New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s trip last week to the United Kingdom included a soccer match, a trip to the theater and an unexpected detour into the science and politics of vaccines.
What it largely lacked, at times glaringly, was a sense of the Republican’s views of world affairs and foreign policy.
“Is there something you don’t understand about, ‘No questions?’” Christie snapped when asked whether he had discussed the Islamic State during one of his closed meetings with British dignitaries.
He was equally dismissive when a reporter from MSNBC asked his view of the role NATO should be playing in the world today. “I’m not going to get into that now,” he said. “Even as I’m here in the UK.”
While officially billed as a trade mission aimed at boosting jobs in New Jersey, Christie’s trip was unquestionably presidential stagecraft — a trip designed to give a politician with little occasion to conduct diplomacy as a governor a chance to be photographed with world leaders and build relationships with American allies.
Christie did some of that, meeting in private with British Prime Minister David Cameron and the country’s treasury chief, George Osborne. But those meetings came after Christie created a storm by saying that “parents need to have some measure of choice” over vaccinating their children for measles.
The trip took another hit the next morning, when The New York Times published a front-page story detailing Christie travel habits, which the paper said includes staying at luxury hotels and flying by private jet when others are paying the bill.
Three scheduled opportunities for Christie to talk with reporters that day were all canceled, which then led to stories about Christie avoiding the media.
“Usually the goal of these trips is to beam back images of someone that you’re hoping to show as an international leader on an international stage, and a lot of that’s been washed out by all the headlines,” said Kevin Madden, a Republican consultant and top adviser to 2012 GOP nominee Mitt Romney’s campaign.