Morning Joe | February 23, 2012
>>> for a fight. not all the time. but i'll tell you this, i'm going to fight for the things that are worth fighting for. my mother used to tell me all the time, christopher, be yourself. because if you are, you're not going to have to worry tomorrow about remembering who you pretended to be yesterday. so, ladies and gentlemen , this is it. what you see is what you get.
>> ladies and gentlemen , governor chris christie .
>> oh, yeah. oh, yeah.
>> i love that.
>> joining us now.
>> you like that? it's 1973 all over again.
>> thanks for coming out here.
>> all right. chris christie 's with us.
>> do you remember when abc ran "heroes of rock 'n' roll" back in '78. they had -- it was the first time i ever saw springsteen live on tv and he was doing rosalita hair all over the place. i was transfixed.
>> rock 'n' roll.
>> that was the line.
>> it's a great line.
>> not bad. not bad.
>> chris .
>> mika. good morning.
>> can i call him chris ? i can call you chris .
>> you can call me whatever you like.
>> here we go again. i'm going to be reading the "post" over here.
>> you blame me for that line?
>> my daughter is here. she's taking pictures, so try and look good. sit up straight. the debate last night. first of all, i'll give you a softball, how do you think your candidate, mitt romney , and i put your candidate in quotes because you know how i feel about your endorsement of mitt romney .
>> i know that. i think he did well last night. i don't think there was any clear knockout winner. i think just some people, you know, i think senator santorum had an awful night. and he gave an example of why we don't need another legislator in the white house . he's talking about, well -- he's saying, you know, i'm a team player, it's against my principle, but i voted for it. this is why you don't want somebody inside the beltway that long who has been a member of congress and had no other experience in his life other than that.
>> have you ever said anything against your principles?
>> not that i can think of. not that i can think of.
>> there's a jarring line, wasn't it?
>> it was. and i think --
>> by the way, i like rick a lot. i know him, i like him a lot.
>> i know him and i like him. i've known him for 18 years now. but i say in new jersey all the time, the art of compromise is understanding you can't get everything you want, but never compromising your principles. and there's always a boulevard between those points. and the job of governor or president is to get the government on that boulevard and moving down it. but you can't compromise your principles because then people don't know who you are. they don't know who you are, then they can't trust you.
>> governor, if romney loses michigan , is he in trouble?
>> no, i don't think so, joe .
>> where were you born?
>> jersey .
>> what if you ran for president and lost jersey .
>> i'd be mad.
>> imagine if you were born in jersey and your father had been the governor of jersey ?
>> well --
>> so let me finish the question.
>> my whole life would be different, joe .
>> so let me ask my question again. is it bad news if your candidate loses michigan ?
>> is it bad news? yes. is he in trouble? no. because everything's comparative comparative. who's beating him in that group? and this has been my thought right from the beginning is that you asked me, mika, why i endorsed governor romney . and i said because of the people offering themselves for president of the united states in my party, it was clear he was the best of the group and the only one of the group i thought gave us a good chance of being the president. and so nothing that happened last night or if he were to lose michigan would change my evaluation of had that.
>> if he loses michigan , you head down south and that probably is not one of his strong points. look at the evangelical vote which we talked about this morning, how that translates for romney . doesn't that suggest to voters in the south and other places that he doesn't have the luck, he may not be the best candidate? you have to put it in some context.
>> yes, but our election -- you know this, elections are about choice. you know, in the end, they're about picking someone. they're not about the demographics. i recognize that the demographics come temporarily more problematic. but you go into april and may, you're in pennsylvania, new york , new jersey , playing more to governor romney 's strengths. in part of it the rules we have at this time, it's going to be elongated.
>> you said policies as comparisons, the comparative contrast is governor romney versus senator santorum .
>> let's spin a hypothetical scenario. senator santorum beats governor romney and becomes the republican nominee. what do you think the party's reaction to that would be? how would he fair in the state of new jersey if he were the republican nominee for president?
>> it would depend on how he conducted himself, jon. i think he would come in as any other republican. look, barack obama won new jersey by 17 points. i think any republican's going to come in as a slight underdog. to be fair, i think governor romney would stand a better chance in new jersey than senator santorum --
>> when you're thinking mitt, you're thinking jersey , right?
>> amen, brother.
>> you think --
>> do you think there's any way that senator santorum is electable against barack obama ?
>> sure. you know --
>> come on, you don't believe that.
>> i do.
>> gas goes to $6 a gallon, if the economy turns back down and we start losing jobs again, you're telling me he's not electable.
>> if martians attack.
>> $6 gas and a downturn in the economy, he's more likely than martians attacking, a little.
>> that was a very weak argument to win, but i'll give you --
>> how badly does governor romney 's lack of support for the auto industry , how much will that affect him in michigan ? is it affecting him in michigan going forward? if he's the nominee, does that hurt his chances?
>> put aside the merits of the argument. the accusation against mitt romney has been over time . if he takes the position that he later thinks is unpopular, he changes it or modifies it or tries to field it a little bit. he's not doing that.
>> the substance for a second. what i'm saying is that one of the big accusations against him that he's a flip-flopper. and i think this is one of those moments where governor romney said, listen, i'm standing by this position, there are people who disagree with it. but i do think he deserves credit for standing by his principles.
>> was he right?
>> well, listen --
>> that's the question i'm asking.
>> i haven't given enough thought to this thing --
>> in fairness. the government investment in the car industry worked. he's consistent, but he's consistently wrong.
>> it doesn't mean that something else wouldn't have worked also. my only point to you --
>> he didn't offer anything. he offered the opposite.
>> he offered -- he offered a way that normally is done in american life which is control, planned bankruptcy where they work through --
>> which is what happened. the private market. the private sector should've come in, no private capital to come in. it's easier to say we're wrong in that and we've got to move forward.
>> if he believes that. if he doesn't believe it, he shouldn't.
>> do you believe?
>> listen, i went through this the other night on tv. i'm not going to give you an off the cuff answer on something as complex as contributing billions of dollars to private industry with government investment . i haven't given enough thought. it is contrary to my general approach to things in terms of having government involved as little as possible in the private sector . i'm not going to give you an off the cuff answer.
>> we're going to ask you about your budget in new jersey . but first, i have to ask about the ron paul alliance.
>> you brokered it?
>> no, i've never met congressman paul, never spoken to him.
>> those guys did everything but make out last night on stage.
>> did you just say make out?
>> i did.
>> they can't do that in jersey now thanks to you.
>> well --
>> no, no, what is your position -- i'm curious. i had heard that --
>> a referendum.
>> i had heard before generally, we never talked about this, we don't focus a lot on social issues. i heard you were a little more libertarian about it. is that the not the case?
>> not the case.
>> do you support civil unions ?
>> is you're like the president. you support civil unions --
>> but you're called a bigot for taking that position. and the president's called enlightened.
>> because i'm a republican and he's a democrat. the democrats in my state are criticizing me saying my feet are firmly planted on the wrong side of justice. i said yesterday, yeah, my feet are firmly planted right next to president obama . and they don't criticize him.
>> and i seriously did not know the answer to these questions beforehand. is there any space between your position on gay marriage and president barack obama 's position? he still gets standing ovations whenever he goes to any gay or lesbian group.
>> not at all. offering strength to civil unions and be able to go after ask investigate any allegations of discrimination in civil unions and i've offered to have it on the ballot to amend our constitution through referendum that -- i think my position is pretty much where the president is.
>> small difference. in fairness to president obama , he did applaud the decision in new york by governor cuomo to sign the bill.
>> so he applauds other people's courage but doesn't have any of his own.
>> you can't have it both ways. did you applaud?
>> no, i didn't.
>> no, we're talking about other issues. hold on a second. we're talking about words versus actions. the president of the united states could today come out and say this. hold on. here we go. no, stop. hold on. this is what the president said. i support gay marriage . and it's over. he won't do it. he's scared to do it.
>> but neither will --
>> the democrats in the legislature, not all voted for it. all i'm saying --
>> i don't disagree with you. there's a hypocrisy against democrats. not a word about the president's position on this.
>> i'm going to agree with you on that.
>> they're attacking me on it. it's okay. i've got broad shoulders, i don't care.
>> if it's a state referendum, will you support it?
>> you put it on the referendum and i'll be ruled by what the people of new jersey want to do, but i vetoed the bill and if they passed it again, i'd veto it again.
>> but if the people of new jersey want gay marriage , fine.
>> let the people's will. and you need 3/5 to get it on the ballot, and i called on every republican to vote yes to put it on the ballot. the democratic leadership and the legislature has said under no circumstances will they put it on the ballot.
>> why not?
>> they think it'll lose.
>> they say it's because it's a civil rights issue and it shouldn't be on the ballot. and they'll also tell me part of the reason i shouldn't sign the bill was the majority of new jersey wants it. and i said prove it.
>> i don't understand --
>> i don't understand why they won't put it on the ballot.
>> it's the question i'm going to ask. do you not suspect the reason they won't put it on the ballot is their assessment is there's a reasonable chance it would lose.
>> i think it's a jump ball in new jersey . as it is in most places and maybe they don't want to engage in a jump ball . all i can tell you is what they say publicly. there's nothing to do with whether it'll pass or fail, everything to do with civil rights shouldn't be on the ballot. i'm giving them the pass way to prove the point they're trying to make which is what the majority of new jersey residents want.
>> someone behind you was going like this. then he almost passed out. i put a mike on him. what's your question?
>> i'm alive and well . governor christie , i heard you say that you have your feet firmly planted next to president obama on this issue, but the key difference between you and the president is while you support putting the civil rights of that minority up for a public referendum, the president is not in favor of that.
>> has he said that, jonathan ? jonathan , has he said that? i haven't heard him say that.
>> that he would --
>> i heard him say he was opposed to it. have you? have you heard him say it? i haven't heard him say it.
>> the president has said he --
>> he's silent on the issue.
>> he's not silent on this.
>> governor christie , he is not. the president and the justice department have made it clear that they believe the so-called defensive marriage act is unconstitutional. they're not supporting it in the court cases . as president of the united states , would you support that?
>> he's told his lawyers --
>> would you support that?
>> hold on, hold on. jonathan , first of all, i used to be a prosecutor. i'm not going to be cross-examined by you this morning.
>> i'm having fun trying.
>> and you're going to lose. so let's move on.
>> i would love for you to answer the question.
>> here's the answer of the question. let's have the president of the united states have some courage, come on this program and look in a camera and state his position. he won't because he wants to have it both ways. i'm not looking to have it both ways, i vetoed the bill. that's my position. what i've offered to the supporters is if one of your reasons for why i should have voted signed it was because you're telling me the majority of the people of new jersey want it, then prove it. put it on the ballot and prove it. at least i'm standing up for what i believe in. the president has hidden on this issue. jonathan , he's hidden on it. he wants to have it both ways and the public pronouncements of the president --
>> i disagree with you on that.
>> the president opposes same-sex marriage, jonathan . that's the way it is.
>> jojonathan, would you agree he hasn't been vocal?
>> has he come on out and said i'm in favor of same-sex marriage? no. he's said he's evolving on the issue.
>> after --
>> again, i agree --
>> evolution --
>> hold on. hold on.
>> this is the cycle.
>> hold on. okay. we're going to do this one at a time. jonathan , so you say he's evolving on the issue.
>> i said the president said he's evolving on the issue, but through the justice department and in his own pronouncements, he doesn't believe the so-called defensive marriage act is constitutional, and he's directed all federal lawyers to not defend --
>> i'm with governor christie on this. the president can't have it both ways on this. i was taken on when i looked 2 1/2 years ago to run for senate of new york by a community of people in new york city who believed i was opposed to same-sex marriage. i had the same position as the president, which was criticized for during a period of time when i ran for senate. and i agree, you deserve protection in defense of that. the president should be more forthright. but i say this, the only problem i have putting it up for a vote is i wonder if, indeed, when women didn't have the right to vote, and i'm wondering when african- americans in the civil rights act should have been put up for a vote. i don't suggest you were against those things, i do think there's a legitimate argument in, perhaps, a legitimate conversation that should be had around that. i applaud you, though, for being consistent on this, and in all fairness to jonathan , the president has not said that. if i was critical of you, i want to make sure you give credit when you deserve it.
>> i appreciate it. we're having a conversation about it. that's what this is all about. and people asked me, why didn't i want to put it on the ballot. and i said you'd have to ask them.
>> i'm glad the civil rights issue in the '60s was not put on the ballot.
>> they have a governor that campaigned saying i wouldn't sign the same-sex marriage bill. i vetoed it and i'm trying to give them an alternative to get where they want to get to and be governed by the people of my state. i think that's a pretty good offer. if they don't want to take it, they don't have to take it.
>> harold, i need to ask you this question, would you -- and then i'll ask jonathan the same thing. would you compare the status of a relationship and how it is recognized officially by a state to little children being blown up in birmingham -- let me finish. i always say this comparison between what african- americans struggled with for 300 years and what gay and lesbians are struggling with now. would you compare those two things? or to tearing the flesh off of african- americans because they only want to be able to eat at the same lunch counters, go to the same schools, ride in the front of buses. would you compare those morally? and this offends john heilemann, i can tell by the way he's smirking --
>> you're framing the issue in a totally unfair way.
>> no, i'm not. i'm stating the two realities.
>> i know where joe is going with this and i happen to agree. there's a difference in my mind between the civil rights act and marriage. now, having said that, i believe that people of the same gender should be allowed to marry. i don't like the comparison because there's a gravity difference.
>> i would get that comparison, however, i do believe that the point about civil rights and it being on the ballot, if you decide marriage is a civil right, which i do not, then one has an argument to govern --
>> they're yelling in my ear, but we've got to give the last word to jonathan . would you compare the civil rights struggles to african- americans over 300 years in america --
>> yes, because it's an issue of civil rights , an issue of equality, of equal treatment under the law. it's an issue of whether -- if i were to get married to my partner and we were to have children, my children would have the same protections that your children have because you're able to legally marry. no one is asking for special rights , no one is asking for any kind of special favors. they're just looking for the same rights and responsibilities that come with marriage. and also the protections that are provided under marriage. in that regard, we're talking overall a civil rights issue. and what african- americans continue to struggle with is exactly what people are struggling with today.
>> we'll give you the last word on that topic. governor christie , we'll ask you in closing, what's your favorite spinners song.
>> no, listen, i refuse to answer that.
>> you don't know.
>> you know what it is? because you're minimizing our discussion this morning, joe , by bringing up the spinners.
>> no, i'm not.
>> and by the way --
>> hold on a second. i'm sorry. the last time i checked, you were -- i don't know if you think this cross-examine routine you do with gail on public act access in new jersey is going to work on me. but brother, guess what, you've got the wrong man in front of you. and i guarantee you, if you want this fight, you're going to lose.
>> my favorite spinners song.
>> none of your business.
>> chris christie , the governor of the great state of new jersey . thanks so much. and just to note, the governor's going to be joining us for a special town hall meeting on location.
>> so excited.
>> we're inviting gail. we want this to be the smackdown of the garden state . we'll be right back. jonathan , thanks for joining in.
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