The simmering intra-GOP war on foreign policy escalated yesterday when New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who could face off against Rand Paul in a 2016 GOP presidential primary, slammed the Kentucky senator's views as "dangerous." Speaking at a panel of GOP governors in Aspen, Colorado, Christie said the "strain of libertarianism that’s going through parties right now and making big headlines I think is a very dangerous thought."
Asked if he was specifically alluding to Paul, Christie responded, “You can name any number of people and he’s one of them.” He continued: “These esoteric, intellectual debates -- I want them to come to New Jersey and sit across from the widows and the orphans [of the 9/11 attacks] and have that conversation. And they won’t, because that’s a much tougher conversation to have.”
Team Paul heard fighting words, and Doug Stafford, one of Paul's closest advisers, told the New York Times' Jonathan Martin, “If Governor Christie believes the constitutional rights and the privacy of all Americans is ‘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 years." Stafford even invoked the lyrics of Christie's beloved Bruce Springsteen in firing back.
It's one of the first volleys of the 2016 GOP primary from two candidates who are widely expected to lead the pack, but it also underscores an apparent effort by some Republicans and conservatives with more muscular foreign policy views to disqualify Paul from the race before he even enters.
Paul's high-profile drone filibuster in March split the GOP, with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Sen. Ted Cruz, and others joining Paul, while Sens. John McCain and Lindsey Graham lambasted it. "The country needs more senators who care about liberty, but if Mr. Paul wants to be taken seriously he needs to do more than pull political stunts that fire up impressionable libertarian kids in their college dorms," McCain said. An attack ad followed, juxtaposing Paul's remarks during the filibuster with scenes from the Boston Marathon bombing, and Paul has been in a Cold War with the neoconservative wing of his party ever since.
Bill Kristol, the Weekly Standard editor and keeper of the neoconservative flame, called Paul a "dangerous...neo-isolationist" after he won the CPAC straw poll.
When The Washington Free Beacon, a conservative blog that is a vocal supporter of Israel, recently exposed a Paul aide's neo-Confederate beliefs, many viewed is another salvo in this war.