NEW YORK — GOP presidential candidate Chris Christie criticized President Barack Obama and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on a host of foreign policy issues Thursday, saying Obama's Iran nuclear deal has hampered the fight against the Islamic State and is skewing America's priorities in the Middle East.
The New Jersey governor participated in a wide-ranging dialogue in front of about 80 people in a Manhattan townhouse. The event was sponsored by the World Values Network, an organization whose mission is to "advance universal Jewish values in politics," according to its website.
Christie charged Obama with "withdrawing" America from the world and failing to engage with foreign leaders to forge alliances. He referred to Clinton as "Secretary Happy Talk" for "seeing the world as she wishes it was" on questions such as the strength and reach of the Islamic State.
"What we're seeing is just the very beginning of what a post-American world will look like," he said. "Some in my party advocate for a withdrawal of America from the world. This president has withdrawn America from the world."
Like most Republicans, Christie strongly opposed the Iran nuclear deal. On Thursday he characterized it as having been accomplished for political purposes, through "Chicago ward politics," a reference to Obama's hometown.
"They went in, they twisted arms, they got the votes," he said.
He called Iran "simply an enormous threat" and said the nuclear deal has made it harder for the U.S. to put together a coalition to battle the Islamic State and has affected how the U.S. considers even its allies in the Middle East, including Israel.
"The underlying policy of this administration is to convince everyone their Iranian policy is correct," he said. "Everything has to draw a line back to Tehran and the justification of an awful agreement."
On Israel, Christie castigated Obama for his often tense relationship with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. He said one of the first things he would do if elected president would be to invite Netanyahu to Camp David for a long weekend so he could "vent" about Obama.
In response to questions about Iran and Syria, Christie said his strategy would not be to act unilaterally to effect regime change, but to be unequivocal about U.S. intentions as a means to building a coalition of allies.
"We are not the world's policeman," he said. "I would do all I could to make sure the world responds. That doesn't mean American blood needs to be spilled every time this happens."
He reiterated his opposition to allowing Syrian refugees to enter the U.S. but disagreed with Donald Trump's proposal to ban all Muslims, calling it "absolutely wrong."
"It comes from inexperience," he said, after noting he has been friends with Trump for 13 years. "I don't believe Donald Trump is a bigot. I just think he's wrong."
Christie was to attend a fundraiser in New York later Thursday.