Still more than two years away from the next presidential election, Republican primary hopefuls alreadt see no reason to pull their punches. Last week, as the New York Times reported, Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey criticized the libertarian faction within the Republican Party, and particularly potential 2016 candidate Sen. Rand Paul, as being dangerously naive when it comes to the value of federal surveillance programs in catching and thwarting terrorist plots:
These esoteric, intellectual debates – I want them to come to New Jersey and sit across from the widows and orphans [of 9–11] and have that conversation… And they won't, because that's a much tougher conversation to have.
Libertarians have championed increased isolationism in foreign affairs, especially since Paul became the face of anti-drone policy after his filibuster of CIA Director John Brennan back in March. Many pundits speculate that this debate will decide the future direction of the Republican Party.
Instead of addressing the just balance of security and privacy with regard to programs like PRISM and the constitutionality of the FISA court (as he has done in the past), Paul decided to respond by attacking Christe for recently pushing congress to pass more hurricane relief funding after Hurricane Sandy:
They're precisely the same people who are unwilling to cut the spending, and their Gimme, gimme, gimme – give me all my Sandy money now… Those are the people who are bankrupting the government and not letting enough money be left over for national defense.
New York Times columnist Ross Douthat wrote on his blog that Paul's brand of libertarian populism could be good for the GOP:
He’s exactly the kind of principled political entrepreneur that moribund parties need. And a G.O.P. remade along libertarian-populist lines — more anti-interventionist abroad, suspicious of big government and big business at home — would be a much more interesting party, and in certain ways a more constructive force in American politics, than the G.O.P. that Mitt Romney led down to defeat last fall.
But could it win a presidential election? And would it deserve to? Right now I think the answers are no and no, because its broader economic agenda — to the extent that it exists — would be both politically untenable and mistaken on the merits.
Right-wing pundit Charles Krauthammer, meanwhile, called Christie's attack on Paul an "extremely important moment" for Republicans:
Rand Paul represents the sort of isolationist wing of the Republican party; by this direct, fearless attack on him by Christie, I think he takes up the mantle of the majority of the GOP, which is interventionist. And that’s a really important moment.
Paul's bold remarks continue to attract criticism. Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., likened Paul to former Democratic Party presidential candidate George McGovern, an anti-war politician who suffered a decisive loss to Richard Nixon in 1972.
What do you think? Will Rand Paul's antagonism of the GOP establishment help the party in 2016? Take the poll and comment below.