Christie on foreign policy: “Uncomfortable to watch”

     New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, accompanied by his son Andrew, (left), talks with Puebla Gov. Rafael Moreno Valle, (center right), during breakfast at the governor's residence in Puebla, Mexico, Friday, Sept. 5, 2014. (Rebecca Blackwell/AP Photo)

    New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, accompanied by his son Andrew, (left), talks with Puebla Gov. Rafael Moreno Valle, (center right), during breakfast at the governor's residence in Puebla, Mexico, Friday, Sept. 5, 2014. (Rebecca Blackwell/AP Photo)

    Chris Christie, ’16 White House wannabee, has been touring Mexico this week in an attempt to prove that he has foreign policy chops. It’s all about the optics, of course.

    And in truth, he’s not chopworthy at all. In fact, as evidenced by a news report this week, Christie apparently doesn’t know squat.

    He’s our home boy, so we gotta pay attention. Let’s read the opening paragraphs:

    A few days after Russian forces invaded Crimea, (Christie) was asked at a confidential meeting of Republican activists how he would have handled the situation differently from President Obama.

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    It was not, according to several of those in attendance, a tough or unexpected inquiry. But Mr. Christie, usually known for his oratorical sure-footedness, offered a wobbly reply, displaying little grasp of the facts and claiming that if he were in charge, Vladimir V. Putin, the Russian president, would know better than to mess with him.

    According to an audio recording of the event, he said Mr. Putin had taken the measure of Mr. Obama. “I don’t believe, given who I am, that he would make the same judgment,” Mr. Christie said. “Let’s leave it at that.”

    One attendee described Mr. Christie’s answer as disturbingly heavy on swagger and light on substance. Another called it “uncomfortable to watch.”

    So Christie seemed “disturbingly heavy on swagger and light on substance.” Hmmm….OK, pop quiz: Who does that sound like?

    Pop answer: Sounds eerily like the swaggering, substance-lite president who invaded the wrong country after 9/11, for specious reasons ginned up by his purported wisepersons, and who thus sowed the regional whirlwind that plagues us still.

    It may sound glib to suggest parallels between Christie and Bush. But it just so happens that Christie’s head is being fed these days by many of the same people – Condolleezza Rice and Robert Zoellick, among others – who made Bush’s global stewardship such a roaring success. Bush knew little about the world back when he was governor, so he crammed like crazy in tutorials conducted by Republican hawks; Christie is taking the same route. Bush repeatedly went to Mexico as a two-fer (to prove that he knew something about a foreign country, and to impress Hispanic voters back home); Christie, the same deal.

    And the hawks’ work is already paying off. It took awhile, though. In a 2011 speech at the Reagan Library, Christie sounded skeptical about exporting democracy around the world (the neoconservative dream that crashed and burned in Iraq); in Christie’s words three years ago, “We cannot force others to adopt our principles…we cannot have forced makeovers of other societies in our image.” But in a speech four months ago, he was full of neocon brio. He hailed America as “the strongest moral power for what is good and what is right in the world,” and insisted that “liberty and freedom” should be “pushed forward in places where people merely dream of it.”

    Bush’s puppeteers are deftly jerking his strings, but swagger isn’t synonymous with coherence. In his recent talk with Republican activists (as reported in The Times story), he said that, unlike President Obama, he would never have drawn a “red line” with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad – “but if you do, you better finish the job.” Try to parse that one. The “red line” he never would’ve drawn should’ve been enforced anyway? You gotta “finish the job” even if it’s a job you shouldn’t start?

    The American Conservative magazine, which is skeptical about neocons, said it well this week: Republicans like Christie “don’t put much effort into educating themselves on these issues, and so they have to resort to swagger and demagogic rhetoric to demonstrate ‘toughness,’ because otherwise they have nothing to say. Since there is no degree of ignorance about foreign policy that won’t be tolerated by hawkish candidates – see Romney, Mitt – Republican hawkish politicians have no incentive to learn more than the standard talking points.”

    Bottom line: Obama is getting tons of grief these days for his handling of world crises, but Republicans have no fresh ideas of their own. Filling Christie’s head with failed neocon fantasies is not sufficient. If the GOP really aspires to go toe to toe with Hillary Clinton on foreign policy, it needs to do better than Bushesque bluster.


    Meanwhile, the Senate race in Kansas keeps getting better. I will now try to summarize the latest dish:

    Late yesterday, Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach (a Republican who serves on Senator Pat Roberts’ honorary campaign committee) said that Roberts’ anemic Democratic challenger, Chad Taylor, has to stay on the November ballot, which is what Republicans dearly want, because they need Taylor to split the anti-incumbent vote with surging independent businessman Greg Orman, because Roberts is so disliked that the national GOP fears he might otherwise lose and thus imperil GOP dreams of capturing the Senate, but the weird thing is that Taylor doesn’t want to be on the ballot anymore, and intends to fight Kobach in court to have his name removed, insisting that he followed correct procedure in accordance with advice from Kobach’s office, but Kobach says the pertinent law doesn’t allow Taylor to withdraw for the sketchy reasons Taylor stated (Kobach may be right), and it probably doesn’t matter if Taylor is on the ballot or not because he’s not campaigning anymore, and that could help Orman beat Roberts by garnering the sizable anti-incumbent vote, which is why Republicans are freaked enough to be sending Washington operatives into Kansas to save Roberts’ butt.

    Or something like that.


    Yesterday, a federal appeals court unanimously threw out the gay marriage bans in Wisconsin and Indiana – the trend continues – and a Reagan appointee, Richard Posner, wrote the opinion, mocking the inequality activists who somehow keep insisting that gay marrieds will ruin the heterosexual institution of marriage. Posner dismissed their argument as “totally implausible…so full of holes that it cannot be taken seriously.”

    Thing is, heterosexuals are perfectly capable of messing with the marital bond all by themselves. Look no further than America’s fun couple, Bob and Maureen McDonnell, who were found guilty yesterday of conspiring to sell Bob’s gubernatorial office to a vitamin huckster.

    Bob had gone with a crazy-wife defense, claiming it was all Maureen’s fault that he wore the huckster’s gift Rolex, drove the huckster’s Masarati, golfed at swank clubs on the huckster’s dime, and opened Virginia government doors for the huckster’s products. The jury (7 men, 5 women) didn’t buy Bob’s bid to throw Maureen below the bus.

    And after the verdict was read – 11 guilty counts for him, 9 for her – Bob and Maureen departed in separate cars, en route to their separate lives. Gay marriage didn’t make them do it.



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