A handful of Republican governors spoke on a panel at the Aspen Institute last night to a packed house. That included New Jersey governor and 2016 presidential hopeful Chris Christie. Improving government was the top theme of the night--- and some trash talk about the Democratic Party.
The governors listed their accomplishments in reforming agencies or policies, whether it was taxes or education. But attendees pushed them to consider trickier issues. Like the tremendous surge of illegal immigrant kids on the US-Mexican border. First, Chris Christie.
“I think we all feel a great sense of sympathy for these children, but can we use plain common sense?”
Christie is frustrated the Obama administration may be relying on illegal family members to make sure those kids get officially approved by immigration.
Christie is considered one of the top Republican contenders for the White House in 2016. But a scandal earlier this year over political bullying… and a new investigation into bridge investments... may have put a wrench in those aspirations. For now, Christie is reportedly trying to put all of that behind him.
After Christie said his piece about children emigrating to the US, Kansas Governor Sam Brownback jumped in. He believes the larger immigration policy is to blame.
“There are kids dying in this process of moving up here, and our youngest son is from Guatemala. When you create this expectation that if you get across the border, you’re good, this is going to make it.”
Brownback echoed other governors in saying the country’s southern border needs to be more tightly locked down.
Another meaty question was this one, from a Republican New Yorker named Paul Pariser.
“I feel over the last many years, that we’ve been abandoned-- I’ve been abandoned. The social issues of the Republican Party that get pounded on in the debates just are casting a dark eye on people like me, who are a little more open and flexible to gays, to women, and minorities. I’d just like to get your sense on how we can turn this around a little bit.
Moderator Walter Isaacson: “Governor Christie?”
Chris Christie: “Trying to get over some of my shyness, but I’ll see what I can do. Listen, this is something that I hear all the time, from folks like you, who come from my part of the country, or from the West Coast.”
Christie says it’s about the way Republicans talk about their beliefs on social issues.
“People want folks who are authentic, and who believe what they say is true. But also are tolerant and willing to be tolerant and to listen to other points of view.”
A conciliatory message from the Governor, who’s known for his strong opinions. Time will tell whether discussions like last night’s McCloskey talk will help Christie move beyond his bridge scandals.
The conversation with Governors continues next week. That’s when Democratic leaders… including Colorado’s John Hickenlooper, will speak at the Aspen Institute.