Rand Paul vs. Chris Christie Pits the Constitution vs. Fear

Senator Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and Governor Chris Christie (R-N.J.), both likely contenders for the 2016 presidential nomination, are already taking heavyweight swings at each other regarding the surveillance state. Christie made it perfectly clear that he wants to drum up support for President Obama’s expansion of George W. Bush’s surveillance state by fear-mongering and using 9/11 as a justification while Paul continues to defend the Fourth Amendment.

Appearing on a panel with other Republican governors, Christie took shots at Paul and others, stating  that “this strain of libertarianism that’s going through parties right now…is a very dangerous thought.” He referred to invocations of Fourth Amendment rights protecting Americans from unreasonable searches and seizures as “esoteric, intellectual debates.”

As no defense of the national security state would be complete without invoking the tragedy of 9/11 and its victims, Christie challenged Paul and others to sit down with the families of those lost in 9/11 to discuss basic constitutional freedoms with them.


After rebutting Christie over twitter, Paul, who tends to espouse libertarian ideals, took the opportunity to respond to Christie’s attack in an interview with Fox news. Calling Christie out on his emotional manipulation, Paul stated that “it’s really…kind of sad and cheap that he would use the cloak of 9/11 victims and say, I’m the only one who cares about these victims.”

He added that the true danger is forgetting about the Bill of Rights, accused the New Jersey governor of fiscal irresponsibility, and reminded him that it is not smart for Republicans, particularly those from the predominantly liberal Northeast, to attack other Republicans.


Like Obama and other national security state proponents, Christie is making an argument based on fear mongering and irrational emotional appeals to blow the problem out of proportion rather than performing an objective, statistical analysis of the facts. Based on how frequently the U.S. media and politicians talk about the threat of terrorism, specifically Islamic terrorism, it seems that we are constantly under fire.

The truth is, however, that the odds of dying in a terrorist attack are one in 20,000,000 (0.00000005%) and that terrorism has actually become less frequent since the 1970s. In other words, as the graph below shows, you are more likely to be struck by lightning than to be killed by a terrorist.

The goal of terrorism is to spread paranoia and fear through violent acts, making the target feel less safe. Clearly it’s working, as elected officials view the need to spy on the American public as an indispensable tool in combating the 0.00000005% chance of someone dying in an attack. When we surrender our freedoms and the Bill of Rights, the terrorists have truly won. 

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Bryant Harris

Bryant Harris is a reporter with Inter Press Service News. He has worked in Muscat, Oman and was a U.S. Peace Corps Volunteer in Morocco. He graduated from UW-Madison in 2011 with a BA in Middle East Studies.

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