Chris Christie’s presidential campaign is enjoying a mini-revival, so the Washington Post needed to find new fault with the New Jersey governor. But how? It has already examined his high school baseball career, and the Bridge affair is old news.
Thus, the Post turned to Christie’s time as U.S. Attorney in New Jersey and his claim that, in this capacity, he helped combat terrorism. Post reporter Frances Stead Sellers writes:
The tough-on-terror message appears to be resonating in New Hampshire, where polling shows Christie moving up and now tied for second place behind GOP front-runner Donald Trump. But Christie’s recent remarks on his counterterrorism experience are also prompting backlash, particularly among supporters of his political rivals, who note that Christie was much better known for battling public corruption than for fighting terrorism when he was a U.S. attorney.
Why might Christie be better known for battling public corruption than terrorism as U.S. Attorney in New Jersey? Here’s a wild guess: there was more public corruption than terrorist activity in New Jersey (at least when George W. Bush was president).
It’s possible, though, to bring plenty of public corruption cases — which Christie did, winning convictions or guilty pleas against 130 public officials from both parties — and still have a anti-terrorism record worth talking about. If one digs deeply enough into Sellers’ story, one finds that Christie has such a record:
[Kevin] O’Connor [a fellow U.S. Attorney during the Bush years] said Christie’s location would mean that he “had a far greater role” than most U.S. attorneys in counterterrorism efforts, which would have involved bringing together local, state and federal resources to prevent future attacks.
A large part of a U.S. attorney’s job was “helping to neutralize the threat,” said Kenneth L. Wainstein, who coordinated the Justice Department’s counterterrorism efforts as the first assistant attorney general for national security. He said Christie was appointed to the Attorney General’s Advisory Committee — a reflection of how he was perceived. That committee “was laser-focused” on combatting terrorism, Wainstein said.
That’s not all:
Although there were [were] relatively few high-profile national security cases during his tenure, Christie has said that “two of the biggest terrorism cases in the world” came on his watch: Six Islamist extremists were found guilty of conspiracy to commit murder in 2008 for planning to attack military personnel at Fort Dix in New Jersey, and Hemant Lakhani was convicted in 2005 for trying to sell a missile capable of shooting down a passenger plane to an undercover FBI agent.
In sum, Christie’s anti-terrorism record consists of successfully prosecuting the only terrorists who, from all that appears, committed crimes within his jurisdiction and of taking a lead role in bringing together local, state, and federal resources to prevent attacks.
That’s plenty. To my knowledge, Christie has never claimed to have done more.
In the end, the Post’s criticism of Christie seems to boil down to the fact that, for political gain, he’s focusing attention on his second biggest accomplishment as U.S. Attorney — fighting terrorism — instead of his biggest accomplishment — prosecuting corruption. But what candidate wouldn’t focus on the aspect of his record that’s most relevant to the presidency?
The Post would find happier hunting by delving into Christie’s Little League record than it does by pointing to his anti-corruption prosecution record.