New Jersey Gov. Christie accused President Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton of squandering “70 years of blood and treasure” to keep Europe united and free with a timid stance against Russian President Vladimir Putin’s expansionist policies.
“This president and his former secretary of state hit their reset button, they’re giving it away,” Christie told a few hundred delegates at the Georgia GOP convention. “They’re giving it away through weakness and timidity and mixed signals. See I think we make our national defense stronger not to wage war, but to avoid war.”
Christie also warned that the Islamic State, now waging war in Syria and Iraq, could “very soon come to a theater near us” if the U.S. doesn’t take a more aggressive stance toward the militant group.
He called for entitlement reform and depicted himself as the rare politician able to govern by consensus with Democrats while sticking up for conservative values.
“In a state like mine, I don’t have the luxury of having a Republican Legislature,” he said. “You don’t have the option to stand in the corner, hold your breath and wait for the world to turn. You’ve got to make the world turn.”
Christie is one of three potential GOP White House contenders making a play for the hearts and minds of Georgia Republican voters at this weekend’s state party convention. Sens. Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio are set to speak later Friday.
Christie hasn’t yet announced a run for president, though his allies are staking his claim on support in New Hampshire’s first-in-the-nation primary. Yet he’s dogged by questions about aides accused of shutting down lanes near a busy bridge to punish a mayor who wouldn’t back his re-election bid.
His appearance Friday sounded like a preview of his stump speech and he focused on perhaps his biggest weakness: A lack of foreign policy experience. He said the next president should send a “direct and clear signal” to adversaries about the world order.
“If you’re in one of the Baltic states, everybody, you’ve got to be wondering this morning: Is my membership in NATO a full membership or a junior membership. And if Russia comes at us, is America going to lead NATO, as we’re required to by treaty, to protect us? We shouldn’t have to make that choice. Our defenses should be strong enough, our foreign policy should be truthful and clear enough that Mr. Putin has no question in his mind what would happen if he were to go further into Eastern Europe.
“We have spent 70 years of blood and treasure to having a united and freed Europe from first Nazi domination then Soviet domination. And this president and his former secretary of state hit their reset button, they’re giving it away. They’re giving it away through weakness and timidity and mixed signals. See I think we make our national defense stronger not to wage war, but to avoid war.”
Throughout his remarks, he touted his no-nonsense mentality as one of his biggest strengths on the world stage.
“People say a lot of things about me, both good and bad. But what they’ll never say is this: ‘I wonder what Chris Christie is thinking?’ he said to laughter from the audience. “It seems to me that that might be good for what ails us.”