- The Washington Times - Sunday, November 22, 2015

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie on Sunday reiterated his opposition to resettling thousands of Syrian refugees in the U.S., arguing that the federal government has watered down its ability to fight Islamic militants and that he is the only one in the 2016 GOP presidential race with on-the-ground experience in fighting terrorism.

He also had strong words for New York Mayor Bill de Blasio, saying “maybe he should be mayor of Damascus” after the Mr. de Blasio sharply criticized Mr. Christie’s reluctance to accept young Syrians.

The debate over President Obama’s plan to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees erupted last week after suicide bombers and gunmen killed about 130 people in Paris on Nov. 13.

Mr. Christie, who has struggled for exposure in a nomination race dominated by businessman Donald Trump and retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson, said he brings professional bona fides to the debate, after he enforced anti-terrorism measures as a federal prosecutor in New Jersey in the wake of the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001.

“I’m the only person in this race who’s actually done this before,” he told CNN’s “State of the Union.”

Mr. Christie said that, instead of bringing the refugees to American shores, the U.S. should foster safe zones near their homes in Syria, which has been torn apart by civil war and the march of the Islamic State, the militant group that claimed responsibility for the attacks in Paris.

He also said Washington should never have cut back on the National Security Agency’s collection of phone data in the wake of privacy concerns revealed by former government contractor Edward Snowden. He said the move destroyed the intelligence community’s morale.

“We need to support law enforcement, which this administration has not been doing,” he said. “National security is not an option, it’s a fundamental right, and that’s what we’ll be focused on.”

Mr. Christie said he feels good about his prospects in New Hampshire, the second stop in the GOP nomination race, even as a new national poll shows him and other establishment candidates struggling to keep up with Mr. Trump and Mr. Carson.

Mr. Trump, who has proposed that some U.S. mosques be placed under surveillance, garnered 32 percent of support in The Washington Post/ABC News poll, with Mr. Carson in second, at 22 percent. The rest of field barely cracked double digits.

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