It did not take too long after President Barack Obama was reelected last November before talk about 2016 would begin. Talks were slightly picking up before the election took place in some circles. On the Democratic side, the big talk is all about Hillary Clinton very similar to the lead up to 2008. The end result was not what she and her supporters likely envisioned and see a strong chance at finishing the job in three years. It is a lot more complicated and open on the Republican side with various names mentioned from current and former governors to members of Congress. Among the herd is New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and Senator Rand Paul (R-KY). They represent different parts of the GOP political spectrum and a few weeks ago they provided a potential preview of future debates and exchanges.
The divide between the two Republican would stem from Christie's remarks on libertarian-leaning lawmakers like Paul who oppose the National Security Agency's controversial surveillance program in a post-9/11 world. The NSA's approach has been examined from various angles including the "Edward Snowden fiasco" and the hacking of calls and emails. Paul would quickly fire back using Bruce Springsteen, a favorite artist of Christie, in his attack.
The exchange might simply be a disagreement on policy between the two in a short-term window or it could be a small bit of jockeying in the very early stages of the 2016 race.
As Christie would state in his comments directed at Paul and similar lawmakers,
I just want us to be really cautious, because this strain of libertarianism that’s going through both parties right now and making big headlines, I think, is a very dangerous thought. I think what we as a country have to decide is: Do we have amnesia? Because I don’t. And I remember what we felt like on Sept. 12, 2001.
He would continue,
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. The next attack that comes, that kills thousands of Americans as a result, people are going to be looking back on the people having this intellectual debate.
Those comments would draw the following from Paul:
Christie worries about the dangers of freedom. I worry about the danger of losing that freedom. Spying without warrants is unconstitutional.
A top advisor of Paul, Doug Stafford, would add;
If Gov. 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. Defending America and fighting terrorism is the concern of all Americans, especially Sen. Paul. But it can and must be done in keeping with our Constitution and while protecting the freedoms that make America exceptional.
If one thought the two would end their war of words there and go back to their respective responsibilities and goals, you would be wrong. The focus would quickly turn from the NSA and national security to federal dollars returned to states based on what they contribute to them. New Jersey has often not seen its deserving return for every $1 it sends to the federal government. The Garden State only sees 61 cents per dollar spent back while a state like Kentucky where Paul is from sees $1.51 returned for each $1 it sends.
Due to nearly a dollar difference in returns, Christie took umbrage with Paul and his approach to cutting spending when a state like Kentucky is taking home so much money for what it contributes.
As Christie would voice,
So if Senator Paul wants to start looking at where he's going to cut spending to afford defense, maybe he should start looking at cutting the pork barrel spending that he brings home to Kentucky. So maybe Senator Paul could, ya know, deal with that when he's trying to deal with the reduction in spending on the federal side, but I doubt he would because most Washington politicians only care about bringing home the bacon so that they can get re-elected.
Paul was again quick to respond by retorting,
This is the king of bacon talking about bacon.
That was likely a jab at Christie for asking for federal aid in the wake of Hurricane Sandy. Paul had previously went after Republicans from both New Jersey and New York for asking for aid. He has accused the relief package that was approved to be filled with "pork barrel stuff" and waste.
He would add,
What does he (Christie) want to do, shut down military bases in Kentucky? In order to have enough money for national defense, which I think is a priority for the government, you have to be willing to cut spending in other places, and Governor Christie and others have been part of this 'gimme gimme gimme','give me all this money.'
He would even call out Christie's audacity for calling him out with the state of northeast Republicans and the lack of them at the national level.
As Paul would utter,
It's a big mistake. It's not very smart. And it's not a good way to grow the party. Why would he want to pick a fight with the one guy who has a chance to grow the party by appealing to the youth and appealing to people who would like to see a more moderate and less aggressive foreign policy?
Again, it would not take long before a response would be given by Christie.
I find it interesting that Senator Paul is accusing us of having a gimme, gimme, gimme attitude toward federal spending when in fact New Jersey is a donor state, we get 61 cents back on every dollar we send to Washington. And interestingly Kentucky gets 1.51 on every dollar they sent to Washington. So if Senator Paul wants to start looking at where he's going to start to cut spending ... maybe he should start cutting the pork barrel spending that he brings home to Kentucky.
He would add,
So maybe Senator Paul could, ya know, deal with that when he's trying to deal with the reduction in spending on the federal side, but I doubt he would because most Washington politicians only care about bringing home the bacon so that they can get re-elected.
After these exchanges, Paul would look to have a "beer summit" with Christie to bury the hard feelings. In true to form for him, Christie would shoot down such a proposition and leave it at if their paths cross they can talk and call a truce. However, Christie was not sure exactly how soon that would occur.
Despite Christie lacking a willingness or a sense of urgency to sit down with Paul, the Kentucky senator would exclaim about the two Republicans;
The party's big enough for both of us. The party's big enough for lots of different Republicans. This all started with him saying, 'We don't have enough room for libertarian Republicans.' That's how we grow our party.
While it is still a while before either man declares or passes on running for president in 2016, this verbal spat series recently was definitely an exchange that involved two men who do not run from a challenge. As the GOP struggles with its image and decides whom it wants to put up in 2016, these two men provide interesting cases for various reasons. Time will tell if their paths cross again. For now, it adds to the speculation around both of their possible White House runs.