WNYC's Bob Hennelly is an award-winning investigative journalist. While at WNYC he has reported on a wide gamut of major public policy questions ranging from immigration and homeland security to power outages and utility mergers.
New Jersey Governor Chris Christie blasted both President Barack Obama and incoming Republican House members for what he said was failing to lead the country courageously when its fiscal future remains mired in debt during a speech before the American Enterprise Institute on Wednesday.
Christie chided the country's federal political leadership of both parties for indulging in a cynical political "bumper-pool" where neither was willing to risk any political capital by taking head-on the "big things" raised by the President's Debt Commission like increasing the nation's retirement age to insure the long term sustainability of social security.
He said the bi-partisan dereliction was both "irresponsible and dangerous" as the nation tettered on the edge of economic ruin.
"What this has become, I read, is a strategy," Christie told the AEI audience. "The president's not talking about it because he is waiting for the Republicans to talk about it. And our new, bold Republicans that we just sent to the House of Representatives, they are not talking about it because they are waiting for him to talk about it."
Christie insisted that in the midst of the current national crisis the real leadership was coming from the nation's governors irrespective of party who were more grounded in the ominous reality of the moment.
He praised Democratic New York Governor Andrew Cuomo -- whom he described as the son of a "liberal icon" -- for making the tough choices on public pensions and spending while refusing to raise taxes as a remedy. He challenged the audience to find any daylight between Christie's first year and Cuomo's first months in office.
"We need to say these things and we need to say them out loud," Christie said. "What's the truth nobody is talking about? You are going to have to raise the retirement age for Social Security. Whoa. I just said it, and I am still standing. I did not vaporize into the carpeting. I said it."
Christie said that all of the nation's governors were facing a version of the federal entitlement program challenge in dealing with finding a way to deliver on the pension and health care commitments made to millions of the nation's public work force in more halcyon days.
"We have to reform Medicare because it is costing too much and it is going to bankrupt us. Once again, lightening did not come through the windows and strike me dead," Christie said as the audience laughed. "And we have to fix Medicaid because it is not only bankrupting the Federal government but every state government."
He said Obama had missed a critical opportunity in his State of the Union Address to build on the momentum Christie said he had after his memorial speech in Arizona during the aftermath of the deadly shootings that injured Rep. Gabrielle Giffords.
"I was very hopeful for the State of the Union address because I thought the president's speech in Arizona was great," he said.
But Christie said he expected Obama to use some of the findings of his own bipartisan Debt Commission that called for raising the age for Social Security eligibility to rally the nation. That, said Christie, "would have cemented his re-election."
"He says the big things are high-speed rail." Christie said. "The big things are high-speed Internet access, a million electric cars. Ladies and gentleman, that is the candy of American politcs. Those are not the big things."