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Christie defends Obama praise on ‘Daily Show’

  • Written by Kevin Liptak/CNN
  • Published in News

Chris Christie's praise of President Barack Obama following this fall's devastating storm doesn't mean the acerbic New Jerseyite has changed his ways – it just means Obama got it right.

So said Christie in an interview on "The Daily Show" Thursday, in which the Garden State governor said his past criticism of the president wasn't necessarily at odds with his newfound appreciation for Obama's leadership.

Jon Stewart questioned Christie on the sudden shift, joking that before the storm the governor was claiming Obama "couldn't lead his way out of a paper bag with a fistful of 20s."

"And then right after the storm was over you were like, 'This man is a leader,'" the comedian continued. "Doesn't that tell you something about the game?"

Christie countered: "What it tells me is that people have different skill sets at different times."

"I see. So he wasn"t a leader until you needed leadership," Stewart probed.

Christie, in a signature retort, shot back: "Maybe until he was presented with a stark opportunity to lead."

While the storm may have given Obama a "stark opportunity to lead," it also presented Christie with a chance to display both bipartisanship and effectiveness as governor. He said his skyrocketing approval ratings - which stood above 70 percent in some polls taken after the storm – were likely due to his storm response, but that they'd come back down to Earth in the coming weeks.

"Some people believe, or a lot of people believe, that I reacted in a way that they found pleasing in the storm, that I showed leadership. But I also know that all that's temporary. You go way up and then you go back down," Christie said.

And while the Republican governor admitted the storm had "humbled" him in certain ways, he said his sharp tongue wasn't going anywhere.

"I'll be very harsh of people who I think are out of line or stupid," he said by way of defense against Stewart, who questioned whether Christie's confrontational tone hurt his chances of accomplishing important compromises.

"I don't mince words," Christie said, adding that trait didn't make him "non-humble, it makes me honest."

That forthright attitude had Stewart looking ahead: "You and Hillary are going to have a hell of a battle in 2016," he said. "People are so starved. The beautiful thing about the Republican Party now is it's so starved for leadership like that."

Christie glossed right over the mention of a presidential bid – something he considered in the 2012 cycle but ultimately bypassed. He did get one last jab in, however, aimed both at his host and at himself.

"I think it's really unfair that you look at me and say starved at the same time," Christie said.

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