Republican New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie took on Sen. Rand Paul’s (R-KY) libertarian foreign policy directly, calling it a “very dangerous thought” in a post-9/11 world. Christie made his remarks at the Aspen Institute in Colorado on Thursday and said he has not forgotten how he felt the day after the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
“As a former prosecutor who was appointed by President George W. Bush on Sept. 10, 2001, I just want us to be really cautious, because this strain of libertarianism that’s going through both parties right now and making big headlines, I think, is a very dangerous thought,” Christie said. He claimed the debate over privacy and security was “esoteric.”
When the moderator asked if Christie was referring to Paul, Christie said, “You can name any number of people who have engaged in [those debates], and he’s one of them.”
Christie said he wanted those with libertarian foreign policy perspectives to visit “New Jersey and sit across from the widows and orphans and have that conversation. And they won’t, ’cause that’s a much tougher conversation to have.”
Christie then said President Barack Obama has not changed much of Bush’s national security policies because he realizes Bush’s approach was right. The New Jersey governor also recalled a conversation in which he told his wife that Obama would change his tune on national security once he received classified briefings.
“The next attack that comes that kills thousands of Americans as a result, people are going to be looking back on the people having this intellectual debate,” Christie warned.
Paul, who has taken on the use of domestic drones and the National Security Agency’s spying programs, swiftly responded. Paul tweeted, “Christie worries about the dangers of freedom. I worry about the danger of losing that freedom. Spying without warrants is unconstitutional.”
Doug Stafford, a senior Paul advisor, also shot back at Christie on Friday. “If Governor Christie believes the constitutional rights and the privacy of all Americans is ‘esoteric’, he either needs a new dictionary, or he needs to talk to more Americans because a great number of them are concerned about the dramatic overreach of our government in recent years,” Stafford said in a statement to Breitbart News.
“Defending America and fighting terrorism is the concern of all Americans, especially Senator Paul,” he continued. “But it can and must be done in keeping with our constitution and while protecting the freedoms that make America exceptional.”
Stafford quoted Bruce Springsteen: “In the words of the Governor’s favorite lyricist, ‘You know that flag flying over the courthouse, Means certain things are set in stone. Who we are, what we’ll do and what we won’t.'”
Tea Party conservatives and so-called neoconservatives have been engaging in debates about how much America should intervene abroad as debt mounts at home, as well as what level of domestic surveillance is appropriate without sacrificing individual freedoms or becoming a surveillance state. These debates could intensify as likely 2016 presidential candidates–like Paul and Christie–become more active participants in them.