Dave Weigel catalogues the failings of Sunday talk show hosts in interviewing Chris Christie yesterday. He’s mostly right about the easy questions that Christie was asked, but I don’t think this example supports the larger point:
It starts with George Stephanopoulos asking Christie about the interview the show just aired with John Kerry—”What would you need to see from Iran in order to support relieving sanctions?” When Christie whiffs and insists that “there are people who are significantly better briefed on this than I am as the governor of New Jersey,” the host moves on.
In fairness to Christie and the hosts that asked him about Iran, the questions were forced ones designed to get him to talk about something that happened to be in the news that week. I doubt anyone seriously expected him to have an answer to those questions, and there was no point in belaboring the issue when it was clear that he wasn’t going to comment. Christie would have been foolish to hold forth on subject that he admits he doesn’t know very well, and he said as much. This is a relatively rare example of a would-be national politician acknowledging that he doesn’t have a well-informed view of a major foreign policy issue, and unlike many others that are just as uninformed Christie smartly chose not to bluff his way out. At this stage in his career, Mitt Romney was already making a fool of himself by inserting himself into debates about Iran for no reason except to raise his national profile. It is to Christie’s credit that he isn’t doing the same thing.
In fact, Christie was right to refrain from commenting on the negotiations. Goodness knows there is no shortage of would-be saboteurs that want to undermine them without adding any more to the mix. The problem with these questions wasn’t that the hosts didn’t attempt to pin Christie down on the issue, but that the hosts thought that it made sense for a governor with zero foreign policy experience to say something about it in the first place. Christie was correct when he said, “I’m not the right person to being asking that question.” If Christie pretended to be some sort of authority on foreign policy issues, or if he had built his reputation around his judgment on foreign policy, that answer wouldn’t make sense, but in his case it was probably the only honest answer that he could have given.