The spat between Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky (left) and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie (right) displays a certain discord among Republicans. (Sources, l-r: Gage Skidmore and Bob Jagendorf, under CC licenses)
Over the weekend, a scene began to develop that has long been simmering in the ranks of Washington for years. New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, long considered a contender for the Republican Party nomination in the 2016 presidential election, spoke at a forum in Colorado discussing national security policy last Thursday. He particularly targeted a so-called "strain of libertarianism" existing in both parties, a notion that taking into account civil liberties, for some odd reason, trumps the security needs of citizens. Christie called this line of thinking "a dangerous thought," attempting to utilize the image of 9/11 to emphasize the point that national security must be addressed at all cost. When asked if he was referring to libertarian leader U.S. Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky, he acknowledged so, and then said that he wanted Paul and his ilk to "come to New Jersey and sit across from the widows and the orphans and have that conversation."
Needless to say, such pandering of 9/11 led Senator Paul to strike back on Sunday during a fundraiser. Paul, also a potential contender for 2016, rejected the notion that such strains of thought are bad for the country. He attacked Christie and Rep. Peter King of New York for making such statements, while seeking out aid following the disaster of Hurricane Sandy. "Those are the people who are bankrupting government and not letting enough money be left over for national defense." When asked about the actions that Christie was referring to, in particular the sweeping data-mining operations performed by the National Security Agency that have been leaked in recent months, Paul was adamant on his position of civil liberties over security in that "I don't mind spying on terrorists, I just don't like spying on all Americans."
The fight represents a discord in the Republican Party that has long been in development, between the hawks who still rely heavily on the War on Terror and the 9/11 attacks 12 years ago as the basis of their national security and foreign policy which Christie backs, and those libertarians led by Paul who are more apt into thinking that such policies will only lead to police state thinking, and would take a less interventionist approach that favors civil liberties. While not indicative of a future split in the party, it definitely show the Republicans' politics to be much more at odds than some liberal critics contend, especially when people use such policies and lines of reason to help determine the future state of the party and, to a lesser extent, American conservatism. It's hard to pick a side, especially when you are not exactly supportive of conservatism, and some liberals may insidiously hope to see this end with the party's self-destruction, especially in 2016. Still, as someone whose thinking sometimes represents an ostracized and partially-spied-on political faction, it's hard not to feel at least somewhat sympathetic to Paul's beliefs, who is truly passionate on allowing Americans not to have to pay for the sins of American foreign policy by sacrificing their privacy. It will be fascinating to see what faction will lead the party three years from now, when the election takes place.