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Christie’s inaugural address will strike inclusive, compassionate tone

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, a Republican Party star enmeshed in scandal after reelection in November, was sworn in Tuesday for a second term in the state capital of Trenton. (Reuters)

TRENTON, N.J. – Embattled New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who is under intense scrutiny for some of his advisers’ hardball political tactics, will strike an inclusive tone in his inaugural address here on Tuesday.

In excerpts released by his office, Christie does not mention the burgeoning scandal over a days-long traffic jam last year that has ensnared several of his top aides and appointees. Instead, he focuses heavily on bipartisanship and compassion.

“We have to be willing to play outside the red and blue boxes the media and pundits put us in,” Christie will say. “We have to be willing to reach out to others,” including a “neighbor suffering from drug addiction, depression, or the dignity-stripping loss of a job.”

For Christie, the speech marks a return to the centrist themes that catapulted him to reelection last year, as well as an attempt to draw attention to anything but the traffic episode.

Gone is the brash talk that Christie has often employed during press conferences and interviews. What’s left is a subdued and filed-down text that celebrates “listening” and “compromise.”

“This election has taught us that the ways we divide each other — by race, by class, by ethnicity, by wealth, by political party — is neither permanent nor necessary,” he will say. “Our dreams are the same: A good job, a great education for our children, safe streets in our neighborhood and core values which give our lives real meaning.”

In particular, Christie will tout his work on immigration reform and education as evidence of his cross-party appeal.

“We will fight to continue to change government so that we value our differences and honor the strength of our diversity,” he will say. “We cannot fall victim to the attitude of Washington, D.C. The attitude that says, 'I am always right and you are always wrong.' … As we saw in December regarding the DREAM Act, we can put the future of our state ahead of the partisans who would rather demonize than compromise.”

But Christie, a 2016 Republican presidential hopeful, won’t spend the entire speech making overtures to Democrats and independents. Elements of conservatism will still fleck the softer-than-usual rhetoric — they just will not be at the core of his inaugural message.

“We should make sure that government pursues policies that believe in the effort, talent and optimism of New Jerseyans, not in the power of almighty government to fix any problem, real or imagined,” he will say.

“I do not believe that New Jerseyans want a bigger, more expensive government that penalizes success and then gives the pittance left to a few in the name of income equity,” he will add. "What New Jerseyans want is an unfettered opportunity to succeed in the way they define success. They want an equal chance at the starting.”

After he is sworn in for a second term, Christie will deliver the speech at the War Memorial building near the state capitol. Earlier in the day, he will attend a service at the New Hope Baptist Church in Newark. In the evening, he will host an inaugural party at Ellis Island.

Robert Costa is a national political reporter at The Washington Post.

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