It didn’t take long for Gov. Chris Christie and Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) to get entangled at Thursday night’s FOX News debate, officially the first of the 2016 Republican presidential season.
Christie has consistently criticized Paul for advocating for the shutting down of the PATRIOT Act, and fingered his 2016 presidential rival as a culpable party if America gets hit again during a terror attack.
Christie stood by his criticism of Paul at which point the Kentucky senator questioned Christie’s understanding
of Americans’ constitutional rights and criticized the New Jersey governor for hugging President Barack Obama in the lead up to the 2012 general election.
“I remember hugging [the victims of the 9/11 attacks],” Christie shot back.
Later, the New Jersey governor seized on an answer Paul gave expressing skepticism about aid to Israel to create another contrast point. “I absolutely believe Israel is a priority,” Christie said.
Frontrunner Donald Trump slapped Paul, too, telling him, “You’re not doing too well tonight.”
Christie later received a question about Social Security in a question that pitted him against former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee on the question of entitlements. “He’s not lying, he’s just wrong,” Christie said of Huckabee. “I’m the only one who’s put out a plan on entitlement reform.”
Christie wants to raise the retirement age one month a year over 25 years and means test Social Security.
“For those who are making over $200,000 a year in retirement income and who have $4 to $5 million in liquid assets saved, they don’t need that Social Security check,” the governor said. “Social Security is meant to be to make sure that no one who has worked hard and played by the rules and paid into the system grows old in poverty in America. If we don’t deal with this problem, it will bankrupt our country or lead to massive tax increases, neither one that we want in this country.”
Huckabee objected, arguing that lawmakers sapped Social Security of $700 million to pay for Obamacare.
New Jersey came up again in the debate when Trump said he was glad he pulled out of Atlantic City before it went belly up. “Chris can tell you,” said Trump as Christie, appearing in a split screen with his rival, grinned.
Christie outdueled Governor Rick Perry of Texas to get onto tonight’s debate stage as one of ten Republican presidential candidates. Seven others didn’t make the cut.
“He got himself back in the race tonight,” CNN political analyst David Gergen said of Christie.
The New Jersey’s governor’s full exchange with Paul is reprinted below or can be viewed here.
MEGYN KELLY: Alright gentlemen, we’re going to switch topics and talk a bit about terror and national security. Governor Christie, you’ve said that Senator Paul’s opposition to the NSA’s collection of phone records has made the United States weaker and more vulnerable, even going so far as to say that he should be called before Congress to answer for it, if we should be hit by another terrorist attack. Do you really believe you can assign blame to Senator Paul just for opposing the bulk collection of people’s phone records in the event of a terrorist attack?
CHRIS CHRISTIE: Yes, I do. And I’ll tell you why. Because I’m the only person on this stage who’s actually filed applications under the Patriot Act, who have gone before the federal—the foreign intelligence service court, who has prosecuted and investigated and jailed terrorists in this country after September 11th . I was appointed U.S. Attorney by President Bush on September 10th, 2001, and the world changed enormously the next day and it happened in my state. This is not theoretical to me. I went to the funerals. 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. When you actually have to be responsible for doing this, you can do it and we did it for seven years in my office, respecting civil liberties and protecting the homeland. And 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, and then trust those people and oversee them to do it the right way. As president, that is exactly what I’ll do.
RAND PAUL: Megyn, may I respond to him? May I respond?
MEGYN KELLY: Go ahead, sir.
RAND PAUL: I want to collect more records from terrorists, but less records from innocent Americans. The fourth amendment was what we fought the revolution over. John Adams said it was the spark that led to our war for independence. And I’m proud of standing for the Bill of Rights and I will continue to stand for the Bill of Rights.
CHRIS CHRISTIE: And Megyn? Megyn, that’s a—that, you know, that’s a completely ridiculous answer. “I want to collect more records from terrorists, but less records from other people.” How are you supposed to know, Megyn?
RAND PAUL: Use the fourth amendment!
CHRIS CHRISTIE: What are you supposed to—how are you supposed to—
RAND PAUL: Use the fourth amendment!
CHRIS CHRISTIE: No, I’ll tell you how you do it.
RAND PAUL: Get a warrant!
CHRIS CHRISTIE: So you go—
RAND PAUL: Get a judge to sign a warrant!
CHRIS CHRISTIE: When you—you know, Senator…
MEGYN KELLY: Governor Christie, make your point.
CHRIS CHRISTIE: Listen, Senator, you know, when you’re sitting in a subcommittee just blowing hot air about this, you can say things like that. When you’re responsible for protecting the lives of the American people, then what you need to do is to make sure—
RAND PAUL: Here’s the problem—
CHRIS CHRISTIE: Is to make sure that you use the system the way it’s supposed to work.
RAND PAUL: Here’s the problem, Governor. Here’s the problem, Governor. You fundamentally misunderstand the Bill of Rights. Every time you did a case, you got a warrant from a judge. I’m talking about searches without warrants.
CHRIS CHRISTIE: There is no—
RAND PAUL: Indiscriminately of all Americans’ records, and that’s what I fought to end. I don’t trust President Obama with our records. I know you gave him a big hug, and if you want to give him a big hug again, go right ahead.
CHRIS CHRISTIE: And—
MEGYN KELLY: Go ahead, Governor.
CHRIS CHRISTIE: And, you know—you know, Senator Paul you the hugs that I remember are the hugs that I gave to the families that lost their people on September 11. Those are the hugs I remember. And those had nothing to do with politics, like what you’re doing by cutting speeches on the floor of the Senate and then putting them on the internet within a half hour to raise money for your campaign and while still putting our country at risk.