For the second time in as many weeks, a high-profile Republican has taken aim at Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul for his views on national security practices.
During a panel discussion with Republican governors on Thursday night in Aspen, Colo., New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie said libertarians who criticize the National Security Agency’s domestic spying operation were “dangerous,” because such criticisms inhibit the federal government’s ability to stop terrorism. Christie pointed to Paul as an example.
“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, prompting the panel moderator to ask if he was referring to Paul.
“You can name any number of people, and he’s 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.”
In response on Friday, Paul called the spying program “unconstitutional” and accused Christie of misplaced fears.
“Christie worries about the dangers of freedom. I worry about the danger of losing that freedom,” read a post on Paul’s official Twitter account. “Spying without warrants is unconstitutional."
The debate comes just two days after the House rejected an amendment proposed by Michigan Republican Rep. Justin Amash that would have halted the NSA’s domestic surveillance program by withholding funding for the agency. Amash’s measure, which failed by only a few votes, revealed a schism in both parties over U.S. spying practices.
In the Senate, Paul has been one of the most vocal critics of the program, and in March he led a 13-hour filibuster on the floor in protest of John Brennan’s nomination to direct the CIA to draw attention to the use of U.S. drone strikes overseas.
Paul’s actions have received mixed reviews from Republicans. Last week, New York Republican Rep. Peter King went after the Kentucky lawmaker by saying that he did not think Republicans like Paul should represent “the face” of the party.
Paul, in an interview in Des Moines last week, where he was attending a conference for Christian church leaders, told Yahoo News that King’s comments were “exclusionary.”
"We should welcome a lot of people in the party — a big tent — who can disagree,” Paul told Yahoo News. “His may be an exclusionary view of the party. Mine is not.”
Call it a preview for 2016.