TAMPA–“I want to talk to you about love,” Ann Romney began her well-received talk at last night’s session of the Republican National Convention.
But if the wife of GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney gave the audience a warm, wet kiss, keynote speaker New Jersey Governor Chris Christie followed with a bucket of ice on the delegates’ heads, telling them things they undoubtedly didn’t want to hear.
“I believe we have become paralyzed by our desire to be loved,” he declared.
Then, invoking his late, tough-as-nails Sicilian mother, he intoned: “Tonight we will choose respect over love.”
It was the beginning of a strangely off-message address for someone who had been given a prime speaking slot—very jarring with Mrs. Romney’s moving speech and out of sync with the day’s slogan, “we built it.”
Christie also gave short shrift to the Romney-Ryan ticket, which he first mentioned two-thirds of the way into his speech. Strangely, he didn’t criticize President Obama by name.
But repeatedly citing his New Jersey experience, Christie spoke a lot about telling “the hard truths.” Although he spent most of his time attacking Democrats, his message appeared to be aimed at the assembled Republicans as well:
Our leaders today have decided it is more important to be popular, to do what is easy and say “yes,” rather than to say no when “no” is what’s required…It’s been easy for our leaders to say not us, and not now, in taking on the tough issues. And we’ve stood silently by and let them get away with it.
We are demanding that our leaders stop tearing each other down, and work together to take action on the big things facing America.
Sounds like a criticism of both parties, no? Especially when you consider that he used the word “bipartisan” three times and “compromise” at least twice in his address, as in this statement:
We believe it’s possible to forge bipartisan compromise and stand up for conservative principles.
That’s quite a statement to an audience heavily populated by uncompromising Tea Partiers or sympathizers, who gave big ovations to Tea Party heroes Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and Texas Senate candidate Ted Cruz.
Several commentators said Christie was laying the groundwork for his own 2016 presidential run (he reportedly refused to be considered for vice president because he thought Romney would lose).
Maybe so, but he also appears to be nudging his party in a different, more productive direction—if they’ll listen.