In an effort to distinguish himself from Cruz and especially Paul, Christie has also at times sounded like Bush-Giuliani 2.0 on foreign policy and civil liberties. This is an abandonment of the more nuanced approach he took in his 2011 speech at the Reagan Library, which didn’t break with neoconservative orthodoxy in any of its particulars, but at least paid lip service to the concerns of less interventionist conservatives in the party [bold mine-DL].
I don’t recall that Christie has ever paid so much as lip service to these concerns. What he did do in this September 2011 speech was to make a series of statements about foreign policy just vague enough that they could be interpreted in several different ways. Because Christie’s views on the subject were unknown at that time, it was possible to read things into his speech that weren’t there. He spoke in general terms about the need for the U.S. to get its house in order and set a good example to the world, which might sound pleasing to many less interventionist conservatives, but this is nothing that other foreign policy hawks haven’t said on occasion. Indeed, Christie more or less turned the traditional “example to the world” argument on its head by insisting that the U.S. should do this partly for the sake of promoting democracy abroad:
But, there is also a foreign policy price to pay. To begin with, we diminish our ability to influence the thinking and ultimately the behavior of others. There is no better way to persuade other societies around the world to become more democratic and more market-oriented than to show that our democracy and markets work better than any other system.
In case someone misunderstood what Christie was saying in the speech about the U.S. role in the world, he made sure to clarify:
I understand full well that succeeding at home, setting an example, is not enough. The United States must be prepared to act. We must be prepared to lead. This takes resources—resources for defense, for intelligence, for homeland security, for diplomacy. The United States will only be able to sustain a leadership position around the world if the resources are there—but the necessary resources will only be there if the foundations of the American economy are healthy.
Christie doesn’t elaborate very much on what he means by “acting” and “leading,” but these are typically the things that a politician says when he wants to reassure his audience that he favors a very activist and meddlesome foreign policy. Nothing in the speech suggests that he disagrees with that, and he spends a fair amount of time framing all of his arguments about fixing fiscal and economic problems in terms of providing the means to conduct just that kind of foreign policy. Just so that no hawks in the party would be alarmed by any of this, he included this obligatory denial:
The argument for getting our own house in order is not an argument for turning our back on the world.
No, it’s not, but then the only people that would normally confuse the two perceive American “retreat” in every policy that is not sufficiently aggressive. There was very little specifically on foreign policy in this speech for less interventionist conservatives to like, and quite a few things that should have set off alarms about Christie’s views long before this year.