Yesterday, first term Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) took to the floor and spoke for nearly 13 hours in a filibuster of a cloture vote for CIA nominee John Brennan. The talking filibuster was prompted by repeatedly evasive answers that Obama Administration Attorney General Eric Holder gave when testifying about the potential of drone attacks in the United States not engaged in battle without due process considerations.
This was the first talking filibuster since Senator Bernie Sanders ("I"-VT) held the Senate floor for eight hours in protest of President Obama's proposed tax cut. Senator Paul was not the only renegade Senator to participate in this filibuster. Senator Mike Lee (R-UT), Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX), Senator Jerry Moran (R-KS), Senator Saxby Chambliss (R-GA), Senator Pat Toomey (R-PA), Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) and even Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) took turns participating in the filibuster by asking long winded, ambling "questions" which gave Paul a chance to rest his voice.
A few other GOP old hands lent some help. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Senator John Thune (R-SD) added their voices late in the filibuster. And Senator Mark Kirk (R-IL) gave Sen. Paul some symbolic sustenance by offering an apple and tea, which mirrored "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington" (1939).
Senator Paul offered to quit his filibuster after seven hours if Senate Democrats would consent to a non-binding resolution which expressed opposition to killing American citizens on American soil not engaged in imminent combat without due process. The Democrats demurred on the offer, proposing instead to study it in committee. Senator Paul declined this modest proposal and spoke on.
The interesting thing was the confluence of events while Senator Paul's filibuster was occurring. President Obama took a twenty car motorcade for the four block trip to the Jefferson Hotel to dine with the likes of Senators John McCain (R-AZ) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC) supposedly on the President's own dime. Mr. Obama's largess with GOP members of the Cocktail Party seems to have quickly paid dividends as Sen. McCain took to the Senate floor the next day to echo print criticisms against the filibuster.
“If Mr. Paul wants to be taken seriously, he needs to do more than pull political stunts that fire up impressionable libertarian kids in college dorms.”
Senator Graham mouthed the bipartisan critique wondering if Republicans would protest drones under President Bush. It seems as if McCain and Graham had sour grapes as their bipartisan last supper with Obama was upstaged by the filibuster.
The elite liberal media poo-pooed Senator Paul's filibuster, noting that the Senate CSPAN2 cameraman was reading a newspaper and only 30 people were present during a portion of the afternoon filibuster. But social media, like Twitter and Facebook, buzzed about #StandwithRand. The day after, talk radio trumpeted Senator Paul's audacity for straight shooting to speak up for the Constitution and hold the Obama Administration accountable.
CSPAN2 certainly does not subscribe to an Arbitron ratings book, it surely must have achieved blockbuster viewership than for a typical Wednesday evening in the Washington wonk cable channel. While it would be a stretch to think that Senator Paul droning on was buffo box office, the filibuster was a blockbuster for several reasons.
This was the first instance in the 113th Congress when one legislator was able to stand up to the bully pulpit of the Obama White House and the loyal Lamestream Media stenography pool by standing for Constitutional principles.
Senator Paul did the hard thing, by initiating a talking filibuster rather than relying upon cloture votes and it drew significant attention outside of the District of Calamity. The filibuster for civil liberties even garnered material support from civil liberty oriented liberal Senator Ron Wyden.
Senator Paul taking a stand on the Senate floor drew enough negative attention upon the Obama Administration to shame Attorney General Holder into eventually issuing a clarification. The DOJ statement admitted that President Obama did not have the power to launch drone strikes against Americans in America who are not engaged in imminent violence. Funny what a filibuster can force elected officials to do.
The filibuster energized the base for Republicans, while it exposed the complacent coziness that Cocktail Party politicos who trumpet bipartisanship yet sell out both party principles and Constitutional concerns. Both McCain and Graham are up for re-election in the 2014 cycle so they ought to expect fierce primary challenges. But the way Cocktail Party weenies have mocked the so called Tea Party hobbits, we soon might refer to the GOP as the Whig Party as Tea Party types and libertarians leave for greener political pastures.
And clearly Rand Paul's star is rising in the American political firmament. Senator Paul had been raising his profile by giving the Tea Party Express response to President Obama's 2013 State of the Union speech. It seems that Senator Paul is angling to run for President in 2016. But Paul is bringing a dynamic, principled and pragmatic libertarian politics to our national debate.