Is there ever a good time for two of your Party’s leaders to go head to head over a major national issue? I’m not sure there is. However, if a big fight is going to happen between two major players – maybe the best time is at least a year away from a major election season.
This past week the House almost passed an amendment that would have curbed the NSA’s power to spy on American citizens. The legislation would have basically forced the NSA to get a warrant before being able to spy on one of us. The charge to protect our Constitutional right to privacy was led by libertarian Republican Justin Amash (R-MI), but he was joined by many conservatives and liberals. It seems that the far right, the far left and the libertarians in both parties are all very concerned about our civil liberties.
The group that united behind the President to defeat the amendment includes the leadership in both parties (some have even said that Nancy Pelosi “saved” the NSA), and most of the “mainstream” members of both parties.
This week Governor Chris Christie (R-NJ) raised his voice to share his concerns with the rise of the “libertarian” element in both parties.
“This strain of libertarianism that’s going through both parties right now and making big headlines, I think, is a very dangerous thought… You can name any number of people, and he’s (Rand Paul) one of them. I mean, these esoteric, intellectual debates — I want them to come to New Jersey and sit across from the widows and the orphans and have that conversation. And they won’t, because that’s a much tougher conversation to have.”
Senator Paul (R-KY) was quick to respond on Twitter.
Christie worries about the dangers of freedom. I worry about the danger of losing that freedom. Spying without warrants is unconstitutional.
— Dr. Rand Paul (@RandPaul) July 26, 2013
It was a stinging retort to Governor Christie’s complaint, and the Paul camp wasn’t finished. Senator Paul’s closes advisor, Doug Stafford, had more to say about the conflict between Christie and libertarian Republicans.
“If Gov. Christie believes in the constitutional rights and the privacy of all Americans are ‘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 times… Defending America and fighting terrorism is the concern of all Americans, especially Senator Paul… But it can and must be done in keeping with our Constitution and while protecting the freedoms that make America exceptional.”
Christie’s distaste for “esoteric” or “intellectual” debates is disheartening, if simply because we’d like to believe that the men and women leading our country would give deep thought to the decisions they make. Most Americans feel the pain of the loss we ALL suffered on September 11, 2001. However, can we really make our decisions based on our emotional responses to dramatic and terrible moments? Of course not. However, listening to Governor Christie all one has to do to win this argument is say 9/11.
The New Hampshire Union Leader puts it perfectly and hits Christie where it hurts:
“The fetters imposed on liberty at home have ever been forged out of the weapons provided for defence against real, pretended, or imaginary dangers from abroad,” James Madison wrote in 1799. But what did Madison know? If only he hadn’t been so concerned about “esoteric, intellectual” concepts, we might have a Constitution that would allow brash governors to monitor our every move and thought to make sure the terrorists didn’t succeed in taking away our freedom.”
We must be prepared for intellectual arguments about who we are and what we believe. Are we, as limited government conservatives, prepared to allow the federal government carte blanche to collect our personal and very private information? Are we prepared to invite them into our homes, our phones, our computers?
The real crux of the debate is what checks to power must exist between our government and us? There is a reason that no one branch of our government has absolute power — humans are not trustworthy – they can and often will be corrupted. So we build a wall between us (the people) and them (the government). One of those walls is our right to privacy guaranteed by the 3rd, 4th, and 5th Amendments to the Constitution. These demand that the government have a warrant to monitor us, which can only be granted once probable cause is proved to a grand jury or judge.
The government is overstepping its limitations, and in my personal opinion, Chris Christie is way off on his recent comments. The libertarians are standing up for our guaranteed Constitutional protections. So who do you side with – Chris Christie or Rand Paul?