When it comes to New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s (R) foreign policy, one of the first anecdotes that comes to mind unfolded last fall, soon after Russian forces entered Crimea. The Republican governor was asked for his thoughts, and as regular readers may recall, it’s didn’t go well.
The New York Times reported at the time that the governor, “usually known for his oratorical sure-footedness, offered a wobbly reply, displaying little grasp of the facts.” One of the Republican activists in the room described Christie’s response as “disturbingly heavy on swagger and light on substance.” Another called it “uncomfortable to watch.”
The New Jersey governor’s pitch, in effect, was that Vladimir Putin wouldn’t take such provocative steps if Christie were president because the Russian leader would be so intimidated by the Republican’s bluster. “I don’t believe, given who I am, that he would make the same judgment,” Christie said.
Nine months later, the GOP governor still seems to think bluster can and should be the basis for a foreign policy. The Associated Press reported overnight on a Christie campaign event in New Hampshire.
Christie … mocked President Barack Obama for calling the U.S. the most respected country on Earth last week and called for a tougher stance against China’s activity in the South China Sea, where it claims control and is building islands.Christie called for a “military approach” to China’s advances to “let them know there are limits to what they’re allowed to do.”
According to the AP report, Christie told voters, “That is an issue that we can handle militarily by going out there and making sure that we show them that we don’t respect their claims to these artificial islands in the South China Sea that they’re building that they’re saying are theirs that are hundreds and hundreds of miles from the coast of China and are clearly in international waters.”
He added that the United States, apparently through use of military resources, needs to send China a “signal” that “we do not acknowledge nor will we respect their claims to those areas.”
To be sure, developments in the South China Sea have become a flashpoint for controversy, and the tensions show no sign of easing anytime soon. Indeed, the AP report noted that Defense Secretary Ash Carter “recently said the U.S. would continue to enforce freedom of navigation in what it considers international waters.”
It’s going to take some careful diplomatic work from steady hands to address a problem like this. So when bluster-loving Christie says he’s interested in a “tougher” approach, to be handled “militarily,” it’s a little unsettling.
As for Christie mocking President Obama for describing the United States as the most respected country in the world, the AP’s report was a paraphrase, but I’d be interested in knowing exactly what the governor complained about. In reality, under Obama, America’s global standing and reputation has improved dramatically, especially after our global credibility faltered throughout the Bush/Cheney era.
Exactly which country does Christie see as more respected than ours? Since when do Republicans mock the president for boasting about U.S. international leadership?