After asking Gov. Christie yesterday for his opinion about the controversial Supreme Court decision on the Voting Rights Act -- and after he once again refused to answer -- I wrote this story in today's Inquirer:
POINT PLEASANT BEACH - Jersey-guy bluntness apparently has its limits.
Gov. Christie made it clear Thursday that despite his rising national profile - and the corresponding increase in questions he now gets about national issues - he's under no obligation to opine about everything.
Six times over the last 66 days, reporters asked the governor for his view of the U.S. Supreme Court's June decision on the Voting Rights Act. Although the ruling does not immediately affect New Jersey, where the Republican is running for reelection, Christie is a front-runner for the presidency in 2016, polls show, and he regularly provides opinions, solicited or not, about issues that stretch far beyond the Garden State.
On this issue, though, Christie has been mum, saying he hasn't had time to read the court's decision. The ruling effectively rolled back federal voting protections for minorities in certain areas of the country, angering black leaders but winning approval from southern Republicans.
This puts the governor in a tricky spot. His opponent in the governor's race, State Sen. Barbara Buono (D., Middlesex) wants him to choose: Will he side with Democrats and minorities, whom he has courted in his reelection campaign in New Jersey? Or will he join with Republicans, particularly those conservatives he needs to woo to win a GOP presidential nomination?
"I'm tired of being asked about it," Christie said Thursday in an interview over a Miller Lite with a few reporters at the Ark Pub near the Shore.
And he indicated that he wouldn't be offering an opinion any time soon. "If I don't read [the court's decision], I don't have to answer it," he said.
Earlier, at a news conference on the boardwalk, Christie basked in the adoration of hundreds of beachgoing admirers and faced two questions from reporters on U.S. issues. One question he answered: He said that he disagreed with U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder's memo Thursday saying the Obama administration would not challenge the new marijuana decriminalization laws in Colorado and Washington. "I think it's a mistake for him to turn his back and essentially by fiat legalize marijuana in Colorado and Washington," Christie said.
Then, the governor was asked about the Voting Rights Act decision - for the sixth time. He wouldn't give an answer.
"I know it's like fascinating for you guys to ask; I have lots of stuff to do," Christie said. He added: "If you're just going to continue to ask questions based upon [Buono's] news release then I don't think, in all due respect, you're doing your job."
The Buono campaign has indeed issued many news releases on the matter. Buono put out a cheeky how-to video to show Christie how he can print out the opinion from his computer, and on Wednesday she released a video comparing Christie's dismissal of the issue with a clip of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and former President Lyndon B. Johnson talking about how voting is the most important civil right.
Christie prides himself on telling it like it is, and he has nurtured a reputation for answering questions directly instead of dancing around them like other politicians. But, he said in the interview, "I can't have an opinion about something I haven't read. I don't have ESP and I'm not - for anybody's entertainment, for yours, or anybody in the public - going to spend a lot of time on national issues."
Yet the questions keep coming. In recent weeks, he has refused to give his position on the U.S. Senate's immigration bill and Republican efforts to defund the Affordable Care Act - but he also jumped into the debate over marijuana legalization and national security surveillance.
David Turner, a spokesman for Buono, said Christie shouldn't be allowed to have it both ways. "The fact that he is unwilling to offer an opinion on the Supreme Court's decision to gut the Voting Rights Act, and the subsequent attempts to restrict voting rights across the country, suggests that he either does not deem it important or he agrees with the actions of fellow Republican governors," Turner said in an e-mail.