WASHINGTON — Just back from his trip to see evidence of Hamas’ carnage against Israeli civilians for himself, 2024 presidential hopeful Chris Christie on Wednesday chastised his fellow Republican candidates for not making the same journey.
“The things I saw will affect me for the rest of my life,” he said after describing scenes of slaughter in peoples’ homes and yards. “I don’t know why the rest of them haven’t gone.”
Christie praised Democratic President Joe Biden for traveling to Israel in the days after the Oct. 7 attack, saying it reminded him of then-British Prime Minister Tony Blair taking the trouble to personally attend former President George W. Bush’s address to a joint session of Congress shortly after the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks against the United States.
“At a moment of our greatest sense of vulnerability, that’s when you need your friends more than anything else,” he said.
Christie answered his own question about the other candidates not visiting Israel, at least in regards to Donald Trump, the coup-attempting former president and the polling front-runner for the GOP nomination.
“You’ll never see him in Jerusalem, you’ll never see him in Kiev, or anyplace else where he could even break his fingernail,” Christie said. “Because he is fundamentally not just a policy coward. He’s a personal coward who wouldn’t ever take a risk with what he considers to be the single most precious life in America: his own.”
Christie was in Israel on Sunday and met with government officials and the families of some of the 1,200 killed by Hamas. Three months earlier, in August, he had visited Ukraine to meet with its leader, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, to learn firsthand about the war to repel Russia’s 2022 invasion.
While he said he supported Israel’s continued and destructive attacks on the Gaza Strip that have already killed many thousands of civilians, Christie also made a case that has been absent among the Republican presidential candidates to date: that all Palestinians should not be blamed for the actions of Hamas, the group that has ruled Gaza since winning an election in 2006 but then effectively carrying out a self-coup to remain in power.
“This is not all the Palestinian people. This is Hamas. And I believe there are lots of peace-loving Palestinians who are revolted by this,” Christie said. “Hamas won one election, more than a decade ago, and they have enslaved the Palestinians in Gaza since then, who have no opportunity to choose other leadership.”
Christie, alone among the dozen or so Republicans who were originally running for the 2024 nomination, has made Trump’s actions leading up to and on the Jan. 6, 2021, assault on the Capitol the top rationale for his campaign. He has argued that Trump’s attempts to remain in office despite losing the 2020 election disqualifies him from the presidency.
That message has resonated with a segment of Republican primary voters, but has alienated a larger percentage of Republicans who support Trump despite his post-election behavior.
On Tuesday, before an audience of about 100 at the Hudson Institute foreign policy think tank, Christie said that the remaining major non-Trump candidates — Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley and Ohio businessman Vivek Ramaswamy — had proven themselves not to be serious by raising their hands when asked if they would support Trump as the nominee if, by the time of the election, he is a convicted felon.
“The idea that the founders of this country would have ever stood for a convicted felon being president of the United States is laughable,” Christie told reporters after his appearance. “And their raising their hands undercuts their credibility in saying that they are the rightful heirs to what Adams and Jefferson and Franklin put together for us in this country.”
Trump faces 91 felony charges in four separate indictments. Two are related to his actions involving his coup attempt, a third accuses him of illegally taking top secret documents to his Florida country club and then refusing to turn them over, while the fourth charges him with falsifying business records to hide hush money he paid to an adult film star.