Freedom, Security, and Chris Christie

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie had something to say about the “strain of libertarianism going through both parties” while attending  a meeting of the Aspen Institute. Here is the story in the Washington Post.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) on Thursday offered a clear broadside against Republicans drifting toward a more libertarian view of foreign policy, lumping Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) in with them and suggesting they explain their position to victims of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

The House earlier this week narrowly voted against a reduction in funding for the National Security Agency’s program collecting Americans’ phone records, as libertarian-leaning members from both sides joined together to vote for the amendment.

“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.

Asked whether he includes Paul — a fellow potential 2016 presidential candidate — in his criticism, Christie didn’t back down.

“You can name any one of them that’s engaged in this,” he said. “I want them to come to New Jersey and sit across from the widows and the orphans and have that conversation. … I’m very nervous about the direction this is moving in.”

Christie acknowledged that there will always be mistakes when it comes to national security and protecting privacy, but said Americans need to stay focused on what’s at stake.

He dismissed some of the current privacy/national security debates as “esoteric.”

“I think what we as a country have to decide is: Do we have amnesia? Because I don’t,” he said. “And I remember what we felt like on Sept. 12, 2001.”

We do need to have more of a pubic debate on what balance between freedom and security we, as a nation, want to take. I am nervous about the direction things are moving in, but I am not sure if my concerns are quite the same as Christie’s. While I certainly do not want another terrorist attack on the scale of 9-11, I also do not especially want to live in a country where Big Brother is watching my every move. Frankly, I would rather take the risk of a terrorist attack to having to live with the level of surveillance that would make such an attack impossible. I mean, you never hear about terrorists attacking North Korea, but who would want to live there?

There is also the question of how well the NSA’s surveillance is actually working. They didn’t prevent the Boston bombing. They didn’t prevent the attempted car bombing at Times Square, or the Shoe Bomber, or the Underwear Bomber, or the attack at Benghazi. It is possible that for each one of these acts listed, the NSA anticipated hundreds of attempted attacks, yet how can we know?

I remember how I felt on September 12, 2001. I also know that immediately after a crisis is the worst possible time to consider any legislation to address that crisis. While emotions are still high and everyone’s afraid, stupid and ineffective laws are likely to be passed without close examination. This is why politicians love to pass laws immediately after a crisis. They also love to drag out widows and orphans to pull on the heart strings and evade any rational examination of whether any proposed legislation is working as intended.

Rand Paul struck back.

“Defending America and fighting terrorism is the concern of all Americans, especially Sen. Paul,” Paul’s former chief of staff, Doug Stafford, said. “But it can and must be done in keeping with our constitution and while protecting the freedoms that make America exceptional.”

Paul himself also tweeted a response:

Senator Rand Paul         @SenRandPaul

Christie worries about the dangers of freedom. I worry about the danger of losing that freedom. Spying without warrants is unconstitutional.

I worry about that too.

Christie appeared alongside Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R), Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) and Indiana Gov. Mike Pence (R). The four GOP governors appeared side-by-side at a session hosted by the nonpartisan Aspen Institute.

The four of them — along with Paul — are all considered among the GOP’s top potential presidential candidates in 2016, with each of them ranking on The Fix’s most recent list of the top 10 likeliest nominees.

If Chris Christie keeps going the way he has been, he might not continue to be among the GOP’s top presidential candidates in 2016. He certainly won’t deserve to be.

 

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