Last week, condemning "this strain of libertarianism that's going through both parties right now," New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie challenged people who worry about government surveillance or targeted killings to "come to New Jersey and sit across from the [9/11] widows and the orphans and have that conversation." Christie, who cited Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) as an exemplar of this "very dangerous" interest in civil liberties, had no real argument, just a pose as a caring, practical-minded person determined not to get bogged down in "these esoteric, intellectual debates" about the right to privacy or due process, because all sensible people recognize that when push comes to shove such airy-fairy notions must be sacrificed for the sake of safety. Why trust the government with the power to collect our telephone records or kill anyone the president suspects of involvement with terrorism? Because widows and orphans, that's why!
Today Rep. Michael Grimm (R-N.Y.), who represents Staten Island, took a similar tack in response to Paul's criticism of Christie for demanding federal subsidies after Hurricane Sandy. Over the weekend, Paul summed up Christie's attitude this way: "Gimme, gimme, gimme—give me all my Sandy money now." He added that "those are the people who are bankrupting the government." That was too much for Grimm, who said in a prepared statement:
Senator Rand Paul's remarks are disgraceful. I saw the Sandy devastation with my own eyes. I comforted those who lost children and husbands, and others who lost every treasured possession they own. To criticize Northeast Republicans for fighting tooth and nail to bring relief to the very people we represent is reprehensible. This is what we were elected to do and we delivered.
Libertarians like Rand Paul are continually hurting the Republican brand. Even after a storm as devastating as Sandy, it's clear that Senator Paul would rather put ideology before humanity. Unfortunately, ideology will not rebuild a home or help a small business recover. This type of rhetoric we continue to hear from Senator Paul and others is not only unproductive in Congress, but a threat to all Americans who put their faith and confidence in elected officials should disaster strike—whether it is Superstorm Sandy or 9/11.
How do we know that disaster relief is a legitimate federal function and that every cent self-righteous schnorrers like Christie and Grimm got was money well spent? Because dead children and husbands, that's why! Have you no humanity?
Remember Christie and Grimm's pathetic excuses for logic the next time you hear a Republican complain that Democrats use emotional appeals instead of reason to get their way.
In a TV debate on Friday, Matt Welch criticized the "sick" rhetorical habit of building statist arguments on the corpses of 9/11 victims.