After Paris, Christie pivots to national security focus

Story highlights

  • New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie has refocused his campaign on issues of terrorism and national security
  • The pugnacious former prosecutor has been swinging away at President Barack Obama ad Democrats

Washington (CNN)New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie talked up his national security credentials while keeping up his hits on President Barack Obama's foreign policy in a speech before the Council on Foreign Relations on Tuesday.

Christie has refocused his campaign in the wake of the Paris attacks as the 2016 race has lately centered on terrorism and national security, all of which have played to Christie's background as a prosecutor in the New York area.
To make his point, he retold his intensely personal tale of trying to find his wife, who was at work in lower Manhattan when the planes hit on September 11, 2001. He wrapped up by arguing Obama and others have forgotten the lessons of 9/11.
    "I fear that this administration and many parts of this country have forgotten. I can't forget because terrorism is not theoretical to me," Christie said.
    The New Jersey governor has long highlighted his background -- and personal connection to 9/11 -- on the campaign trail.
    In September, Christie recounted how he received the call from then-President George W. Bush that he would be tapped to be New Jersey's federal prosecutor just a day before the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. Talking on "Fox and Friends," Christie recounted looking for his wife, who was working in lower Manhattan when the planes hit.
    "When she got off that ferry, she was walking down the street and she was wrapped in a blanket and soaking wet -- anybody who had been in lower Manhattan, they were hosed off by firehoses. They were covered with dust," Christie said. "That's the first sight of my wife after having left her that morning. I just grabbed her, hugged her, got her in the car and got her home."
    And Christie's speech Tuesday is the latest in a series of statements he's made about the Paris terror attacks.
    The former federal prosecutor's comment that he wouldn't even accept 5-year-old Syrian orphans drew an attack from Obama last week, saying Republicans are afraid of women and children. But Christie quickly struck back.
    "The President's the person who created this entire situation," Christie told CNN's Jake Tapper last week on "The Lead." "He didn't keep his word when he drew a red line in Syria. He allowed the situation in Syria to happen. He hasn't set up a no-fly zone that could create a safe haven for these refugees to live safely in their own country, rather than having to scatter all across the world. And he's the one who's casting aspersions? It's a joke. And he's a joke on this issue."
    The same day Christie, in blunt New Jersey style, jammed Kerry for saying there was a "rationale" for terrorist attacks on Charlie Hebdo.
    "He needs to get some sleep and shut up," Christie said.
    Christie also weighed in Monday on Donald Trump's claims that there were "thousands" of Muslims cheering in New Jersey on 9/11.
    Christie was noncommittal on whether it happened, but said he didn't recall anything of the sort.
    "I do not remember that, and so it's not something that was part of my recollection. I think if it had happened, I would remember it, but, you know, there could be things I forget, too," Christie told NJ.com.
    Democratic Party spokeswoman Kaylie Hanson said Christie has "plenty of bluster" but no "serious idea" for how to handle foreign policy. She then tied Christie to Trump for not shooting down Trump's 9/11 comments.
    "Even more damning is the refusal of Christie and his cohorts to stand up to outrageous comments from the likes of Donald Trump. Christie and his fellow Republicans have sat idly by as Trump's offensive rhetoric have defined their candidacies and the Republican brand itself," Hanson said in a statement circulated shortly before Christie's talk Tuesday.
    Despite the attention Christie has garnered from national media and Democrats, it has yet to translate into support in the polls.
    The most recent Fox News poll, conducted last week, found Christie at 3% support nationwide, and a Boston Globe/Suffolk University survey of New Hampshire Republicans conducted Nov. 17-19 found him still trailing the field with 4%.