The war of words between New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul is heating up, with the two potential Republican presidential contenders clashing over foreign policy and domestic spending in deeply personal attacks.
This verbal barrage is more than just good television, it’s a fight for the heart and soul of the Republican Party that is split at the seam on the proper role of the American government at home and abroad. Paul’s strain of thinking has risen unchecked within the Republican ranks over the past half-dozen years, but now the mainstream GOP is fighting back.
Last week Christie called Paul’s libertarian foreign policy “dangerous,” invoking the memory of the September 11, 2001 attacks. Paul fired back Sunday that Christie was only interested in government spending.
“They’re precisely the same people who are unwilling to cut the spending, and their `Gimme, gimme, gimme – give me all my Sandy money now.'” Paul said, according to the Associated Press. “Those are the people who are bankrupting the government and not letting enough money be left over for national defense.”
In a press conference Tuesday, Christie said he had no personal beef with Paul, before calling the son of former Rep. Ron Paul a preeminent pork barrel spender — which amounts to something of a personal slur against the avowed small-government lawmaker.
“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, at $1.51 for every $1.00 and not look at New Jersey, where we get $0.61 for every $1.00,” Christie said, noting his state pays out more than every federal dollar it receives. “So maybe Senator Paul could — could, you know, deal with that when he’s trying to deal with the reduction of 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 reelected.”
On CNN Tuesday evening, Paul struck back, calling his potential 2016 rival the “king of bacon.”
“This is the king of bacon talking about bacon,” he said. “You know, we have two military bases in Kentucky. And is Governor Christie recommending that we shut down our military bases?”
Paul repeated his criticism over the handling of federal relief funds for Hurricane Sandy, which Republican lawmakers held up — a move which drew anger from Christie.
“He’s making a big mistake picking a fight with other Republicans, because the Republican Party is shrinking in — in New England and in the northeast part of our country,” Paul continued. “I’m the one trying to grow the party by talking about liberation ideas of privacy and the Internet. And attacking me isn’t helping the party. He’s hurting the party.”
“Why would he want to pick a fight with the one guy who has the 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,” he added.
The battle is on. The question for Republicans is whether they can get it over in time for the 2016 race, and what casualties it leaves behind.
Paul’s remarks on CNN: