WASHINGTON (CNN) — Chris Christie on Wednesday blamed President Barack Obama for the Syrian refugee crisis and called Obama “a joke” who “lives in a fantasy land.”
Christie told CNN’s Jake Tapper that Obama “created the refugee crisis,” a day after Obama slammed Republicans — including Christie — who have called for barring Syrian refugees, including orphans who are younger than 5 years old, from seeking asylum in the U.S.
“The President’s the person who created this entire situation,” the New Jersey governor said. “He didn’t keep his word when he drew a red line in Syria. He allowed the situation in Syria to happen, he hasn’t set up a no-fly zone that could create a safe haven for these refugees to live safely in their own country, rather than having to scatter all across the world. And he’s the one who’s casting aspersions? It’s a joke. And he’s a joke on this issue.”
Christie was referring to Obama’s 2012 threat to strike Syrian government targets if that regime crossed his “red line” and used chemical weapons in the country’s civil war. The U.S. confirmed the use of chemical weapons in Syria, but Obama decided against a military strike after the Syrian government agreed to let in international inspectors and ship out all of its chemical stockpiles.
Christie added that Obama’s “timidity” on the world stage is to blame for the crisis.
Christie has previously tied Obama to the Syrian civil war, suggesting in September that Obama “allowed” the slaughter of the hundreds of thousands who have died in that war.
Christie and other Republican candidates have called for the U.S. and its allies to establish a safe zone in Syria for refugees instead of allowing them into the U.S. for fear that terrorists could infiltrate their ranks. FBI Director James Comey in September cast doubt on the U.S.’s capability to confidently vet incoming refugees as Obama signed off on admitting 10,000 Syrian refugees over the next year.
Christie and other GOP candidates have seized on Comey’s caution, asserting that the U.S. should under no circumstances accept Syrian refugees.
“The fact is, we shouldn’t be worried about any other folks in this situation without first worrying about the people of the United States of America and their security,” Christie told Tapper.
Republican front-runner Donald Trump said earlier this week that the U.S. should “strongly consider” shutting down mosques in the U.S. for fear that terrorists could use the places of worship to plot attacks.
Christie, who prosecuted terrorism cases as a U.S. attorney in New Jersey, dismissed that suggestion Wednesday, calling instead for the U.S. to bolster its intelligence and data-gathering capabilities.
“We don’t need to indiscriminately close mosques. What we need to do is to increase our intelligence capability back to what it was post-9/11 so that we can prevent attacks from happening,” Christie said, slamming congressional reforms earlier this year that ended the NSA’s bulk collection of millions of American’s phone records.
Asked how his position on refugees matched up with the fact that most of the perpetrators of the Paris attacks are French citizens, Christie insisted that fact is not yet clear and said the U.S. needs to protect itself from the threat of terrorists posing as refugees.
But five of the nine attackers have already been identified by authorities as French citizens. Three of the attackers have not yet been named or identified and one attacker’s body was found with a fake Syrian passport.