Political watchers saw a bit of a stumble by New Jersey Governor Chris Christie at a Saturday gathering that included several potential Republican candidates for higher office, as well as Republican mega-donor, casino mogul Sheldon Adelson.
Christie, fresh from a Friday press conference in which he appeared to try and put the “Bridgegate” scandal behind him to focus on a broader political perspective, included in his Las Vegas address at the Republican Jewish Coalition’s annual spring meeting stories of his past trips to Israel. But while the stories may have been well received, Politico reports Christie undermined his own purpose by using an impolitic phrase.
Invoking a 2012 trip he and his family took to Israel, Christie recalled in the speech: “I took a helicopter ride from the occupied territories across and just felt personally how extraordinary that was to understand, the military risk that Israel faces every day.”
New Jersey’s The Record reports that when Christie mentioned “the occupied territories,” “some members of the ardently pro-Israel crowd could be heard grumbling.” The phrase is seen as politically loaded because it can be interpreted as ceding the point that Israel is an outside force in Palestinian territory. Many conservative Zionists, of which Mr. Adelson is reportedly one, do not accept this framing.
Politico reports that shortly after his speech, Christie met personally with Adelson at the billionaire’s office in the Venetian hotel and casino to apologize, and “clarified in the strongest terms possible that his remarks today were not meant to be a statement of policy,” characterizing his use of the term as a mispeaking, and reasserting his committment to Israel.
Adelson reportedly accepted Christie’s explanation, Politico’s source said.
Sheldon Adelson spent at least $93 million dollars on the 2012 election, including $30 million to the Mitt Romney super PAC, Restore Our Future. While Adelson played favorites in 2012, also investing millions in Newt Gingrich’s campaign, his spending for 2016 is expected to be more strategic toward ultimate Republican victory.
Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, and Ohio Governor John Kasich joined New Jersey’s Chris Christie in addressing the Republican Jewish Coalition event.