The study of history is a pursuit that allows us to drill down into the past and to connect past events – with a fresh perspective – to what’s happening in the present moment. We recognize that understanding the past does not always guarantee a ready checklist of actionable solutions to avert future mistakes, but sometimes we can surely learn from our collective past mistakes.
In last night’s Republican debate, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, trying to show his “toughness”, had an ‘oops’ moment, flubbing the name of a key U.S. ally in the Middle East during the Republican debate.” Perhaps he was time-traveling to the past, because he said, citing President Obama’s historic nuclear peace treaty with Iran as reason why some allies in the region might not trust President Obama:
“I will tell you this, when I stand across from King Hussein of Jordan and I say to him, ‘You have a friend again sir, who will stand with you to fight this fight,’ he’ll change his mind.”
The problem is that King Hussein of Jordan has been dead for 16 years – he died in 1999 and has been succeeded by his son, King Abdullah II. Now, we know Republican candidates for president regularly lie, are gaffe-prone, and frequently let their imaginations run away, but this one is truly bizarre. The New York Times took Christie to task in an article earlier this year noting “Chris Christie Shows Fondness for Luxury Benefits When Others Pay the Bill.”
As the Times reported, Christie had departed on a trade mission to Israel with his entire family in tow, paid for by Sheldon Adelson, the billionaire oligarch who wanted Christie to oppose some legislation that was before him. Ironically, at the end of the trip, King Abdullah of Jordan picked up the tab for a Christie family weekend to Jordan. Forgetting for the moment that the rooms in the uber-luxurious Kempinski hotel cost about $30,000 per night:
“The governor and two staff members who accompanied him came back to New Jersey bubbling that they had celebrated with Bono, the lead singer of U2, at three parties, two at the king’s residence, the other a Champagne reception in the desert.”
So it is almost surreal, when combined with criticism earlier this year from the Times, that Christie could not remember his host – since as his spokesman at the time said: “King Abdullah invited the governor and his family to Jordan as his personal guest so the two families could spend time together.”
Why the King of Jordan popped up during the debate is something of a mystery, but then again, the Republican candidates were trying to one-up each other. Clearly, Christie’s gaffe – especially in light of his history with Jordan and King Abdullah – is another political and personal embarrassment, especially as he was trying to show the world how well he knows the region and how tough he’d be on terrorism. But then again, that might explain the science fiction element – imagining when he becomes president, he will be best suited to fight terrorism allied with a dead man.
Of course, given Christie’s unfavorable ratings exceeding his favorable by more than 15 points – and polling at 3% – believing that he had a chance to become president is also science fiction.
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