New Jersey governor Chris Christie may be looking forward to a possible presidential run in 2016, which would at least partially explain his broadside attack on Justin Amash (of the "defund the NSA amendment
") and Rand Paul and their "strain of libertarianism" that's now threatening established American institutions like domestic spying and fighting Wars on Stuff.
Christie invoked an old standby to criticize recent legislative activity
like the narrow defeat of Amash's amendment and Rep. Rush Holt's recently introduced bill to repeal the PATRIOT Act.
“As a former prosecutor who was appointed by President George W. Bush on Sept. 10, 2001, 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,” Christie said.
Asked whether he includes Paul — a fellow potential 2016 presidential candidate — in his criticism, Christie didn’t back down.
“You can name any one of them that’s engaged in this,” he said. “I want them to come to New Jersey and sit across from the widows and the orphans and have that conversation. … I’m very nervous about the direction this is moving in.”
Christie went on to characterize these debates as "esoteric" and "amnesiac."
“I think what we as a country have to decide is: Do we have amnesia? Because I don’t,” he said. “And I remember what we felt like on Sept. 12, 2001.”
For starters, debates pertaining to the rights of millions of Americans are hardly "inside baseball," indicating Christie isn't familiar with the definition of the term he chose to deploy. As for being "amnesiac," Christie might be best served with a blow to the head to jog his memory -- many aspects of these programs were in place pre-9/11
. The 9/11 attacks ushered in the PATRIOT Act, something hurriedly passed with bipartisan
support. Now that the bipartisan movement (a.k.a. "strain of libertarianism") is moving in the opposite direction, Christie suddenly feels this sort of cooperation is "dangerous."
But the most depressing part of Christie's rant is how completely rote the argument is
, as Gene Healy at Reason points out:
[H]aven't the arguments for unrestrained spying gotten any better over the last 11 years? Talk to the "widows and orphans," visualize a smoking crater, and write a blank check to the Security-Industrial Complex?
At some point during any discussion of the NSA's programs, defenders invoke an attack that wasn't prevented
and/or attacks theoretically prevented
by this surveillance. Very occasionally another attack that wasn't prevented
is dragged into the mix (the Boston bombing), its rare appearance largely due to the fact that all of these programs failed to prevent the sort of terrorist attack we're always being told the programs are in place to prevent.
Continually going back to the "9/11" well does very little to push the "discussion" forward. Defenders of the surveillance state obviously prefer it this way. If the discussion moves forward, the shortcomings of the programs are revealed and the abuses uncovered are left without a credible defense. Justifying future abuse using a past tragedy is nothing more than baldfaced attempts to guilt the public (and their representatives) into exchanging more liberty for security.
At this point, defenders like Christie are taking on the appearance of Sally Struthers stand-ins, dragging victims of terrorist attacks through smoking ruins, asking members of the public to donate some of their "excess" privacy in order to "ensure" a future free of further attacks. Obama has said he "welcomes" a debate
on these issues, but then slams the door
by calling legislative efforts like Amash's counterproductive. Other politicians running flack for the national security agencies have made no such overtures, but tellingly, their reactions and justifications are largely the same.
This "strain of libertarianism" doesn't threaten anything more than the growth of government and its intrusion into everyday lives of American. The fact that it has gone unchecked for so long is what's actually "dangerous," to use Christie's words. To derail the discussion by continually invoking 9/11 is nothing more than a cheap form a manipulation.