As President Obama touched down in New Jersey on Monday, he met a man who might have visions of being the next person given the keys to Air Force One: New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R).
Later, while addressing troops at New Jersey's Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, Obama noted the governor’s presence and mentioned that the pair had gone to the Jersey Shore last year to survey recovery efforts after Hurricane Sandy.
In a rare show of comity between the president and one of the Republican Party’s more prominent voices, Obama recalled fondly how the governor’s kids taught him how to play carnival games.
“And then Christie beat me at the football toss, which really aggravated me,” Obama said. “And he bragged about it afterwards, which is OK — I will get a rematch at some point.”
Christie famously came under fire for meeting with and praising Obama in the immediate aftermath of the storm, which came just weeks before the 2012 election. Since then, Christie has drawn a sharper tone, knocking the president’s leadership abilities.
More recently, Christie said he was “disturbed” by the president’s handling of the war against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), saying the president’s team “underestimated what had been taking place in Syria."
"He's the president, and he needs to be accountable,” Christie told CNN.
In fact, Obama used his speech Monday — a pep rally for troops ahead of the holidays — to brag that the U.S. campaign against ISIS has “blunted their momentum and put them on the defensive.”
Obama argued that “our reach is long,” and the U.S. is “hammering these terrorists.”
The president also hailed “a responsible end” to combat operations in Afghanistan at the end of the year.
“On behalf of a grateful nation, I want to say, ‘Welcome home,’ ” Obama said. “You're home for the holidays. And we're glad to have you back.”
Obama acknowledged, however, that Afghanistan is “still a very dangerous place” and that troops faced the threat posed by terrorists there and in hot spots across the world.
He also noted U.S. efforts had begun to turn the tide against Ebola. But other risks persist, he added.
“Even our critics, when they get into trouble, they’re calling us,” he said. “And when the world calls on America, we're calling on you.”
The president also hailed the recent passage of a spending bill, saying it included provisions providing for those efforts and boosting benefits for the troops. He also said it would help drive a “leaner” but more efficient Defense Department.
And he thanked the assembled service members for their willingness to fight on behalf of the country, saying they helped enable others to enjoy their holidays and families.
“You guys are like Santa in fatigues,” Obama said.