Chris Christie’s Second Wind

Long before the ISIS strike on Paris, he was making the hard arguments on terror.

Think of Chris Christie as one of 14 Republicans vying for the presidential nomination and the odds appear insurmountable. But think of him as a defensive lineman with a talent for stripping the ball from an opposing quarterback and the race now becomes far more interesting.
Back in the October CNBC debate, the quarterback was Jeb Bush, who fumbled when asked whether the feds should regulate fantasy football. Mr. Christie gave the answer Mr. Bush should have: “Fantasy football? We have ISIS and al Qaeda attacking us and we’re talking about fantasy football?”
Cue to Paris, where world leaders are meeting this week to discuss . . . climate change. This time the hapless quarterback is President Obama, who declares the conference a show of “resolve” against Islamic State terrorists.
“This is the president once again living in his fantasy world rather than the world as it actually is,” says Mr. Christie, calling in from the campaign trail in New Hampshire. “He really believes that folks are worried about climate change when what they really care about now is the Islamic State and Syria and terrorism.”
It’s too early to say primary voters are responding. Even in New Hampshire, where he’s concentrating his campaign, the RealClearPolitics poll average puts the New Jersey governor’s support at 5.3%.
But the terrorist attack in Paris is reordering priorities. According to a recent Suffolk University/Boston Globe survey of New Hampshire Republicans, 42% now rank terrorism and national security as their top concern, replacing jobs and the economy. This plays to the strengths of a former U.S. prosecutor who knows what a FISA court is and has used the Patriot Act to go after terrorists.

On Sunday Mr. Christie picked up the endorsement of the influential New Hampshire Union Leader. And at the GOP’s first post-Paris debate two weeks from now in Las Vegas, he will have a prime-time stage to argue he’s the best qualified to keep America safe


The Obama administration, says Mr. Christie, has spent more time politicizing intelligence and too often treated our own intelligence community as if they are “the bad guys.” More recently Mr. Christie’s come out against the president’s plan to resettle Syrian refugees, at least until his friend, FBI Director James Comey, can vet them.
Long before the ISIS strike on Paris, Mr. Chrisite has been laying out his strategic vision. In the first debate, Mr. Christie called out Rand Paul for opposing the National Security Agency’s metadata collection. This issue has become even more timely now that the program shut down Sunday, thanks to a law that carried the blessing not only of Mr. Obama and Hillary Clinton but Republican Sens. Paul and Ted Cruz too.
“The more we look into Paris,” says Mr. Christie, “the more we are going to conclude this was intelligence failure.
“These guys didn’t cook up the scheme in 15 minutes in some Taco Bell. This was planned over time across countries. We need to give our intelligence community the tools they need—and the political backing they need to do the dangerous things we ask of them.”
Mr. Christie is likewise forthright about the use of combat troops. “It’s not an option I’ll take off the table, first, because you can’t know what you need until you get there and, second, because you don’t want to telegraph what you’ll do to the enemy.”
Asked if he’s read Mrs. Clinton’s recent speech on foreign policy—hailed for its “toughness”—Mr. Christie says he has but dismisses it as completely “focused grouped.” He zeroes in on her fundamental weakness: She was at the heart of an Obama foreign policy that left our allies discouraged and our enemies emboldened, and now hopes to distance herself from the consequences without really repudiating it.
“You never know what she believes,” says Mr. Christie, “because she always says what the political moment requires.”
Up to now, Donald Trump appears to have gained most from the post-Paris shift of focus. It’s not hard to see why. When he says, for example, he’d approve waterboarding even if it doesn’t work because the terrorists “deserve it,” the message voters hear is that he will not let political correctness get in the way of fighting our enemies
In the coming Las Vegas debate on Dec. 15, Mr. Christie will get his chance to show Republicans he shares both Mr. Trump’s willingness to take the fight to the terrorists and Mrs. Clinton’s de facto understanding that the Obama approach has failed. But that he has something Mr. Trump and Mrs. Clinton do not: a strategic vision to go with it.
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