deficit neutral, but reduce the size and scope of the deficit and also bring down the cost curve. And none of those things have happened.
I think there is a cynicism that is growing now, and it's not Republican and it's not Democrat, but it is an electorate that feels and believes that their elected officials are out of touch, and I think that is a danger if you're an incumbent heading into the election next year regardless of your political affiliation.
NEWSBUSTERS: One of the things I found interesting about that exchange with Chris and David, and I find this rather interesting when someone like you who actually knows what he's talking about is on one of those programs, is the question as to whether or not they didn't know what the President and what the Democrats had actually proposed – meaning are they stupid or are they such good shills that they're willing to misrepresent the truth even though they know it?
CHRISTIE: Well, full disclosure, Chris Matthews has actually become a dear friend of mine. People would never expect that, but off-camera and off-air I find him to be a remarkably intelligent person. And so when you hear him say something like, “I didn't realize that's what the President's plan was,” it makes me scratch my head because he's remarkably well-read, and he's remarkably well-informed albeit many of the conclusions that he draws are inaccurate. So, to go on national television and host a show and say, “Ron, why do you believe that, and isn't this going to hurt folks, and oh by the way, I didn't realize the President's plan was going to pay for this extension by raising taxes by 3.25 percent" I thought was rather shocking. Either you know the facts, Chris, or you don't.
NEWSBUSTERS: Well, especially since it was all over the AP wire. It was a big deal that day that that's what this was about, and yet he's saying, “Well, I don't really think that's the case.” I found that a little peculiar.
CHRISTIE: As did I, and as I said, I find it interesting because I actually do read the commentary of folks in the blogosphere and at the MSNBC site saying, “Christie, you're just in favor of the rich.” “You're in favor of that.” I look at it this way: the Obama justice department took a survey back in 2009 of the number of millionaires we had in the country, and it was somewhere in the neighborhood of 392,000. 311,000 of those 392 identified themselves as business owners. And I can't sit here and scratch my head and think if you want to impose a 3.25 percent surcharge on someone because they are a small business owner and they might have revenue of a million dollars or more, plus have the ObamaCare surcharge kick in next year, plus repeal the Bush era tax cuts. If all those things came to pass, you would have the upper marginal rate income bracket at 44 percent when you take account of the surcharges and the taxes for success. And I look at that and think, “How can folks not know what they are advocating for?” And the answer to that is when you have a country and you have a system where half the folks aren't paying federal income tax, what difference does it make to them because they're not paying for it.
NEWSBUSTERS: Correct. And if you're someone in let's say New York City, let's say you're a Wall Streeter or anybody in Manhattan, now add in New York state tax and New York City tax, and you're probably closer to about a 60 percent hickey.
NEWSBUSTERS: That's a big hickey.
CHRISTIE: And Sean Hannity has said that repeatedly actually on his show that if you add in the local and the state taxes that his tax liability is over 50 percent. And the fundamental question for me, and I believe I asked this of Chris this past week is, “When is enough enough?” And I would love for someone to answer that question. When do folks believe that they have taken enough out of your back pocket that you've fully paid for what you ought to pay for?
And that's my biggest problem with what we see with the Occupy movements and the entire notion that there's income inequality in America. Of course there's income inequality in America. People who are willing to take risks, people who are willing to receive an education, people who are willing to apply themselves to a trade are in essence assuring that they are doing everything they can from an economic standpoint, from an education standpoint to achieve the American dream. But sitting back and protesting and suggesting that I should have more of your money because it's not fair isn't the American way.
NEWSBUSTERS: No, and especially one of the things I was just writing to a friend about this, a liberal friend, that one of the things I think that people ignore is one of the ways that so many of the people that are for lack of a better term in the top one percent, what differentiates them is their ability and their talent to take and assess risks. Some of these folks will risk at times ten percent of their wealth, 20 percent of their wealth, 30 percent, whatever it is, and you and I conceivably and most people aren't willing to risk that much of their savings on a future investment. Yet there's a percentage of our population, and they just so happen to be the most successful and the wealthiest, who are, and that's one of the reasons why they are.
CHRISTIE: I think that's exactly right, and you look at the fact that I'm a small business owner. I work seven days a week. It's not that I want to work seven days a week. It's that I have clients and I have deadlines and I have responsibilities and obligations that I have to meet. It would be nice to sit on the couch and watch football all day. It would be nice just to sort of say, "You know what, I'm not going to apply myself for the next three days," but I don't have a choice.
It's through innovation, it's through ingenuity, and it's through hard work and rolling up your sleeves that allows folks to be successful. And I think there's a certain level of complacency that seems to have crept into our national consciousness that I find abhorrent. And I'll tell you, the interns I've had who've worked for me in the last several years believe that they're entitled to something. And I counter that no one is entitled to anything other than a fair opportunity to succeed through hard work. That's the only thing that people in my view are entitled to.
NEWSBUSTERS: I think there's another side of this, and I think that is something that the Occupy Wall Street crowd doesn't get and the folks that are supporting them don't get, is there's a percentage of people in our country who don't believe they've got enough, and are willing to work harder and take risks to get more. They don't understand that someone who is worth let's say $100 million, you know what, for some reason, that guy wants to be a billionaire. I've made jokes in the past because of you know where I live, so we've got a Larry Ellison here who has less money than Bill Gates. His goal in life is probably to have more money than Bill Gates. It's just a goal that the people in the Occupy movement and the people on the left just don't seem to understand, and he's willing to work 80 hours, 90 hours, 100 hours and continue risking his own money to get there.
CHRISTIE: That's exactly right, and that is something I only wish people would take a moment or two to reflect upon. Money doesn't grow on trees. You're absolutely right. If you want to work 80 hours a week and apply yourself and take risks, that could come with some significant reward, but it could also come with some significant failure. As a business person, you have to take risks in order to advance, and sometimes those risks pay off and sometimes they don't. I've had clients that I thought would have been a very productive relationship that didn't turn out to be. And I've had others that I didn't think would be as productive that have in fact blossomed. So, you never know, but you never know unless you take a risk and you apply yourself.
NEWSBUSTERS: Exactly. Okay, I want to move back to MSNBC for a second. Do you remember last year, you have a tendency to always be put in the position on MSNBC where it's your job to defend conservative talkers like Rush Limbaugh. You remember last year when he did his little parody of Driving Miss Nancy which was Rep. Clyburn in the front seat and Nancy in the back, and MSNBC and the liberal media were all going crazy. Do you remember that?
NEWSBUSTERS: So, everyone immediately jumped on Limbaugh once again calling him a racist. Do you think what he did there was racist, or was it just good satire maybe in questionable taste?
CHRISTIE: I think as a society, and this goes back to the conversation we had at the beginning, people are too quick to pull out the race card and apply it. The issue at stake was whether Rep. Clyburn, James Clyburn, then the House Majority Whip, should be in a position where even though the leadership structure for the majority/minority party in the House of Representatives says that if you're in the minority, you've got the Minority Leader, you've got the Minority Whip, and that's pretty much it. Clyburn felt that there should be a special spot if you will provided for him at the leadership table, and Rush's comment was why. Why should he have something carved out for him unless of course it was – and this was all over the media – that the most senior ranking African-American would lose his leadership position. And my comment was, again, it's politics. If you win, you're going to have more leadership spots. If your party loses, then you lose. The Democrats lost that midterm election, and therefore that slot that Clyburn had at the leadership table had extinguished.
And so, for Democrats to say that we need to have a special position for Clyburn, or need to have a special seat for him at the table because he's black I think only undermines the notion that blacks are equal because why does he need a special set aside? Why does he need special treatment? If he's going to run for office, and he's going to run for election, and those are the rules, and those are the spoils if you're in the majority, and them's the bad breaks that you get if you're in the minority, I don't understand that, and I think Rush was trying to add satire to a very serious question in a conversation that people overlooked and instead accused him of just being racist.
NEWSBUSTERS: Are conservatives allowed to make jokes that involve black people, or if they do, they're automatically racist?
CHRISTIE: Oh, no, that automatically brands him as a racist. I think there is such a double standard of blacks are allowed to use the N-word amongst each other, and that's not racist. But if a white person does, then you're racist. Or that black folks believe that there should be certain provisions set aside for them due to the color of their skin that I just find absolutely abhorrent. The whole notion that I should be treated any differently than you or anyone else because of skin color is absurd.
The thing that I find most abhorrent is the fact that we have a Congressional Black Caucus in the Congress. There's no Congressional White Caucus. And the fact that the CBC will not allow you to join if you're Hispanic or if you are Caucasian seems to me to be racist in and of itself and on its face, and I don't understand why we need such a caucus.
NEWSBUSTERS: No. There's no Congressional Jewish Caucus, there's no Congressional Chinese Caucus. When are we going to learn that if we want to solve the race problem we have to stop delineating people by race?
CHRISTIE: That's exactly right.
CHRISTIE: And it just goes to the notion again of inferiority. Why should blacks have, and the pushback that I get is, “Well, you know, blacks have special challenges and what not.” I'm like, “We all have challenges as Americans.” I don't care what your color is. I believe very firmly that education is the civil rights issue of the 21st century, and that we're getting killed overseas.
If you look at our scores in math, if you look at our scores in science, if you look at our scores frankly even in English comprehension and reading comprehension, we're getting killed. We're not going to be able to compete on a world stage unless our students apply themselves to the books and study hard and work hard. And this notion that somehow one should be treated differently due to the color of their skin might work in the short term, but in the long term, it's not going to make that individual competitive with the rest of the society as well as the rest of the world.
NEWSBUSTERS: The other thing that was interesting about the Driving Miss Nancy incident was how on one of the Ed Schultz programs, it might have even been two, you had Joe Madison of XM radio on, and he and Ed were almost barking dogs, lather coming from their mouths they were so upset about this. Do you think that they were really that upset or is it good theater on MSNBC?
CHRISTIE: I think that frankly Ed Schultz will say or do anything to get a headline and to remain relevant. I find it interesting that there was the GQ study that came out, the survey of the 25 least influential Americans, and I think Ed Schultz was number three of the 25 least influential Americans. So I think his outrage is more feigned and more designed to elicit ratings. This is a guy who used to be a conservative Republican and a small business owner, and now he's a small business owner who's gone 180 degrees on his axis and is now a populist and a man of the people, and I find that transformation to be a little bit suspect at best.
Joe Madison, I believe he is truly upset in a legitimate manner. Having conversations with him about growing up in the Civil Rights era, and many of the injustices that he had seen, I can't take that away from him. For him, I still think it's very vivid in his mind, and that's how he believes. I don't question his sincerity.
But Ed Schultz? Yeah, I entirely question the sincerity and the level of feigned outrage and indignation he brings to issues in general, but particularly dealing with issues of race and inequality.
NEWSBUSTERS: And yet when you pointed out to both of them that they didn't have much outrage when Harry Belafonte called Colin Powell and Condi Rice slaves, that didn’t go over very well with them, did it?
CHRISTIE: No, and you remember that well. I think there's selective indignation, and that's the thing that really upsets me, particularly the notion that the Tea Party is racist. You know, the incident that we had a year or so back with a fellow who was going to a town hall meeting - I believe his name was Kenneth Gladney – who was beat up by a white and beat up by a black SEIU member, and they called him the N-word. And I just remember that the local NAACP refused to step in and refused to come to his aid and in fact said something to the effect of, “Well, due to his politics, he had it coming” or something.
You can't say that you're going to be protective of people based on their skin color and make sure we have equal rights when you selectively apply your outrage and your indignation to those who don't agree with you philosophically or ideologically. That to me is even worse.
NEWSBUSTERS: I agree. Well, staying on MSNBC for a second, do you think the commentators there are as liberal as they come across, or this upper-management’s strategy to be the counter to Fox?
CHRISTIE: That's an interesting question. I think there's no question, particularly as you look at their evening lineup, their prime time lineup of Chris Matthews and Rachel Maddow and the folks that they have on in the evening that they are clearly to the left of center in their ideological perspective. I think that has to be a calculated decision by senior management at MSNBC that these are the folks that we're going to put on our prime time lineup to counter what Fox News is putting on their prime time lineup, and Fox News is killing them. So, yes, I do believe that that is a calculated decision, and it's one that's not working. If you look at the demographics, if you look at every hour from 5PM until midnight, Fox News is beating every MSNBC and CNN show in that time slot. And I think there's a reason for it.
This is not a liberal country. This is a center-right conservative country, and I think that the views espoused by many of the hosts on MSNBC don't reflect the reality of where many Americans come from. I just don't.
NEWSBUSTERS: I agree. Finally, I can’t let you go without asking you about your experience in the Bush White House. What was it like to assist President Bush and Vice President Cheney?
CHRISTIE: The highest honor and the greatest privilege I've had in my life. I think that all Americans regardless of your political affiliation once you step through those iron gates you try to do your best to help the country and help the leaders that the American people gave the trust and the opportunity and the responsibility to lead the country. As one of the few people who've worked for both the Vice President and the President, they're both so different in their management style and their personalities. It was such a thrill to get to know both of them both professionally and personally. And the memories of being in some remarkable settings, being in the Oval Office, which is such a thrill. Even now and looking at a picture I have of myself and the President in the Oval Office, you just sort of pinch yourself and say, “How in the heck was I ever so lucky to have been in this spot and for four years of my life going to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue was my place of business.”
There's just really nothing more I can say other than I loved every day of it. It was the most challenging job that I've had. It was the most difficult that I had, but it was also the most rewarding – not by the perks and the power, but by being given the privilege to do everything in my power to try to help advance the United States of America was just a really awe-inspiring responsibility.
NEWSBUSTERS: I assume if given the opportunity you would do it again
CHRISTIE: Well, I don't know. That's the thing. I felt so strongly that George W. Bush was the right person to lead the country in 1999 and 2000 that I tried to raise money for him, I tried to help his campaign, and ultimately I went to Florida as a lawyer in the recount. I think that those who wish to go to the White House need to go for the right reasons. I went because I thought President Bush and Vice President Cheney were the leaders that America needed at that time. I would never want to cast aspersions on other people's motives, but to do that job and work that hard and to be in that pressure-cooked situation, really, it's a 24/7 job. You just can't do it because there's a Republican sitting in the Oval Office. You have to do it because you believe in that individual and you believe their direction for the country.
So, if the right leader came along, and if that leader extended the opportunity for me to serve again, of course I would do it. But it has to be the right leader and it has to be the right time for me and my family. It's a really emotionally and physically exhausting job as much as it is awe-inspiring, and it takes a really heavy toll on you. It really does.
NEWSBUSTERS: Well, we thank you for your service, thank you for your time, Ron, and maybe not as importantly, we thank you for being one of the few reasons any of us can stand watching MSNBC.
CHRISTIE: Well, thank you, the privilege is all mine in joining you. I'm going to keep fighting the fight because let me close with this: I travel the country quite frequently, and there's never a chance that I walk through an airport that someone won't walk up to me and grab me and say, “Hey, I've seen you on MSNBC” or “I've seen you on the cable outlets. Thank you for saying what you're saying because you are giving me the strength to fight back and to tell people there's a different way and there's a different voice.” If I can do that by going on MSNBC and have a ball doing it, I'm all in favor of it, and I just wish that people wouldn't be attacked based on their political beliefs, and that we could all respectfully agree to disagree.
NEWSBUSTERS: Nicely said. Thank you very, very much, Ron, and Merry Christmas.
CHRISTIE: Merry Christmas to you. Thank you so very much, Noel.
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