ABC’s Shushannah Walshe and Benjamin Siegel report:
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky took opposite views of the crisis in Iraq today, with Christie blaming it on President Obama’s foreign policy while Paul said he doesn’t put the “blame on President Obama.”
Both men addressed the situation in Iraq where the American trained army collapsed in the face of an offensive by ISIS, the radical offshoot of al Qaeda, and Sunni tribes angry at the government of President Nouri al-Maliki.
In his first time addressing the evangelical group, Christie said leadership abroad requires “making sure our friends know who our friends are, and that our adversaries know who they are as well.”
“Leadership is about telling who you are and what you stand for, and then speaking it directly, loudly, and understandably so that not only your supporters know who you are, but the people who are against you know who you are, too, and have respect for where you stand.”
Although the Christian conservative crowd is far from what is considered Christie’s base of support, the group greeted him warmly with many giving him a standing ovation, and interrupting him at points with applause.
In his critique of Obama, the governor briefly mentioned the crisis in Iraq when he said the “pulling back of American influence…is having catastrophic affects in every corner of the world.”
“That is not anything more than the failure of the American leader to speak clearly, profoundly and inspirationally about America’s role in the world,” he said.
Paul, who spoke before Christie, criticized the president on the ongoing strife in Syria and how it may have contributed to the current crisis in Iraq, but in his interview with NBC’s Meet the Press ahead of their show on Sunday, Paul made it clear he stands in stark contrast to Christie and other more hawkish members of the GOP on whose to blame for the crisis in Iraq.
“And what’s going on now, I don’t blame on President Obama,” Paul said. “Has he really got the solution? Maybe there is no solution. But I do blame the Iraq war on the chaos that is in the Middle East. I also blame those who are for the Iraq war for emboldening Iran. These are the same people now who are petrified of what Iran may become, and I understand some of their worry.”
In speaking before the Faith and Freedom Coalition, Paul urged members of his own party to be cautious when it comes to becoming engaged in overseas conflict.
“Reagan spoke often of peace through strength, but I fear that some in our nation and some in our party have forgotten the first part of the sentence, that peace should be our goal, even as we build our strength,” Paul said at the “Road to Majority” conference. “Some in my party have distorted this [Reagan's] belief in peace through strength into a misguided belief that we should project strength through war. Even when we’ve tried, through good intentions, to make the world a better place, our actions have often backfired.”