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The Chris Christie-Rand Paul War That Wasn't

We think of the days when the Hearsts and Pulitzers of this country fanned the flames of war to sell newspapers as long behind us, but as it turns out, it’s an impulse that’s alive and well in certain newsrooms.

Did that strike you as needlessly hyperbolic? Now you've had the same experience you would reading the story that was headlining Politico this morning, “Why Rand Paul and Chris Christie went to war.”

In case you missed it, the New Jersey governor and Kentucky senator spent the last week trading bitch slaps on cable news. Said Christie, if Paul is so opposed to warrantless wiretaps, “come to New Jersey and sit across from the widows and the orphans and have that conversation.” If he’s so bothered by the gobs of aid New Jersey has received to recover from Sandy, “interestingly Kentucky gets 1.51 on every dollar they sent to Washington.” Said Paul, “It’s really, I think, kind of sad and cheap the he would use the cloak of 9/11 victims and say, ‘I’m the only one who cares about these victims.’ Hogwash.” Christie: “His response seems to that he has something personal against me, but that's OK, get in line on that front." Paul: “This is the king of bacon talking about bacon.”

Seems pretty in line with the normal rigamarole of cable news. But to Politico, because the specter of 2016 hangs over their I’m-rubber-you’re-glue spat, it passes for a battle royale. Here are their choice descriptors for what transpired between Paul and Christie in the past week: “a splendid little war”; “openly savaging each other”; “the battle lines between the two men have been drawn”; “firefight”;  “blowup”; “a total war confrontation”; “cannon blast”; and, with some disappointment, they reported that “both men stepped back from the brink of nuclear-level confrontation on Wednesday.”

Every political news outlet, including this one, uses military lingo to dramatize the mostly no-stakes kerfuffles that make up the news cycle—reporters do this so routinely that you'd be forgiven for failing to notice. But once in a while comes an article for which the author has so transparently relied on his thesaurus to maintain a sense of conflict that you have to stop and gawk. This is one of those pieces.

The only thing going for it is that the authors seem to know this, as they give the last word to a strategist who was this to say: “This early skirmish, in the totality of the race, on a scale of zero to ten, is a zero.”

Follow me on Twitter @mtredden.