Mixing tough talk and emotion, Gov. Chris Christie focused on national security in appealing for support from a Republican Jewish audience in Washington, DC, on Dec. 3.
Christie called for the “a strong, a resolute America” in his address before members of the Republican Jewish Coalition, in a sequential forum that included 13 candidates seeking the Republican presidential nomination.
“The fact is America today is weaker and less prepared to protect its people than we were seven years ago,” Christie said. “I’d like to blame it all on Barack Obama, but we’ve had Republicans who sit on the stage today and say they are for a strong America yet voted last summer in Congress to weaken America” by softening the Patriot Act.
“For the first time since 9/11, I think we are going to have to confront the loss of American life on American soil to terrorist guns,” he told his audience.
Each candidate at the forum was given a half-hour before an audience of RJC contributors as well as thousands more watching on a live stream. The event took place the day after a shooting in San Bernardino, Calif., left 14 people dead and 21 injured.
Christie said that from first reports of the shooting he “was convinced it was a terrorist attack, and the president continues to wring his hands and say, ‘We’ll see.’”
“If a center for the developmentally disabled in San Bernardino, Calif., can be a target for a terrorist attack, then every place in America is a target for a terrorist attack. We need to come to grips with the idea that we are in the midst of the next world war,” said Christie.
Christie also invoked his experience as United States attorney, saying he assumed the office on Sept. 10, 2001, and recalling in emotional detail how his wife, Mary Pat, worked at an office two blocks from the World Trade Center.
“Unlike other candidates, these terrorist attacks are not theoretical to me,” he said. “What I’m worried about now is that as a nation we’ve become complacent and soft, and I’m willing to do the difficult things that need to be done that the president of the United States must do as he takes his hand off that Bible to protect the security of the American people, and that is exactly what I’ll do when I take my hand off that Bible.”
Christie’s struggling presidential campaign got a boost last month when he earned the endorsement of the influential New Hampshire Union Leader. The endorsement singled out his positions on national security, saying he “prosecuted terrorists and dealt admirably with major disasters.”
Christie also spoke of his visit to Israel in April 2012. Christie said he told Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during that visit that “if I ever do get the chance to be president of the United States, Israel will never have a better friend than me because there is no better friend around the world than Israel.”
Asked by RJC executive director Matt Brooks about “the debate in our party right now about the balance between civil liberties and protecting our homeland,” Christie declared it to be “a false debate.”
“The idea that anything going on during the eight years of the Bush administration was either illegal or extra-constitutional is absolutely false,” he said.
He said some in Congress “would have you believe we were reading your e-mails or listening to phone calls with your wife.” But in reality, he said, federal prosecutors were required to seek federal judges’ permission to perform more invasive surveillance.
“Terrorists don’t wear sandwich boards saying, ‘I’m a terrorist and I’m plotting to kill Americans,’” said Christie. “The way you find out is the use of that data.”