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3 Takeaways from Rand Paul’s #StandwithRand #Filibuster About Drone Strikes
March 7, 2013, 7:32 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

3 Takeaways from Rand Paul’s #StandwithRand #Filibuster About Drone Strikes:

For all of the late-night punch-drunkiness that
eventually ensued on Twitter (well, at least on my feed),
yesterday’s 12-hours-plus filibuster led by Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.)
is among the most electrifying and insipiring events in recent
political memory. The point of the filibuster – which derailed a
confirmation vote on John Brennan as Barack Obama’s CIA head – was
to call attention to the president’s insufficient answers to
questions about his policy of targeted killings via drones and, one
assumes, other methods.
Here are three takeaways from yesterday’s epic event:
1. It shows what one man can do to call attention to a
hugely important issue that nonetheless is largley ignored by the
mainstream media and the political establishment.

Elected in 2010, Rand Paul has rarely been the Republican – or
the Democrat’s – media favorite. He’s been heckled big time from
his own side (which initially worked against his election) and
across the aisle as an irresponsible ideologue (he’s a dirty
tea-bagger don’t you know!). Among a good chunk of his father’s
most devoted followers, he’s been assailed as a neo-con war hawk
who was willing to trim his libertarian bona fides to win favor
with the D.C. party crowd. His sad-sack opponent in the GOP
primary, Jack Conway, set new lows with the infamous “Aqua Buddha”
ad
 that accused Paul of everything short of devil worship;
his general election opponent trotted out many of the same pathetic
lines.
Yet since showing up in D.C., Paul has been
exactly what Reason dubbed him:
“The most intersting man in the Senate”
who has offered
specific legislation and made extended arguments for a unified
vision of limited government that is not only fully within some
great lines of American political tradition but urgently needed in
the current moment. Senators who pride themselves on their foreign
policy expertise and have free-loaded for decades in D.C. haven’t
made a speech
as thoughtful and out-front as the one he delivered
a while
back at The Heritage Foundation, for god’s sake.
Rand Paul didn’t speak or act alone yesterday, of course – and
props to the dozen or so colleagues (including a Democrat or two)
who joined him on stage or otherwise engaged him. But the
opthamologist from Bowling Green, Kentucky almost singelhandedly
brought the news cycle to a halt yesterday by insisting that the
American government answer some basic questions about how, when,
where, and under what circumstances it thinks it has the right to
kill its own citizens.
2. It shows the power of transpartisan thought and
action.
 Make no mistake: Despite the presence of Sen.
Ron Wyden (D-Oregon) and Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), yesterday’s
filibuster was a GOP-conducted orchestra. But what was most bracing
and ultimately powerful thing about the filibuster was that none of
the speakers exempted the Republican Party or former President
George W. Bush, whose aggrandized view of executive power still
roils the sleep of the Founding Fathers, from withering criticism
and scrutiny. How else to explain that hard-left groups such as
Code Pink were proud to #standwithrand yesterday on Twitter? The
same with reliable Rand and GOP critic Eugene Robinson and many
others who up until yesterday thought little of Rand Paul.
The filibuster succeeded precisely because it wasn’t a cheap
partisan ploy but because the substance under discussion – why
won’t the president of the United States, his attorney general, and
his nominee to head the CIA explain their views on limits to their
power? – transcends anything so banal or ephemeral as party
affiliation or ideological score-settling.
The chills started early in the filibuster as Paul said things
along the lines of, “If you’re gonna kill people in America [as
terrorists], you need rules and we need to know your rules,” and
“To be bombed in your sleep – there’s nothing American, nothing
constitutional, about that” (these quotes are paraphrases). Those
are not the words of a career politician trying to gain an
advantage during the next round of horse-trading over a pork-barrel
project. They are the words of a patriot who puts his country first
and they inspire accordingly.
3. It ties a direct line between the abuses
of power and the growth of the state.

Despite using various self-identifiers over the years (he’s
called himself a libertarian, a conservative, a constitutional
conservative, etc.) Rand Paul has always been rightly understood as
an advocate of sharply limited and small government. During his
Senate race, for instance, he said questions about drug
legalization should be pushed back towards the states, where
different models could be tried in accordance with the wishes of
the people most directly affected. He presented a budget that was
heavy on spending cuts that would have balanced the budget in five
years. He has called for either actually declaring war on countries
such as Iraq and Libya or getting the hell out. What unites his
positions is a default setting against giving the federal
government a free hand to do whatever it wants irrespective of
constitutional limits.
A year or so ago, we were debating whether the government had
the right to force its citizens to engage in particular economic
activity – that was the heart of the fight over the mandate to buy
insurance in Obamacare. That overreach – the idea that a government
that can make you buy something can also theoretically make you eat
broccoli
– was at the heart of Rand Paul’s opposition to the
Affordable Care Act. The Supreme Court ruled that in fact, the
federal government not only has the right to regulate any
commercial transactions that take place anywhere in these United
States, it has the right to force them to take place.
And now, we’re arguing over whether the president of the United
States in his role as commander in chief in an ill-defined, barely
articulated “global war on terror” has the right to kill U.S.
citizens without presenting any sort of charges to any sort of
court. In fact, it’s worse than that, since the president won’t
even share his rationale for what he may or may not believe with
the country’s legislature.
By foregounding the issues of limited government, transparency,
and oversight as they relate specifically to the most obvious and
brazen threat to civil liberties imaginable, Rand Paul and his
filibuster have also tied a direct line to a far more wide-ranging
and urgently needed conversation about what sort of government we
have in America – and what sort of government we should have.

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