Chris Christie scolded Republican governors who are blocking municipalities and school boards from implementing mask and vaccine mandates, saying their heavy-handed control of local coronavirus mitigation efforts violates the tenets of conservatism.
“I don’t think governors should be telling the locals they can’t do it. A real conservative, I think, says, ‘Government is best that works at the level closest to the people,’ the former two-term New Jersey governor and Republican 2024 contender said during a virtual appearance at the annual Texas Tribune Festival.
“On these things, as a governor, I wouldn’t do it,” Christie explained. “But what I would have said to my locals is, you all decide. You make the decision based upon the statistics and the conditions in your town and what the people in your community want. And I think they’re much better to make those decisions much closer to them than a governor or president.”
Christie opposes President Joe Biden’s federal vaccine mandate and frowns upon the kind of broad, statewide mask and vaccine decrees used by many Democratic governors — and a few Republicans, too. But Christie believes city and county governments and public schools should retain authority over certain regulations aimed at arresting the pandemic, especially requirements to wear face masks. Some prominent Republican governors, some who Christie could find himself running against in the 2024 presidential primary, vehemently disagree.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis are forbidding communities and other municipal authorities in their states from issuing mask and vaccine directives. Abbott and DeSantis have taken this approach even though Republicans typically support the concept of local control and, historically, have been philosophically opposed to chief executives meddling in local decision-making. Christie basically said they are acting like big-government Democrats, although he did not criticize Abbott and DeSantis by name.
“Well, look, as a conservative, I think the government is supposed to [base] those decisions … closest to the local level as they possibly can,” Christie said, “recognizing what the conditions are on the ground that each individual town, each individual county in this country” are dealing with.
Christie, 59, left the governor’s mansion nearly four years ago. He sought the Republican presidential nomination in 2016 but ended his campaign after a disappointing finish in the New Hampshire primary. Soon after, Christie endorsed Donald Trump and went on to be an informal adviser to the former president throughout his term in office. Christie, who recently signed on to aid GOP redistricting efforts, is mulling a second run for the White House in 2024.
The former governor, who contracted COVID-19 last year, emerged from that experience a big believer in masks and social distancing and is an outspoken proponent of the vaccine. But during his Texas Tribune Festival conversation, Christie was sharply critical of Biden and other Democrats who have tried to force people to wear masks and get the vaccine, saying federal and statewide mandates are bad policy, counterproductive, and could face constitutional challenges.
“I’m against federal mandates. I think that the president on this one, President Biden, is wrong. He’s on very shaky legal ground,” Christie said. “I don’t think they have the authority to do it, based on my reading of the statute.” Biden’s plan calls for the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to force companies with 100 or more workers to mandate their employees get vaccinated or submit to regular testing.
“Secondly, I think it’s the bad move politically,” he added. “Because I think it’s going to harden opposition among those who have not taken the vaccine yet, by saying we’re not going to let the government force us to do this, and certainly not the federal government.”
“On vaccines, I think we have to persuade people to take it,” Christie continued. “And I think we’ve done a poor job of persuading them, and I think it goes all the way back to [Vice President] Kamala Harris, in September of 2020 saying, she would not take any vaccine that was developed and approved by the Trump” Food and Drug Administration.
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Original Author: David M. Drucker