Chris Christie's Fearmongering Argument Against Privacy

His clash with Rand Paul reflects the clash between the GOP's authoritarian and libertarian tendencies.


One of the most telling moments in last week's Republican presidential debate came when moderator Megyn Kelly asked New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie to defend his position that Rand Paul, the Kentucky senator, should be held responsible for the next terrorist attack on Americans because he opposes the National Security Agency's indiscriminate collection of our telephone records. Christie bragged about prosecuting terrorists, repeatedly invoked 9/11, but never answered the question.

That's because Christie's claim is indefensible, relying on blind fear, fuzzy thinking, and automatic obeisance to a government that claims to be protecting us. The clash between Christie and Paul reflected a deeper clash between the Republican Party's authoritarian and libertarian tendencies.

Paul said he was standing up for the principles underlying the Fourth Amendment, which forbids "unreasonable searches and seizures." Instead of collecting everyone's records, he said, the government should seek records tied to specific terrorism suspects, based on court orders.

"That's a completely ridiculous answer," Christie responded. "'I want to collect more records from terrorists, but less records from other people.' How are you supposed to know, Megyn?"

Christie thinks the government needs everyone's records, just in case. Or as other defenders of the NSA's warrantless snooping have put it, you need the whole haystack to find the needle.

Leaving aside the legendary folly of looking for needles in haystacks, the wielders of this metaphor have never been able to cite any cases that validate their position. "We have not identified a single instance involving a threat to the United States in which the program made a concrete difference in the outcome of a counterterrorism investigation," the president's Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board reported last year. "Moreover, we are aware of no instance in which the program directly contributed to the discovery of a previously unknown terrorist plot or the disruption of a terrorist attack."

Christie claims the NSA's phone record dragnet—which most Americans oppose, a federal appeals court deemed illegal, and Congress voted to halt—is essential to preventing terrorist attacks. But he can't explain why.

"I'll tell you why," he said in response to Kelly's question. "Because I'm the only person on this stage who's actually filed applications under the PATRIOT Act, who has gone before the federal—the Foreign Intelligence Service Court, who has prosecuted and investigated and jailed terrorists in this country after September 11th."

While boasting about his service as a U.S. attorney, Christie not only misidentified the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. He falsely claimed that "I was appointed U.S. attorney by President Bush on September 10th, 2001, and the world changed enormously the next day." He was actually appointed on December 7, 2001, which makes this self-aggrandizing story a bit less dramatic.

More to the point, Christie never clarified how his experience as a prosecutor showed the need for the NSA's routine collection of telephone metadata. He did not mention any cases where that program played a crucial role, presumably because there were none.

Christie's pseudo-answer was simply an excuse to remind viewers, again and again, about the horror that was the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. "This is not theoretical to me," he said. "I went to the funerals."

Later, after Paul mentioned that Christie had literally embraced Barack Obama, suggesting excessive trust in a president who by his own admission has violated our privacy for no good reason, Christie retorted, "The hugs that I remember are the hugs that I gave to the families who lost their people on September 11th." This is not an argument; this is a naked attempt to drown logic in emotion. It is literally pathetic.

Christie's message was that airy-fairy concerns about civil liberties are fine "when you're sitting in a subcommittee, just blowing hot air about this." But such niceties must be forsaken "when you're responsible for protecting the lives of the American people." If Christie meant to scare me, he succeeded, but probably not in the way he intended.

© Copyright 2015 by Creators Syndicate Inc.

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  1. “That’s a completely ridiculous answer,” [New Jersey Democrat Chris] Christie responded. “‘I want to collect more records from terrorists, but less records from other people.’ How are you supposed to know, Megyn?”

    Paul responded with his best Lucille Bluth impersonation. “Get a warrant!”

    It’s a little sad that no one but Paul called Christie on his mocking of 4th Amendment protections. I know that Christie will never be president, but one of the other silent debaters could be. And, they could be stupid enough to make Christie their AG.

    1. “It’s a little sad that no one but Paul called Christie on his mocking of 4th Amendment protections.”

      Republican primary voters have shown clearly that civil liberties and protection from the police state fall somewhere below static cling on their list of national concerns. Of course nobody else called him on it.

      1. I was surprised that Rand Paul’s plea for 4th Amendment rights met with a significant amount of vigorous applause.

        1. Agree that is strange. It certainly isn’t reflected in the poll numbers. This just isn’t an issue for the GOP as a whole.

          1. Unfortunately it doesn’t seem to be for the Democrats, either.

            1. It will be if a Republican wins. They dutifully keep their mouths shut for all of Obama’s violations, but two seconds after a Republican is sworn in, they’ll be on their ass about the NSA.

              1. This is exactly. right and borne out by poll numbers on the issue.

          2. the puppet media gives false numbers, …

      2. Read the threads on conservative sites about Ferguson protesters getting DNA swabs after they were arrested for a courthouse protest. They think it’s great and are yucking it up about how many “rape cases are about to be solved.” Of course if it was one of their Tea Party rallies they’d go apeshit. And, yes, they’re mostly Donald Trump supporters who really hope he’s their iron fisted 8 year dictator because it’s high-larious when he yells at somebody for no reason.

        1. See, that’s the problem… You either stand for the 4th amendment or you don’t. It doesn’t matter if it’s your team in charge or your opponents’ team. It doesn’t matter if activists on your side are being harassed or activists you disagree with.

          To do otherwise means you are NOT for liberty. Being for liberty for just your group and slavery for other groups is not being for liberty at all.

          It’s the same thing with free speech. You don’t get to protect speech you like but silence speech you disagree with or offends you. That’s why I loath all those people who say, “I’m for free speech, but…”

  2. I was yelling at my TV during this part. Christie’s response to this one question would keep me from ever voting for him (which I don’t see as ever having to do anyway).

    1. Vote for a former prosecutor? Ain’t gonna happen. Not even for dog shooter… er… dog catcher.

  3. Paul should have asked Christie what other parts of the US Constitution he would blatantly violate if elected

    1. Oh, I’d laughed if that had happened

  4. Jacob reports on “libertarian tendencies,” plural, within God’s Only Party. Try as I might, the best I can come up with is one (01) Kentucky antiabortionist so desperate to force women to reproduce as to even offer to give up the prohibitionist jailing of hepcats, casual shooting of blacks and latinos and bombing of mohammedan villages in exchange for that power. Is there another Republican partly cross-dressed in libertarian drag? someone hitherto unnoticed? Surely if God’s Own Politicians were serious about drawing spoiler votes away from the LP they could increase the fake libertarian content to better than one third of one percent. What am I missing?

    1. one (01) Kentucky antiabortionist so desperate to force women to reproduce as to even offer to give up the prohibitionist jailing of hepcats, casual shooting of blacks and latinos and bombing of mohammedan villages in exchange for that power.

      Yes, Rand Paul would literally throw womyn into forced reproduction camps to be forcibly impregnated in order to bread a new kind of Randian Ubermensch. And don’t get me started on blacks – “he’ll put ya’ll back in chainz!” Amirite?! /DERP

      What am I missing?

      A functioning brain.

    2. I had hope this winter when Rand was taking off. But this Donald Trump bullshit destroyed that hope. Nothing but a bunch of low IQ’ed racist assholes.

  5. You know who else demonized am entire group of people who didn’t believe like he did?

    What are you missing? Perspective. Except for the loathsome Christie and equally loathsome Graham (btw Lindsey is a girl’s name, that’s why he’s so desperate to prove he’s tough), except for those two, any one of the GOP candidates is 100% better than Shillary or the Socialist.

    1. Comparing Hillary to this crowd is like pondering whether Hitler or Stalin would win a cupcake bake off. Evil is evil and that describes almost the entire GOP field.

      1. Ok, so vote only for someone who meets your purity test. You do understand that undoing Obamacare and Obama’s policies is the biggest priority? If Hillary wins, things are going to get even worse.
        Unless that’s your plan: Let every thing hit rock bottom, and hope to craft a better system out of the rubble. Personally, that’s sounds like a pretty big gamble.

        1. Obamacare is not going away if a republican wins. If you think it is you are delusional. The number one issue we face btw is the NSA not Obamacare. As long as we are talking about plans yours seems to be.

          “Let’s vote for the republican because he is Mao who is slightly better than Stalin”

          How has that been working out for you for the last 50 years? How did it work out during GW’s term? When we see a Republican administration leave office with a more libertarian government than he started with you will have a point. In the meantime don’t waste your breath on this lesser of two evils bullshit. GW did more to forward anti-liberty policies than BIll Clinton and Jimmy Carter combined.

          1. Let’s run through the last 50 years of the POTUS:

            LBJ: anti-Semitic southern racist who happened to become POTUS because Kennedy needed a Southerner on his ticket to balance his liberal New England (and Roman Catholic) rep.

            Nixon: ’nuff said although his foreign policies were quite strong.

            Ford: lucky enough to be Veep when Nixon was forced to resign.

            Carter: 2nd worst POTUS we’ve had; both foreign and domestic policies a failure.

            Reagan: 1st term was ok, did some good for the country. 2nd term? By midway through it one could smell the stench of the Neocon wafting out of the various back rooms in the WH, aching to take over.

            Bush41: meh, not good but also no serious blunders that we as a country couldn’t get past.

            Clinton: the Great Equivocator. When he realized his schtick wasn’t working out he “held his nose” and triangulated towards the Center.

            Bush43: some, not much, good early on but then his Veep and the other Neocons he surrounded himself with started to take over.

            Obama: worst PO[tu]S we’ve had. Disregarded almost everything the people wanted in order to push through his Progressive agenda. (Peace at any cost including the destruction of the American way of life, attempts at a single source payer for healthcare and a redistribution of monies from the Middle Class to the Lower Class, the Elites remained untouchable, and more endangerment of the US as a first-world country).

    2. Lindsey is a girl’s name, that’s why he’s so desperate to prove he’s tough

      I think there are other reasons. Especially since Lindsey is originally a man’s name.

  6. “Evil is evil and that describes almost the entire GOP field.”

    No need to make this about team when it applies to every one of them, from either party. Some are worse than others, but all of them have the fetid stink of politics on them.

    1. Fair enough hows this

      Evil is evil and that describes almost the entire GOP and Democratic field. Feel better?

  7. Paul was right, and his poll numbers dropped with Republican primary voters.

    Paul mentioned he was a different kind of Republican. He went to Ferguson. Probably the worst thing he could have said appealing to the morons who would vote for Trump. Paul cannot win with these people voting in the primaries. He can’t even win with libertarians because the slightest compromise draws their ire.

    1. Why GOP voters saw in the Paul/Christie spat was Paul rolling his eyes after Christie mentioned hugs for families of victims of 9/11. Christie’s appeal was purely emotional and intentionally so. And it works because people are fucking stupid.

      1. Yeah, I cringed when he rolled his eyes. I agreed with him doing it, but the “NEVAR 4GIT” crowd isn’t smart enough to realize why he did it. “HEY! HE ROLLED HIS EYES! HE HATES AMURICA! WHEN IS MR. TRUMP GUNNA TALK AGAIN? HE’S RIGHT GOOD FOR THE COUNTRY.”

        1. Emotional appeals work on small children and dim-witted adults.

          As for “hating Amurica,” it’s the authoritarians who truly hate it. They seek to further undermine liberties simply to increase their power. It doesn’t matter what letter appears after their name, they are basically the same.

          1. Which is why we need SAT scores being handed over before you can vote, forget IDs.

            1. We need an in-depth physical examination for candidates before they can run. The morbidly obese should be disqualified.

  8. It’s heartening that Christie has higher negative ratings in polls than Trump. It’s sad that Rand Paul also has higher negatives than Trump. I’ll never vote for Christie or Trump. I might vote for Paul if he starts talking more like a libertarian, and stops interrupting his critics during debates, where he would have had an opportunity to respond after Christie was done.

  9. Rand could have destroyed Christie and walked away with the debate if he had started out his closing statement like this:

    “For the last few decades, the Surveillance/Industrial Complex has been in the process of constructing what others have called a ‘turnkey totalitarian state’. Tonight, on this stage, you have met one of the people that has promised, if elected, to turn that key.”

  10. Another Liar. Christie is a liar.

  11. “…have never been able to cite any cases that validate their position.”

    Whether they have or haven’t doesn’t matter. Violating the 4th because they have found “something” is no more palatable than when no plots have been discovered.

    The human right to privacy as protected by the 4th Amendment is more than sufficient for all human action.

  12. spying on innocent people diverts attention from the guilty…they know who is a potential threat…but they ignore them because its profiling….

  13. That’s a completely ridiculous answer


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