Rep. Peter King (R-NY), an establishment Republican who positions himself as a defense hawk, attacked both Sens. Rand Paul (R-KY) and Ted Cruz (R-TX) for standing up to National Security Agency (NSA) bulk collection of Americans’ data—as Paul is on the Senate floor leading a filibuster that’s lasted at least seven hours thus far.
“I’d say it’s a race to the bottom between Ted Cruz and Rand Paul,” King said, according to BuzzFeed, when reporters asked him who the GOP’s worst candidate was. King said he judges them on “their policies, and also how they’d do in the general election.”
“Starting with Rand Paul, I would say that — well, you asked me the thing that bothers me the most — I would say that he has this ‘blame America’ foreign policy, talking about America being an imperial power,” King said, adding: “I mean, to actually waste 23 hours — I don’t know how many hours his filibuster was on the House floor, about drones — I mean, he’s really worried about CIA killing an American drinking coffee at Starbucks? You know, the enemy is al-Qaeda, and that to me is just creating unnecessary fears in people, and such a distortion.”
King also defended Director of National Intelligence James Clapper—who lied to Congress, admittedly, when asked about whether the NSA was collecting Americans’ personal data en masse.
“For him [Paul] to say that Gen. Clapper belongs in jail, with Snowden, and to be saying anything good about Snowden at all — here’s a guy who has put so many American lives at risk,” King said. “And basically, I would say it’s this moral equivalency he shows between the CIA and the NSA on the one hand, and the enemies of America on the other hand — to me, this is a Charles Lindbergh isolationism of the 1930s.”
Clapper told Andrea Mitchell of MSNBC he gave the “least untruthful” answer he could think of when he denied the existence of the NSA’s bulk records collection to Congress.
Though King’s attack comments were directed at both Paul and Cruz, Cruz–at least as of the beginning of hour seven of Paul’s filibuster–hasn’t joined in the effort. Cruz is in Washington, but does slightly disagree with Paul on this matter.
“The fight to rein in NSA surveillance stalled in the Senate Tuesday evening—meaning the lasting impact of the months-long reform effort will be less about the agency and more about the presidential aspirations of Sens. Rand Paul and Ted Cruz,” the Daily Beast’s Tim Mak and Olivia Nuzzi wrote last November when Paul tore down the USA Freedom Act then. “Ironically, it was Paul, the libertarian icon, who helped sink the bill to curb America’s most notorious intelligence agency—all in the name of deep-sixing the surveillance state. And he did it with arguments that many civil libertarians found disingenuous, at best. Meanwhile, Cruz, the senator with the reputation as a political arsonist, was suddenly thrust into the role of the insider, looking to fix the NSA from within the system. It didn’t work.”
While King positions himself as a strong opponent of terrorism, he did back in the 1980s sympathize with Irish Republican Army (IRA) terrorism.
“In 1985, the Irish government boycotted the St. Patrick’s Day parade in New York City, the biggest celebration in the Irish American calendar. The cause of its umbrage was Peter T. King, that year’s grand marshal and someone the Irish government said was an “avowed” supporter of a terrorist organization, the Irish Republican Army,” the Washington Post’s Peter Finn wrote in 2011. “King, then a local politician on Long Island, was one of the most zealous American defenders of the militant IRA and its campaign to drive the British out of Northern Ireland. He argued that IRA violence was an inevitable response to British repression and that the organization had to be understood in the context of a centuries-long struggle for independence. ‘The British government is a murder machine,’ King said. He described the IRA, which mastered the car bomb as an instrument of urban terror, as a ‘legitimate force.’ And he compared Gerry Adams, the leader of Sinn Fein, the IRA’s political wing, to George Washington.”