Days after returning from Israel, Republican presidential candidate Chris Christie praised President Joe Biden and blasted his fellow GOP contenders for failing to travel to the region following the Oct. 7 attack by Hamas.
“I went because I think it’s an urgent problem,” Christie said, “and I also think if you’re running for president, you have to show that moral clarity to the rest of the world.’’ He accused front-runner Donald Trump and the rest of the Republican field of “a fundamental lack of intellectual curiosity.’’
The former New Jersey governor’s comments came during a foreign policy address Wednesday at the Hudson Institute, a Washington-based conservative think tank.
Here are five takeaways from Christie’s speech:
On his trip to Israel
Christie visited Israel last week to view the damage wrought by Hamas. He toured kibbutzim and heard brutal stories of torture and murder. He watched videos recorded by both Hamas militants and the victims themselves that depicted the horror.
Christie said he was especially struck by the glee with which the attackers completed their grim task. “It’s not just the inhumanity,’’ he said. “But what I saw there was the joy that Hamas brought in visiting it’s inhumanity on every one of its victims.”
On Biden’s response
While criticizing him on other foreign policy matters, including Afghanistan, Christie praised Biden for traveling to Israel in mid-October, calling it “an enormous display of leadership.” He said it reminded him of former British Prime Minister Tony Blair’s trip to the U.S. in the days after the Sept. 11 attacks.
On other Republican candidates
Christie criticized Trump, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley for failing to address the dangers of the world and leaving the U.S. at risk. He denounced DeSantis for threatening to shoot migrants at the border and blasted Haley for calling on Israel to “finish” Hamas without providing any details. As for Trump, Christie slammed him for calling his domestic political opponents “vermin” — “language that…is equated with the worst of Nazi Germany.”
On rising antisemitism
Christie said he’s troubled by the climate on some college campuses. “In my view, the president of Harvard should be fired today, the president of Penn fired today… the president of Cornell fired, today,’’ he said. “This is not about freedom of speech, this is about rank incompetence. If Jewish students at Cornell…are afraid to go to the dining hall, and you somehow cloak that in free speech…it’s outrageous and I think an American president has to speak against that.”
On the presidential race
New Hampshire, where Christie has focused his efforts, announced on Wednesday it would hold its primary on Jan. 23, a little more than two months from now. Christie’s running fourth there, with less than 9 percent support, according to FiveThirtyEight.com’s polling average. Yet he remains in the race, and told the Hudson Institute audience he has qualified to compete in the fourth GOP presidential debate next month.
Christie continued to press his theme that he’s the only grown-up in the Republican field. “The time for fun and games, for TV tough guys, for entertainers on the stage, is over,’’ he said. “[It is] time for the serious men and women in this country to stop worrying and whispering and start to stand up…that’s why I’m running.’’