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CNN "Piers Morgan Tonight" - Transcript

Interview

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MORGAN: When it comes to outspoken Republicans, you just can't beat New Jersey Governor Chris Christie. His no holds barred keynote speech stirred up plenty of controversy.

When he sat down with me, he was pointed in his criticism of President Obama.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MORGAN: If you were going to tear down the president, how would you do it?

CHRISTIE: I've done that many times. We were in Aspen last week, and I said, you know, this is a guy who I think the last three and a half was like in a dark room looking for the light switch of leadership. He hasn't found it for three and a half years. He's not going to find it in the next 69 days.

There's a lot to be said about that. But the fact of the matter is that I really believe that case has already been made, Piers. I believe that case has been made against the president. We need -- there's nothing new anyone is going to figure out about the president in the next 69 days. But they need to find out things about our philosophy and how our nominee reflects that philosophy.

That's what we did last night. I work very closely with the Romney campaign. They had my draft and knew what I wanted to say. They didn't change a word of my speech. So I have to assume they're real happy with it.

MORGAN: When it comes to the president, do you think he's an honest man?

CHRISTIE: Yes.

MORGAN: You do?

CHRISTIE: Sure.

MORGAN: You don't think he misleads the American public?

CHRISTIE: Well, listen, I think he misleads people in political commercials. But I don't think that's breaking new ground. I generally think that he's an honest person. I just think he's dead wrong on policy. And I think he's led this country in the wrong direction.

And I also don't think he has the first idea about how to use executive power. But I don't think that means he's generally a dishonest person.

MORGAN: Has he been dead wrong about everything or can you find things to credit him with?

CHRISTIE: I think on certain areas of education policy I agree with him, trying to empower charter schools and choice around the country. I think he's been right on that. Not every bit of his education policy, but some of it.

MORGAN: Foreign policy.

CHRISTIE: Yes, I'm not going to go through like a checklist with you.

MORGAN: One of the allegations is the Romney/Ryan ticket is their lack of foreign policy experience. People are a bit concerned that the Romney/Ryan ticket is lacking in experience there.

CHRISTIE: Listen, I think that President Romney will surround himself with an excellent cabinet, excellent advisers. But also, a lot of foreign policy, in my view, Piers, is the willingness of the president to make tough choices. And I think that, you know, Mitt Romney will make those tough choices. And he will not be confusing folks out there.

He will stand with our friends. And he'll stand against our adversaries. And he'll get people around him. The one great thing about Mitt -- one of the great things about him is that he's not stuck on being the smartest guy in the room. He'll surround himself with extraordinary people to help make his government a success and our country a success.

MORGAN: Given that people have said, you know, why didn't Chris Christie talk more about Mitt Romney, given that's been the criticism -- and clearly you didn't intend that, from what you've told me -- what else would you say about the man. You know him better than many people now.

What are the qualities that maybe we're not aware of?

CHRISTIE: I mean, this is a man with an extraordinarily good heart. I mean, I've watched him interact with my children. You see politicians interact with children, especially ones that don't know the first thing about it. It's an abomination, right? They're patting them on the head like this and not knowing how to deal with them.

I've seen Governor Romney with my children, my eight-year-old and my 11-year-old. And he's incredibly engaging with them and cares about them and makes them feel special when he's with them and wants to pay attention to them.

This is a guy who's an engaged father, an engaged grandfather. That tells you something about his heart. I think that that's not necessarily always come through.

MORGAN: But do you want to see -- do you want to see more of that on his speech tomorrow? Because I interviewed his five sons, for example. One of them said to me, the trouble with dad is he's always a CEO in public. He can't sort of remove that shackle of the corporate existence he had for so long.

And people don't see the real Mitt Romney that they see behind closed doors. Is Thursday the time for him to sort of metaphorically rip open his jacket and say, this is the real Mitt?

CHRISTIE: I hope he does, because if he does, the American people are going to like him and trust him and make him the next president of the United States. I'm convinced of that.

MORGAN: When it comes to trust, this election could come down to the economy and to who believes who most about the future for solving the economy. You have an interesting experience in New Jersey. You've lowered taxes and balanced budgets. Unemployment has risen to the highest level since 1977.

People will say well, look, that's a classic argument against the Republican position. Right? You've lowered taxes. You've balanced the budget, but it's got you nowhere with unemployment.

What do you say to that?

CHRISTIE: First of all, the statistic that it's the highest in 35 years is wrong. It was higher in October, November, December of 2009 than it is now. So it's a bad statistic.

But secondly, what we're doing in New Jersey is lowering the number of people who are working for the government. We're making government smaller. That's part of what we're doing.

That's going to help to unleash the private sector. And you're going to see those numbers go down over the course of time.

BLITZER: Who do you blame, yourself or Barack Obama, for unemployment in New Jersey? CHRISTIE: The fact of the matter is that the national economy has a huge effect on what happens in New Jersey. But also, I just told you, we made a concerted effort to lower the number of public employees. Our government had gotten to big and too bloated and we needed to make it smaller. That's going to have an effect on those numbers, a short-term effect.

But the long-term effect is going to be we're going to take more money out of the government back into the private sector.

Remember this: we've grown 90,000 new private sector jobs since I was elected governor. And in the last 12 months, we're the fourth highest state in America in the creation of new private sector jobs.

So the comeback has begun, Piers. And it's going to take us a while. We're digging out of a heck of a hole. But we're going to get there.

MORGAN: People who heard your speech last night and have been a bit critical have said this was entirely a pitch and a play for him to be president, you.

CHRISTIE: I don't understand that.

MORGAN: Did you have literally no aspirations to be leader of the free world?

CHRISTIE: Listen, since last October, I've traveled to 15 different states for Mitt Romney. I sat and allowed you to harass me in my office for an hour that somehow Mitt Romney was not going to win and Rick Santorum was going to be the nominee. And I steadfastly stood by Mitt Romney because I believe he would be the nominee and I turned out to be right, because I think he's the best person to be president of the United States.

So anybody who reads that into it just hasn't watched what I've been doing for the last year, which is been working as hard as any outsider for Mitt Romney and for his election as president. I'm proud to have done it.

MORGAN: Governor, thank you for talking to me. I think you've made a few things very clear.

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