Standing behind a podium positioned at one end of the restaurant Cipriani’s enormous dining room in midtown Manhattan, Gov. Chris Christie (R) of New Jersey told a crowd there were two reasons he had accepted an invitation to speak to them Sunday night.
“The first is because I think there is too little discussion in our nation today about the role that the values that we believe in play — both within our country and the role that America must play around the world,” Christie said. “Second was because Shmuley asked me, and if I said no, I would never hear the end of it.”
By Shmuley, Christie meant Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, the animated New Jersey rabbi who has embraced the moniker “America’s Rabbi,” and whose organization, This World: The Values Network, on Sunday threw its second annual “Champions of Jewish Values International Awards Gala.”
But there was a second person present Sunday who was more important than Boteach to Christie’s possible future as a presidential candidate: Sheldon Adelson. The billionaire political mega donor and his wife, Dr. Miriam Adelson, sponsored Sunday’s event. Their appearance on the red carpet earlier in the evening had been met with a flurry of snapped photographs and shouted questions from the press.
The last time Christie gave a speech in front of Adelson, in March, things didn’t go well. Christie’s use of the term “occupied territories” in front of a Republican Jewish Coalition crowd in Las Vegas, Nev. prompted outcry and forced him to later apologize to Adelson. On Sunday, Christie’s speech covered safer, more general ground in regard to foreign policy.
“No one can realistically believe today, when we have Democrats and Republicans in Washington, D.C. who not only don’t govern but barely speak to each other … that we are the model for the world,” Christie said.
In his short remarks, words like Israel and Palestine were not uttered. President Obama’s name didn’t come up directly, either, although Christie lamented numerous actions taken “in the last five years.” Christie criticized “our country permitting even the thought of a terrorist state like Iran having nuclear capability” and “backing away” from Syria. He boasted of winning a budget battle in his first year as governor. Ronald Reagan was mentioned.
“Foreign policy and America’s role in the world is often something that’s not popular to discuss in political campaigns,” Christie said.
But Christie said America was “no longer sending clear signals to the world” about “who are friends” and who are enemies “who we will oppose, regardless of the cost.”
“The failure of domestic tranquility and governance leads to the diminishment of America’s role in the world,” Christie said.
A few minutes after Christie’s speech was over, the crowd got up for a bit of dancing.