RAND PAUL IS ALL BARK AND NO BITE
In the realm of political stunts, few are subject to more discussion and intrigue than the filibuster. There is a nearly romantic element to it. In its ideal form, one would imagine an idealistic senator in a congress gone mad, who has taken it upon himself to stop a bill that threatens the lives and/or liberties of Americans. The filibuster continues as the allies of the senator hold their ground and cross their fingers in hopes that eventually, the bill will be defeated. The senator at the podium is reading great American works and performing a superhuman feat of speech, remaining up there and talking without a break for hours and hours. Eventually, the horrid bill is defeated and the good guys cheer in celebration while the bad guys sigh in resignation. The senator giving the filibuster is applauded and respected as a king amongst men. Cue inspirational music, roll credits.
Unfortunately, the filibuster is not like that at all. More often than not, we are faced with a backwards fossil of a politician who refuses to accept a new progressive change or shameless political opportunists who want to use their filibuster to jumpstart their political career. The longest filibuster in American history was performed by the former, a man by the name of Strom Thurmond, a segregationist, racist and generally despicable person who stood for over 24 hours filibustering the Civil Rights Act of 1957. During his filibuster, he essentially pioneered the cooking show by reading out recipes for old-fashioned southern biscuits and pot stickers.
An example of the latter case has shown up recently in the news. Rand Paul, a Tea Party favorite with a streak for libertarian politics, filibustered the confirmation hearing for the new head of the CIA, John Brennan. The filibuster was not without its merits, and that’s the part that infuriates me the most. Rand Paul talked at length about the US military drone program, criticizing the Obama administration’s abysmal record in regards to civil liberties and human rights. This is a completely valid criticism that usually goes unnoticed outside of left wing circles. I wish that I could embrace the discourse that Rand Paul wishes to bring up; however, his motives are not ideological at all.
It’s obvious that as the Tea Party and libertarian politics seem to fade from their 15 minutes of fame and into the dustbin of history, Rand Paul is worried. As the Republican Party faces a leadership crisis and an even greater ideological crisis, as they wonder in what direction to take the party, their officials are scrambling to ensure that they will remain relevant in the near future. Rand Paul’s filibuster was a political ploy more than anything, so that the junior senator can remain relevant within the party. The simple truth is, headlines get votes.
The saddest thing about this though is that Rand Paul is exploiting a real issue and cheapening it for his personal gain. While the discussion on drones needs to happen, it must be a discussion that includes all major elements of both parties and decisionmakers in the Pentagon as well. We must have a discourse, not a filibuster. We must think about this issue, not just speak about it. The drone strikes are a travesty; however, there is no one more personally distasteful to me than one who exploits a tragedy for their personal gain.