Christie knocks candidates for being 'vague' on entitlement reform

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Story highlights

  • The New Jersey governor appeared to single out one candidate in particular: Jeb Bush
  • Christie made a major policy speech earlier this summer listing a series of policy proposals on entitlement reform

Davenport, Iowa (CNN)Chris Christie is positioning himself as the candidate in the race who's offering specific policy proposals, while other candidates, he says, are being "vague."

Holding a town hall event in Davenport, Iowa, on Friday, the New Jersey governor appeared to single out one candidate in particular, though not by name.
"I heard a candidate complain the other day that, you know, 'my positions' -- meaning that candidate's positions -- 'on comments I made about entitlement reform are being misconstrued by the press.' Well, it's much harder to be misconstrued by the press if you're specific," Christie said. "If you continue to speak in generalities, then you're going to have other people interpret what you mean."
    Meanwhile, Christie said, "we've put forward more detail than any other candidate in this race."
    His comments come one day after Jeb Bush argued that he was "taken out of context" when he said Thursday night that entitlement programs like Medicare should be "phased out." He emphasized that he wants to reform such programs and replace them with more sustainable policies, and floated the idea of raising the retirement age.
    But Bush, who says he's planning to outline more policy proposals in the coming weeks, did not go into great detail.
    Asked later Friday if Christie was specifically referring to Bush, the governor said he was talking about "everybody who's not talking about it."
    "Everybody who doesn't talk about this stuff says they're mischaracterized," he continued, talking to reporters after shaking hands and meeting voters at the Davenport Street Fest. "Be specific. Then you won't be mischaracterized."
    For his part, Christie made a major policy speech earlier this summer listing a series of policy proposals on entitlement reform. For one, he'd like to means test Social Security and raise the retirement age for Social Security by two months every year until it hits 69.
    "People don't have to interpret what I mean about Social Security," he said Friday. "It won't be mischaracterized ... the more vague you are because you're trying to have it both ways, the more you're subject to that kind of misinterpretation."
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    He was asked by a voter at the town hall if he would still raise the retirement age for people who work manually intensive jobs and can't work as long. Because of improvements in medicine, Christie argued that even laborers will be able to work for longer periods in their lives.
    "I think that if you give it 25 years, which is what we're giving it, you're going to see advances in medical science ... and pharmaceutical treatments that are going to allow us to even have manual laborers who will be able to work longer, much longer than they're able to work now," he said.
    "Even to 65?" the voter asked
    "Yeah, listen, I think so. I really do. There will always be early retirement available for some people," he said, noting how people can take that now in Social Security.
    Democrats, who zeroed in on Bush's comments about Medicare, were also quick to jump on Christie's comments on Friday.
    The Democratic research group American Bridge blasted out video of Christie's town hall as "proof that Republicans really do believe that the problem isn't income inequality, it's that all those workers just don't put in enough effort."