New Jersey Governor Chris Christie believes liberty is a “very dangerous thought.” Senator Rand Paul (R-Ky.) answered for the libertarian wing of the GOP, calling out Christie for being “precisely the same people who are unwilling to cut the spending, and their ‘Gimme, gimme, gimme — give me all my Sandy money now.’ Those are the people who are bankrupting the government and not letting enough money be left over for national defense.”
Earlier this week, another consistent constitutionalist waded into the fray, backing up his colleague.
Appearing on the Fox News online show Power Play, Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas) announced:
I am proud to stand side by side with Rand Paul. He and I have been fighting over and over and over again in the Senate to defend our constitutional liberties. I’ll say this — some of this tiff, Governor Christie is entitled to his views, he’s entitled to express his views, I think most Americans don’t care about politicians bickering in Washington. They don’t care about egos and the battles that will happen in the beltway. What they’re interested in is solving the problems that we’ve got here.
In Christie’s corner, we have Representative Peter King (R-N.Y.). King stated that Paul’s priorities would leave America vulnerable to attack and “do more harm than good.”
King and Christie, along with most Establishment politicians from both major parties, subscribe to the belief that we can’t have safety without surveillance. Paul disagrees.
“I don't mind spying on terrorists,” Senator Paul said at a fundraiser in suburban Nashville. "I just don't like spying on all Americans."
In an earlier statement on the subject, Paul clearly staked out his position on the National Security Agency’s (NSA) dragnet surveillance of millions of phone records. On June 6, Paul said:
The National Security Agency's seizure and surveillance of virtually all of Verizon's phone customers is an astounding assault on the Constitution. After revelations that the Internal Revenue Service targeted political dissidents and the Department of Justice seized reporters' phone records, it would appear that this Administration has now sunk to a new low.
When Sen. Mike Lee and I offered an amendment that would attach Fourth Amendment protections to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act last year, it was defeated, and FISA was passed by an overwhelming majority of the Senate. At the time, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid remarked that FISA was "necessary to protect us from the evil in this world."
The Bill of Rights was designed to protect us from evil, too, particularly that which always correlates with concentrated government power, and particularly Executive power. If the President and Congress would obey the Fourth Amendment we all swore to uphold, this new shocking revelation that the government is now spying on citizens' phone data en masse would never have happened.
Cruz is right, though. Americans roll their eyes at what often appear to be scripted scrums between politicians, particularly those with their eyes on the White House (Rand Paul told The New American in May that he would announce his presidential intentions in 2014).
In fairness, Christie didn’t single out the Kentucky senator. He did, however, say that “he’s [Paul] one them,” these liberty-loving threats to security that for some reason insist on holding lawmakers to their oaths of office.
To his credit, Paul has simultaneously refused to roil the waters any further and continued to stand his ground. “I didn't start this one and I don't plan on starting things by criticizing other Republicans," he said. "But if they want to make me the target, they will get it back in spades.”
If recent Paul family history is a reliable guide to the future, though, the deck is stacked against the scion of this ambitious constitutionally conservative clan. His iconic father, Ron Paul, ran three unsuccessful presidential campaigns, the last of which in 2012 was sandbagged by shenanigans at the Republican National Convention in Tampa Bay.
Will the Establishment allow the younger Paul to succeed where his dad failed? He certainly has the broad demographic appeal that made his father a national force, but there is little he can do — and little he should do — to get the green light from the very powerful party leaders who sabotaged his own father.
As for Chris Christie, he is very much the Establishment’s man and will undoubtedly count on the support of the monied interests that need one of their own in the Oval Office.
Surveillance needs a sponsor and Christie has made it clear that if he’s given the presidential nod, those “very dangerous” elements in our society who promote liberty under the Constitution will continue to remain under the never-blinking eye of the federal government.
Photo of Sen. Rand Paul (front) and Sen. Ted Cruz (back): AP Images