"On governing, it's about doing things, accomplishing things, reaching across the aisle and crafting accomplishments." Clinton and Bush came to Washington with records of bipartisanship accomplishment. Through fault of their own and of their enemies, both presidents left the office more polarized than they found it. Part of the problem is something Christie would never admit: It's easier to be bipartisan on the state level, where structural issues that gridlock Washington — redistricting, special-interest money, a lack of familiarity among leaders etc. — don't exist or are less of a problem. Clinton, a Democrat, worked with a largely Democratic state Legislature in Arkansas. As governor of Texas, Bush had little constitutional authority; the Republican Bush would have accomplished little without the help of the powerful lieutenant governor, a Democrat. Obama had barely made a mark in the Illinois Legislature or the U.S. Senate when he famously denounced polarization in his 2004 Democratic National Convention address for nominee John Kerry. "We worship an awesome God in the Blue States, and we don't like federal agents poking around in our libraries in the Red States," Obama said. "We coach Little League in the Blue States, and, yes, we've got some gay friends in the Red States." As president, Obama is more of a captive of polarization in Washington than an enemy of it.
"We need to not pander on these issues. We need to have adults in the room who make decisions based upon controlling violence in our society." Christie defending his support of limited gun control, anathema to Second Amendment purists who dominate the GOP nomination process, reminds me of a campaign trip in 1999 when I asked the Texas governor about efforts by Republicans in Washington to delay payments to the working poor to save money in the 2000 budget. "I don't think they ought to balance their budget on the backs of the poor," Bush replied. The remark angered GOP lawmakers and worried conservative activists, but it helped brand the Texan as a "compassionate conservative." As a candidate in 1992, Clinton criticized a black rapper, and as president, enacted welfare reform, both signals to white middle-class voters that he would not be anchored to liberal ideology. Obama has offered to cut entitlements like Social Security and Medicare, a nod to the middle that enrages liberals.
"What our election was about was a record that showed that we can get the job done: 143,000 new private-sector jobs, reformed pension and benefits, slowed the growth of property taxes, cut business taxes $2.3 billion. You know, reform teacher tenure." Christie wants voters to know he tackled important and complicated issues in New Jersey, because he surely has outsized aspirations for the nation. Clinton ambitiously tried to overhaul the nation's health care system, but failed. Obama succeeded. Bush promised in 2000 to change the way students and schools are measured, and did so as president, with the help of Democratic Sen. Edward Kennedy. Bush later set his sights on war in Iraq and Social Security reform, both flawed policies.