(ASPEN, Colo.) — The anti-Rand Paul club has gained a new member: New Jersey’s Republican Gov. Chris Christie.
Christie ripped into the Kentucky senator and his cohorts for promoting a “dangerous” libertarian philosophy on national security issues in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks.
“I just want us to be really cautious because this strain of libertarianism going through both parties right now and making big headlines I think is a very dangerous thought,” Christie said at an Aspen Institute panel of Republican governors in Colorado Thursday night.
Asked specifically whether he was referring to Paul, Christie said, “You can name any number of people and he’s one of them.”
“These esoteric intellectual debates — I want them to come to New Jersey and sit in front of the widows and the orphans and have that conversation,” Christie said, evoking 9/11. “And they won’t because that’s a much tougher conversation to have.”
Paul on Twitter fired back at Christie’s comments Friday morning, standing by his opposition to the National Security Agency’s anti-terrorism programs.
Christie worries about the dangers of freedom. I worry about the danger of losing that freedom. Spying without warrants is unconstitutional.
— Senator Rand Paul (@SenRandPaul) July 26, 2013
Christie becomes the latest Republican to sound the alarm against Paul, who has been an outspoken critic of the NSA’s surveillance programs. Last week, Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., said he would consider a potential presidential run to challenge Paul if he were to run.
But the rub for Republicans is that Paul is not alone. This week, the NSA narrowly dodged a bullet when an amendment sponsored by Rep. Justin Amash, R-Mich., that would have limited the agency’s ability to collect metadata from Americans, picked up unexpected support from Republicans and Democrats. It was narrowly defeated 205-217, and notably both Republican and Democratic leadership in the House voted against the NSA provision.
The intra-party disagreement among Republicans over national security issues is like a hangover from the 2010 Tea Party wave that ushered in a slew of anti-establishment lawmakers, Paul included.
And though the party has accepted wholesale the small government economic message championed by the Tea Party, they have had a tougher time swallowing the national security inclinations that run counter to the party’s post-9/11 dogma, as evidenced by Christie’s comments.
King even went so far as to warn that if Paul ran, Hillary Clinton would beat him handily because of foreign policy issues.
Christie also becomes the most prominent Republican with 2016 ambitions to take on Paul and the Tea Party-libertarian supporters he represents — even if it means praising a Democratic president.
“President Obama has done nothing to change the politics of the Bush administration in the war on terrorism,” Christie continued. “I mean it, practically nothing. And you know why? Because they work.”
Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio
Kevin Liptak, CNN
Tal Kopan and Jeremy Diamond, CNN
Jeremy Diamond, CNN
Dan Merica and Jeff Simon, CNN