Gov. Chris Christie wrote a letter to President Obama yesterday, noting that a couple of months ago, a young man in New Jersey “pled guilty to charges of conspiring to provide material support and resources to ISIS.” The Republican governor added that the man plotted with three other men. Therefore, Christie said, the White House should halt plans “to accept more Syrian refugees” into the United States.
Even for him, this was genuinely bizarre. The New Jersey man Christie referenced wasn’t a Syrian refugee. Neither was anyone else involved in the plot. In the post-9/11 era, not a single Syrian refugee has ever been charged in the United States with having anything to do with terrorism, making Christie’s argument a rather comical example of a non-sequitur.
In fact, the incident the governor mentioned didn’t stop Christie from recently supporting a policy welcoming Syrian refugees.
But that was before the political winds changed – and before the governor started talking about his fear of orphan toddlers. The Washington Post’s Dan Drezner, a center-right observer, called Christie out yesterday for his “abject failure of leadership.”
There’s a word for someone who reacts to seemingly scary situations by getting even more frightened. I believe that word is “wimp.” Which means that, based on his rhetoric, Christie might be a presidential contender also-ran, but he is a major league wimp.
Drezner’s point is more than fair, though part of me wonders if something even more alarming is happening here.
It’s hardly a secret that Christie’s presidential campaign has struggled in recent months – he was recently demoted from a prime-time debate to the kids’ table – and the candidate has no doubt been looking for a way to get ahead in a crowded field.
What I’m concerned about is that Team Christie has settled on as a strategy. When the governor isn’t making incoherent arguments against refugees fleeing from ISIS, he’s also taking aim at Black Lives Matter.
Chris Christie made clear that he’s not backing down from his presidential bid, nor from his position on the Black Lives Matter movement, while in Iowa this weekend.According to Time political reporter Zeke Miller, Christie said during a speech to Republicans in the Hawkeye State Saturday that “many” in the movement “advocate for the murder of police officers.”
For the record, the idea that “many” BLM activists “advocate” murdering police officers is bonkers.
Soon after, the governor said he would refuse to even consider meeting with Black Lives Matter activists. A day later, Christie blamed President Obama for racially charged controversies at the University of Missouri and elsewhere.
And now this week, Christie is eager to boast about his hostility for Syrian refugees, whom he opposes for reasons he can’t seem to explain.
There seems to be a common thread tying these campaign tactics, and it’s not pretty.
Put it this way: four years ago, the Garden State governor nominated a Muslim to serve on a state court, prompting right-wing activists to complain, inside New Jersey and out. Christie dismissed them at the time, saying in reference to his conservative critics, “I’m tired of dealing with the crazies.”
Does anyone, anywhere, think Chris Christie would say anything like this now? Or is it more likely the governor sees a strategic upside to pursuing divisiveness as a path to the Republican nomination?