New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie laid out a hawkish foreign policy vision in a wide-ranging speech on Monday, calling for an expanded military and pushing back against critics of government surveillance programs.
The speech, in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, highlighted one of Christie’s biggest weaknesses as he moves toward an expected presidential run — his lack of foreign policy experience. Christie has touted his career as a U.S. Attorney in New Jersey handling terrorism cases as part of his national security experience, but his foreign policy resume remains one of the thinner in the ever-growing Republican presidential field.
To counteract that deficit of experience, Christie took aim at politicians who talk about American exceptionalism as a “punchline in a speech that makes you feel all warm and fuzzy.”
“But American exceptionalism isn’t a punchline – it’s a set of principles,” he said, according to prepared remarks.
Christie also advocated for active American engagement in global conflicts, declaring that “we have never ignored the crises in the world around us.”
“Because throughout history, leaders in both parties have based our foreign policy on these principles – strength, leadership and partnership with the people and nations who share our values. And it’s served the world and us pretty well,” he said.
And Christie called for Congress to reverse sequestration cuts to the military imposed by the 2011 Budget Control Act, to “give our men and women in uniform the resources they need to get the job done.” He went on to lay out, in hard numbers, increases to the military to improve readiness.
He also took aim at “civil liberties extremists” who seek to rein in government surveillance programs, a veiled jab at Sen. Rand Paul, another GOP presidential contender who’s been an outspoken critic of NSA surveillance.
“Too often, the loudest voices in the debate about how to keep our country safe are driven by some purist, theoretical vision of how we should manage our intelligence efforts,” Christie said.
“When Edward Snowden revealed our intelligence secrets to the world in 2013, civil liberties extremists seized that moment to advance their own narrow agenda.”
He also decried fears over government surveillance he says are created by Hollywood, and declared: “When it comes to fighting terrorism, our government is not the enemy.”
And Christie criticized Obama’s developing nuclear deal with Iran, calling it “flimsy” and raising doubts about the U.S.’s ability to ensure Iran complies with requirements in the deal. He also framed capitulating to Iran as potentially causing a domino effect that could ripple throughout the Middle East: “The deal as structured will lead to a nuclear Iran and, then, a nuclearized Middle East,” Christie said.
Last week’s Camp David snub from Saudi King Salman was an “embarrassment,” according to Christie, and the U.S.’s refusal to confront the threat of a nuclear Iran could cause further ruptures in the Middle East.
“Our allies want policies, not photo ops, and we’re not listening to them. And as we fail to confront Iran’s shadowy nuclear program and undisguised quest for regional power, we raise the likelihood of states taking unilateral actions or seeking extreme solutions,” Christie said.