Bill Clinton lauds Chris Christie
June 14th, 2013
07:34 PM ET
5 years ago

Bill Clinton lauds Chris Christie

(CNN) – In a rare bipartisan sit-down, former President Bill Clinton on Friday praised Republican Chris Christie–and his famous fleece–for the New Jersey governor’s continued rebuilding efforts following Superstorm Sandy.

“The enduring image most Americans have of you is standing there in your jacket, grieving with your people, working with them and working with the president,” Clinton said to Christie during an onstage discussion at the Clinton Global Initiative meeting in Chicago.

The former president’s acclaim for Christie adds a new twist to the speculation surrounding Christie’s potential 2016 presidential aspirations and those of Clinton’s wife, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

It’s possible the two could go head-to-head in a few years should they both decide to run and ultimately win their respective party nominations.

Clinton told Bloomberg Television on Friday that he doesn't know what his wife plans to do, "but what it is, I expect to support it." He argued the country's political circles have become too focused on future campaigns.

"Let me make a serious comment. I think it really matters who the president is. I think these elections are important, but I think that only fixating on politics all the time gives us a form of national attention deficit disorder," he said.

Christie and the former president kept the focus on policy Friday night, making no mention-not even a joke-about 2016.

The scene played out as an intriguing dynamic, especially since the governor–who's up for re-election this year–had skipped out on a major conservative gathering in Washington to attend the Chicago event.

Clinton invited Christie to discuss ways the government can better prevent cataclysmic damage from natural disasters.

Sandy, which slammed into the Jersey Shore last October, left the state bruised and shattered with $39 billion in damage. More than 100 people died across several states.

Christie drew sharp criticism from his own party for putting aside politics as he stood side-by-side with President Barack Obama, who was up for re-election in mere days, when the president traveled to New Jersey to survey the destruction.

Despite their political disagreements, Christie and Obama have maintained that relationship, and Christie again openly embraced the president’s visit to the shore last month.

“You got both praise and damnation for ignoring the political differences that you had then - and still have with the president and all of us who are in the other party - to do something that was really important,” Clinton said.

Consistent with Christie’s independent outspokenness - a trait that has lost him favor among many conservatives in the GOP - Christie fervently made the case Friday that government is needed in times of crises.

No matter which party a person subscribes to, he said, everyone turns to government in an emergency.

“No one in my state was arguing to me that Tuesday October 30th, ‘governor, you should privatize the response to this storm from here on out,’” he said. “This is one of those things that, regardless of where you fall on the ideological spectrum, you would agree that this is government’s responsibility.”

In their 40-minute talk, the two exchanged ideas on how to invest now to prevent higher damage costs in the future. And though they kept the conversation serious, the two had a couple of light moments.

“If you could make federal policy just by fiat, how would you-" Clinton said.

“How great would that be?” Christie jokingly interrupted.

“Looks better to me all the time,” Clinton replied, smiling.

When introducing Christie, Clinton began with a story about how he first got to know the governor.

The two used to have seats close to each other at the Big East Men’s Basketball Tournament.

“I remember the first time I plopped down and started talking to him, I thought this was going to wreck this guy's career,” Clinton joked. “Maybe he can get elected in New Jersey but everybody else will say, ‘Oh my God. He's consorting with a leper.’”

“And he never blinked,” Clinton added. “As far as he was concerned, as long as I could talk about basketball it was alright with him.”

Filed under: Bill Clinton • Chris Christie • Hillary Clinton
soundoff (29 Responses)
  1. MaryM

    Christi, just switch parties and be done with it. You have a much better chance of winning as a Democrat than as an old GOP

    June 14, 2013 07:51 pm at 7:51 pm |
  2. Thomas

    Even as Jon Corzine's MF Global was collapsing, a firm that includes former President Bill Clinton in a senior post was raking in huge fees.

    Mr Bill loves money and power

    June 14, 2013 08:23 pm at 8:23 pm |
  3. Sheila

    2 real people – have real agendas . too bad that more people in political office can't be like these 2 true blue guys.

    June 14, 2013 09:22 pm at 9:22 pm |
  4. Larry L

    I don't share many political views with Governor Christie but I admire his willingness to put the party-line aside and make decisions for himself. He doesn't go lock-step with the Tea Party radical infesting what's left of the Republican Party.

    June 14, 2013 10:23 pm at 10:23 pm |
  5. Ron Harper

    Noooo...this is the kiss of death for Christie's political career! He should have plugged his ears and hummed "I can't hear you!"

    June 14, 2013 11:33 pm at 11:33 pm |
  6. barbra k

    What kind of reaction is the Republican faction experiencing since there is sooooo much praise of Mr.Christy by prominent Democrats? Is Mr. Christy really that popular with the Democrats. What would M<r. Boehner have to say about Mr. Christy? Please anyone, give your opinion.

    June 14, 2013 11:50 pm at 11:50 pm |
  7. Brian

    Good for both of them. We need more bi-partisanship.

    June 15, 2013 12:08 am at 12:08 am |
  8. Ron

    So why don't we get an article of substance about the policy issues these two public figures proposed? Instead we get an article that is full of fluff and entertainment.

    June 15, 2013 12:20 am at 12:20 am |
  9. Michael Benjamin

    He is the governor, what he is doing is in his job description.

    June 15, 2013 01:02 am at 1:02 am |
  10. bob

    I am a Democrat, but I like Governor Christie. He puts the good of the people ahead of partisan politics. Wow. What a refreshing concept, desperately needed in Washington. If Governor Christie plays his cards right, he could run for President in 2016 and I think attract enough moderate and even Democratic voters like me, as well as mainstream Republicans too. That should be enough to get him elected!...Worst thing he could do, is play to the Tea Party scum and the racist, ignorant Saran Palin type voters...who are a cancer to this country and do not represent at all the majority of Americans.

    June 15, 2013 01:30 am at 1:30 am |
  11. Gravinaut

    Blatant posturing. This nations' politics are the worst!

    June 15, 2013 01:41 am at 1:41 am |
  12. smdahl

    Grandiose narcissism loves company.

    June 15, 2013 06:27 am at 6:27 am |
  13. Pete/Ark

    Moderation is not dead ... it is an art form that is unpracticed in most political venues.

    June 15, 2013 07:34 am at 7:34 am |
  14. JD

    Texas is doing this right now. They talk about the President all the time and how much they don't want anything from the gov't. They even talk nonsense about wanting to withdraw from the United States, lol. Then when a disaster like West, TX happens over a fertilizer plant that had way too much chemicals and had built right in a neighborhood where people lived blows up, they want the gov't to rebuild the whole town instead of holding the fertilizer plant responsible. The governor who lowered standards to attract business is now blaming the Fed Gov't also for not rebuilding the town itself, only giving more then 7 mil to help citizens rebuild. There is a word for it in the bible, it's called Hypocrisy!

    June 15, 2013 07:56 am at 7:56 am |
  15. Niko

    Civility and mutual respect between rivals, what an odd concept... could it actually work, as in benefit the rivals as well as the people of our great country? Will partisan politicians ever realize that unyielding hardline positions effectively says that we only care about our narrow beliefs and do not care about the others; that disagreement, with well-intentioned discussion, and COMPROMISE can lead to progress? Or are we destined to be mired in a state of inaction and obstructionism??? Stay tuned for next week's episode of "America, the... ???"

    June 15, 2013 08:02 am at 8:02 am |
  16. Annie

    Is Christie about to switch sides like Charlie Christ???????

    June 15, 2013 08:10 am at 8:10 am |
  17. Al

    This is just a photo op, so that in 2016 Hillary can use this for her run for President. Many will say, no, but just watch for it.

    June 15, 2013 08:39 am at 8:39 am |
  18. popseal

    "This is scary like Germany in the 1930s", my mother said while watch an Obama rally in 2008. Now we see Christie and Rubio, joining the McCain ilk of RINOs silent in the face of Obama's scandalous administration. Weak and self serving German politicians became Nazis when they saw 'the hand writing on the socialist wall'. No one seems to be listening to them that point it out. Congress is full of waffles who seem intimidated by Obama's aura (I don't know what else to call it.)

    June 15, 2013 08:48 am at 8:48 am |
  19. Marty

    It's almost too good to be true. Two nationally reknowned political adversaries on the same track.....placing the needs of American citizens ahead of a political party.

    June 15, 2013 08:50 am at 8:50 am |
  20. lgccac

    Why doesn't Christie just go ahead and join the Democratic Socialist Party?

    June 15, 2013 08:52 am at 8:52 am |
  21. Randy, San Francisco

    Handshakes with Presidents Obama and Clinton will only hurt Gov Christie with Tea Partiers and conservative purists. Too bad the only Republican candidate who has any chance of appealing to moderates and independents will be declared a RINO by many in his own party.

    June 15, 2013 09:11 am at 9:11 am |
  22. Bill from Long Island

    Bill Clinton does not know if his wife will run for president. He also did not have sex with that woman, Miss Lewinsky.

    June 15, 2013 09:12 am at 9:12 am |
  23. ed dugan

    I think Hillary against Christie would make a good election. Although I would favor Hillary I would not be devasted if she did not win. I had hopes for Obama but he never quite fit into the leadership role and seemed more interested in making statements then making policy. Both of these people have a good grounding of common sense and, to me, Christie seems the ONLY hope for the Republicans. Any of the others are really lightweights, the Cuban guy from Florida being the lightest.

    June 15, 2013 09:20 am at 9:20 am |
  24. Jerry

    A RINO and a liar, traitor, hypocrite and both Obama butt kissers; what an enlightening combination. Wow we!!!

    June 15, 2013 09:47 am at 9:47 am |
  25. David Icke

    If he has the endorsment of NWO joker like Clinton, there's your sign to stay away!

    June 15, 2013 09:55 am at 9:55 am |
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