Debates

Christie, Paul, and the NSA

Fearful, emotional appeals versus the cold light of reality

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Fox

Debating Chris Christie is a formidable task because he's quick-witted, sharp-tongued and slightly intimidating. Those qualities helped him get the best of Rand Paul in the first Republican presidential debate. But Christie's best weapon is one that may catch up with him: He never lets the truth get in his way. 

Earlier this year, Paul led a successful effort to end the National Security Agency's mass collection of Americans' telephone records. During the debate, Christie was asked whether he stands by his assertion that Paul should be blamed if the United States suffers another terrorist attack. 

He does, of course: He is not one for second thoughts. Launching into a favorite soliloquy, Christie bragged that he is the only candidate "who has prosecuted and investigated and jailed terrorists after September 11th." He said, "We lost friends of ours in the Trade Center that day. My own wife was two blocks from the Trade Center that day, at her office, having gone through it that morning." 

And finally, he declared, "I will make no apologies, ever, for protecting the lives and the safety of the American people. We have to give more tools to our folks to be able to do that, not fewer." He brought to mind Joe Biden's crack that Rudy Giuliani needed only three things to make a sentence: "a noun, a verb and 9/11." 

None of Christie's self-dramatization shed any light on the NSA program. But it made him sound like he has a deep understanding of the issue that is pitifully absent in Paul.

When Paul invoked the Fourth Amendment, which forbids unreasonable searches and seizures, and urged the use of search warrants, Christie showered him in contempt. "Listen, senator, you know, when you're sitting in a subcommittee, just blowing hot air about this, you can say things like that," he snorted. 

When his rival derided him for allegedly hugging President Barack Obama, Christie once again played the 9/11 card: "The hugs that I remember are the hugs that I gave to the families who lost their people on September 11th." Paul was left smirking lamely. If it had been a boxing match, the referee would have stopped it before he suffered a fatal injury. 

But some arguments that look imposing in the heat of battle shrivel up under cold examination. What is clear from Christie's claims about NSA surveillance is that he 1) doesn't know what he's talking about or 2) doesn't care. 

The domestic phone records program amassed a vast pile of data that has been very useful in proving the uselessness of vast piles of data. In 2013, U.S. District Judge Richard Leon, appointed by President George W. Bush, found it to be not only unconstitutional, but ineffectual. 

"The government," he noted, "does not cite a single instance in which analysis of the NSA's bulk metadata collection actually stopped an imminent attack, or otherwise aided the government in achieving any objective that was time-sensitive in nature." 

Obama appointed a panel of experts to assess the NSA program, which Bush started and he continued, and it reached the same conclusion. The information about terrorism it produced, said the group, "was not essential to preventing attacks and could readily have been obtained" through other means. 

A study by the New America Foundation, a centrist Washington think tank, agreed: "Surveillance of American phone metadata has had no discernible impact on preventing acts of terrorism." Marshall Erwin, a former Senate Republican staffer who is now a research fellow at the Hoover Institution, has testified, "There does not appear to be a case in which Section 215 bulk phone records played an important role in stopping a terrorist attack." 

Paul didn't cite all this evidence in the debate, and even if he had, it might not have blunted the attack. Christie is not the sort to be rattled by the sudden appearance of verified facts. Nor is he trying to attract voters who demand evidence before granting the government more power in the name of fighting terrorism. 

He appeals to people who are impressed by a loud voice and an aggressive manner. He appeals to those who think dispassionate analysis is for nerds. He appeals to visceral instincts, which are largely immune to reason. 

The message he conveyed is that Paul doesn't know how to stop our enemies because he's had no contact with grim reality. It's an odd charge coming from Christie, whose remedy for terrorism works only in theory. 

© Copyright 2015 by Creators Syndicate Inc.

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  1. Meanwhile, several sources have posted the video of Christie and Obama … no hug, so Rand’s nastiness was again demonstrated … an unbroken string since the two news women he insulted with crude snark. The attack on Trump, who would run as an independent because … get this … because Trump buys and sells politicians. WTF?

    Rand Paul, Chris Christie and Donald Trump. What a pissing contest. The only one missing (for now) is Huckabee, as each election is more tragic than the previous one. .

    1. If the Libertarian messiah returns back to earth, he still wouldn’t pass your purity test.

      1. and he brings plenty of cake for everyone you ungrateful bastard!!

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    2. First: Video posted that does not include a hug, does not in any way prove there was no hug, only that there was no hug in that video.

      Second: I remember SEEING video of a hug at the time.

      Third: You should have been there. What is a bunch of piss without a pile of $hit.

    3. If you put your ear up to Hihn’s head, you can actually hear the sea.

  2. “He appeals to people who are impressed by a loud voice and an aggressive manner.”

    IOW, your typical Republican and Tea Party voter.

    The other day a nice women in the editorial page of my local paper wondered why Donald trump– a man without a demonstrable political agenda or platform, who was a liberal up until 2008– could be winning the Republican Party. Well, geesch, lady, when you have a political party that has appealed to inchoate rage about liberals and Mexicans and commies and welfare queens for the last 50 years what the fuck do you expect?The Republican Party of this era is the worst political party since the Democrats of the late 1850s. The last time we put them in office they mismanaged the war that was arguably justified and then spent most of their time and effort and out tax dollars in carrying out an illegal and immoral war against a country that never attacked us. Hitlery will probably be worse though.

    1. I’m sorry, would you mind arranging your words in a coherent manner and writing towards an audience of educated adults and not psychotic proggies ? Thanks !

    2. The Republican Party of this era is the worst political party since the Democrats of the late 1850s

      Still trying to blame Republicans for Democrat racism, huh? We’ve heard it before: the current day Republicans inherited all the bad racists from the Democrats and the Democrats are now glorious fighters for justice and equality. But that assertion evaluates Democrats on their rhetoric and not on the results of their policies.

      Those policies have created an underclass of ballot slaves out of many black voters who feel themselves wholly dependent on the Democratic party for their shelter and sustenance. Republican efforts at welfare reform (signed by a moderate Democrat president) slightly reversed this dependence but then the Democrats give us ObamaCare which will ensure that many more poor and middleclass voters will become ballot slaves to the Democrats for their health insurance.

      I’m not tooting the Republican’s horn for them here. They also seek to create ballot slaves. But the Democrats are the worst of the two.

      1. Next thing you know, Woodrow Wilson will be acclaimed as the first TEA Party President.

  3. *peeks head into room and sees rambling lunatic in one corner and a “genius” fighting his way out of a self inflicted atomic wedgie in another*

  4. “The domestic phone records program amassed a vast pile of data that has been very useful in proving the uselessness of vast piles of data” as an inveterate breaker of petty laws i got a little worried about this kind of thing when the details started coming to light, but then i realized all they’re doing is making the proverbial haystack bigger. if anything the huge amount of [meta]data on innocent americans makes me safer. also, until the clearance rate for murder is 100%, the drug war (the kind of petty laws i tend to ignore) seems like a patently immoral waste of money

  5. Those qualities helped him get the best of Rand Paul in the first Republican presidential debate.

    I’m not so sure that was the case. The crowd was as much on Paul’s side if not more, and the senator got the last word.

    1. I agree. I remember much louder cheers for Paul when he mentioned the 4th amendment.

    2. The folks who actually attend debates (in the cheap seats) tend to be much younger than your average primary voter. They are interns and volunteers and students who get free tickets to stuff like this in lieu of pay. And they make a lot of noise.

  6. Christie’s position boils down to “9/11 happened, so we’ll do whatever we want…fuck you and your Bill of Rights, too. 9/11, 9/11! Don’t you care about the widows and orphans? Why are you talking about warrants? Do you want more buildings to blow up?” How is any politician who chooses to eschew any rational argument in favor of naked scaremongering and appeals to emotion like this not run out of town on a rail?

    So I’m not really sure how he supposedly got the better of Rand… Granted, the “you hugged Obama!” thing was stupid, but Christie is such a useless, offensive piece of shit that I can give Rand a pass on that.

    1. I think hugging a president who believes government is the solution to everything while he’s out doing photo-ops to demonstrate government has everything under control is pretty relevant. It’s symbolic, to be sure, but it is symbolic of who Christie is as a leader.

    2. The phrase “Do whatever you need to do to insure X never happens again” is the moral equivalent of the “Ring of Gyges”.
      It allows one to act with perfect immunity from normal consequences, is absolutely corrupting and generally ends with someone muttering “My precious” in front of a triple order of pasta.

      No one ever gives up the ring without a fight.

  7. The Governor also claimed that he was appointed U.S. Attorney General on September 10, 2001. Actually, he was nominated later, after 9/11, and did not start until 2002.

    1. You mean “United States Attorney”, don’t you?
      Even Chris Christie, as much as he admires himself, would never claim he was the AG.

  8. A study by the New America Foundation, a centrist Washington think tank, agreed: “Surveillance of American phone metadata has had no discernible impact on preventing acts of terrorism.”

    Do we really still believe that this mass metadata collecting is for the prevention of terrorism?

    1. There are people who sincerely believe there is no such thing as too much information. They don’t seem to understand that too much information leads to diminishing returns (at best) and becomes a waste of time and resources to sift through and digest.

      1. I think his point is that this data is being used by law enforcement to pursue other criminals. But nobody wants to give up their constitutional rights in order to stop some guy from buying dope online, so TERRORISM!

      2. When you’re trying to convince congress-critters to resist reform and increase funding, more data is nearly absolute power.
        Just the knowledge that the NSA has 97% of one’s emails is enough to make most people back off.

    2. Actually, it’s to prevent anyone from establishing a firing position on a grassy-knoll.

  9. Christie embodies the very worst of the political class. A lying demagogue who wants nothing more than to swell himself up with power (and food) while systematically taking away the last of the liberties enjoyed by common folks.

    I hate to say it, but AmSoc is right in this context. The party that would espouse such anti-freedom really is at a low ebb. The only problem is that their rival party is equally bad if not worse. They are idiots who wish to divide everyone into warring factions so they can be more easily conquered, all the while doing everything they can to aggrandize their own power and influence

    It is well past the time to metaphorically relegate both major parties to a device used for processing branches into mulch. Can society really not do better than to choose from two groups of tyrannical imbeciles?

    1. Chris Christie is not a Dem, and he’s not a Republican, he’s a member of The Ruling Class.

  10. Unfortunately, Rand missed a prime opportunity to nail Christie – and through him several other members of the party – by asking him “so the Fourth Amendment is nothing but hot air…exactly what other constitutional amendments would you unilaterally do away with in the name of protecting ‘one American?’ The First? THE SECOND?”

    1. Actually, he did- it’s just that no-one paid attention. He specifically asked Christie if he had gotten warrants from a judge? He did? Well, well.

    2. It is funny how Republicans love the 2nd Amendment to extremes (not that there’s anything wrong with that), but most other amendments can be thrown under the bus without ceremony when they become inconvenient.

      1. Christie disparages the entire Bill of Rights. To get a concealed carry permit in New Jersey you have to be either a celebrity or a member of organized crime. Christie thinks that “reasonable” gun control means only the cops and a few VIPs can have guns.

        He’s a loud mouthed bully with impulse control problems as his enormous girth will testify. He needed surgery to prevent himself from becoming the character in an old “Monty Python” sketch who couldn’t resist one more “wafer thin mint”.

        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HJZPzQESq_0

    3. You can’t nail Christie. All you can do is distract him. The other candidates need to learn to carry candy in their pockets. Hold it out when they make a point and they’ll have Christie eating out of their hands

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  13. I recall that Christie made a major point that he was appointed US Attorney just the day before 9/11. I believe the significance of his appointment the DAY BEFORE 9/11 should be investigated. He was appointed by GW Bush no less, one of the likely perpetrators of 9/11.

    Just what was Chris Christie’s connection to the events of 9/11, other than his investigations. His authoritarian viewpoint is just the sort of viewpoint that the perpetrators of 9/11 would want. The coincidence of his appointment just the day before is just a little too coincidental for me to accept.

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  14. Christie and Paul are made for each other, and serve of-value only to themselves.

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