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Chris Christie-Rand Paul tiff on foreign policy reflects deep rift in GOP

In Congress, the divide between Team Christie and a more libertarian Team Paul was on display in the debate over the Amash amendment that sought to de-fund the NSA surveillance program.

By Staff Writer / July 26, 2013

Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky. speaks with reporters in Louisville, Ky., on Monday.

Timothy D. Easley/AP/File

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Washington

The foreign policy tussle between Chris Christie and Rand Paul, two likely 2016 Republican presidential contenders, marks the most public flaring of a long-simmering debate between the GOP’s long-time hawkish bent and the libertarian infusion the party has experienced in the last two election cycles.

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When push comes to shove, do Republicans weigh in on the side of national security and foreign intervention or of privacy and greater international detachment? And which path will help grow a political party that even some of its leaders fear faces deep demographic challenges?

Of course, both Senator Paul (R) of Kentucky and New Jersey Governor Christie would argue their path does all those things – they just strongly disagree about how to proceed.

“This strain of libertarianism that’s going through parties right now and making big headlines I think is a very dangerous thought,” Christie said on a panel in Aspen, Colo. on Thursday, according to the New York Times.

Later, he continued: “The next attack that comes, that kills thousands of Americans as a result, people are going to be looking back on the people having this intellectual debate and wondering whether they put …” before abruptly ending his thought.

In a Facebook post, Paul, who most famously launched an hours-long filibuster over domestic US drone use and who has pushed to cut off foreign aid to many restive Middle East nations, rejoined that “Chris Christie thinks freedom is dangerous. What's dangerous is a foreign policy that borrows from China to pay people who burn our flag in Egypt.”

Paul’s political Facebook page was less restrained, calling Christie “Obama’s favorite Republican” and wondering if the governor approves of sending weapons to “al Qaeda allies” in Syria.

While the tiff is a spot of positioning between two presidential contenders at either end of a particular policy debate, it’s also an argument that reverberates deep down into the Republican Party.

In Congress, there’s a stark divide between Team Christie and Team Paul.

Rep. Peter King (R) of New York, a former chairman of the Homeland Security Committee and a veteran foreign policy hawk, said he “isn’t saying no” to a potential presidential run in part because “when I see people like Rand Paul talking about drones killing people out to get a cup of coffee, I don't want that to be the face of the national Republican Party," he told The Hill.

But the reason Congressman King, a 20-year House veteran, has found himself back in the congressional majority is because of a surge of more Paul-minded reinforcements like Rep. Raul Labrador (R) of Idaho. And those folks want more Rand, not less.

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