New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is in Mexico for a trip being billed as an economic trade mission in the state, but the three-day trip is creating buzz that he’s seriously considering a 2016 presidential bid and is trying to beef up his foreign policy resume. The Republican has taken just one other trip outside the country as governor — to Israel in 2012.
Like Christie, several other potential Republican presidential candidates — many of whom have very little to no foreign policy experience — are trying to increase the number of stamps in their passports as well. After all, whoever wins the nomination will likely take on Hillary Clinton, a former secretary of state who visited 112 countries during her tenure.
In 2008, before he appointed her secretary of state, Clinton skewered then-Sen. Barack Obama on the campaign trail, insisting he didn’t have enough foreign policy experience to lead the country. To counter her, Obama pointed to the years he spent growing up in Indonesia, a trip to Pakistan and his involvement on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
If Clinton does run in 2016, she would almost certainly lob similar criticism at her Republican opponents, some of whom have less foreign policy experience than Obama when he ran for commander-in-chief in 2008. The issue is especially relevant as global crises in Iraq, Ukraine and the Middle East escalate. While all the candidates have weighed in on the recent global turmoil, few have done much in the way of actual policy work. Here’s a look at who’s done what in the way of foreign policy:
Rick Perry — Like Christie, the Texas governor is also increasing his travel. He went to Israel last October and is going to Japan and China this month for a state trade mission. But as the longest serving governor of the Lone Star State, he’s had very little experience abroad. Perry has made no public plans to visit Mexico as tens of thousands of immigrants — many of them children from Central America — have illegally crossed into America from that southern border. He has, however, focused on the need for border security. Perry recently expanded his stance on the issue to include more than just undocumented immigrants. Despite a lack of evidence to prove the point, he argued at the Heritage Foundation late last month that it’s a “very real possibility” that individuals with the extremist group ISIS may have crossed in to the United States at Texas’ southern border.
Bobby Jindal — The Louisiana governor is another Republican receiving criticism for his lack of foreign policy experience. But that hasn’t stopped him from speaking out on foreign affairs in recent months. He has blamed Obama for the ongoing crisis in Ukraine and insisted that, after this week’s second beheading of an American journalist by ISIS, the “Obama Administration does not have a strategy at all. It’s not that we have a flawed foreign policy; we don’t have a foreign policy.” Unlike other governors, however, Jindal does have relevant congressional experience — he served in the House of Representatives when Iraq and national security issues were under the spotlight from 2005 to 2008.
Jeb Bush — Similar to other potential candidates, the former Florida governor has criticized Obama for being too passive in handling foreign affairs. But in his own career, Bush has mostly stuck to state issues and traveled the country delivering speeches on subjects like education and immigration reform. If he runs for president, he’ll also have to deal with the unpopular foreign policy legacy associated with his brother, former President George W. Bush.
Rand Paul — The Kentucky senator and ophthalmologist was recently in Guatemala, where he performed eye surgeries and met with the country’s president, Otto Perez Molina. Paul, who sits on the Foreign Relations Committee, is known for taking more of a non-interventionist foreign policy approach compared to his GOP counterparts. He voted against the Ukraine aid package and called Hillary Clinton a “war hawk” on Meet the Press. Surprisingly, he then told the Associated Press that he wants to “destroy ISIS militarily” and insisted in a Time magazine op-ed on Friday that he is “not an isolationist.”
Ted Cruz — The Texas senator also has very little foreign policy experience, but has been trying to build up his travel résumé. He was in the Ukraine in May — and stopped by Israel, Poland and Estonia to meet leaders on the same trip. He was also in Afghanistan and Israel as part of a GOP delegation last year. Cruz has taken a hawkish stance on ISIS, saying “we ought to bomb them back to the Stone Age” and argued at the Faith and Freedom Coalition conference this summer that U.S. foreign policy is “collapsing” under Obama.
Marco Rubio — The Florida senator has reportedly traveled to 16 countries since 2011, including to Israel, Cuba and Haiti. His foreign policy credentials are limited but the lawmaker is on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and he’s spoken out a lot more on global issues compared the rest of the GOP field. Rubio criticized Obama for avoiding “decisive action” in Syria and said that Obama wasn’t doing enough to punish Russian President Vladimir Putin for his incursion into Ukraine.