March 7 2013
Here is one of the refreshing aspects of Senator Rand Paul’s now-ended, 13-hour filibuster: he didn’t rely on the manipulation of arcane rules or backroom kickbacks; he stood up and spoke; it was an old-fashioned filibuster.
Senator Paul was filibustering the confirmation of John Brennan to head the CIA but the key issue was the Obama administration’s use of killer drones. We’ll get to these matters later.
Ace of Spades, writing at Breitbart, explained why the filibuster is one of the few bright spots in recent senatorial history. Ace is well worth quoting at length:
I have the same feeling of receding cynicism I did when the Tea Party first exploded on to the scene and began doing things that just weren't done in America anymore -- taking politics seriously, taking the Founders' legacy to us seriously, showing up at Town Halls to ask their once and future representatives some real questions, engaging, questioning, insisting, demanding.
There was a time 200 years ago when this was commonplance. Americans had just won their liberty and were enthused about it. They treated their civic duty not as a mere duty but as the highest aspiration of political man.
This filibuster excites me for the same reasons -- a return to the Old Ways, the ways that actually work, the way American politics is actually supposed to be conducted, with Senators offering thoughtful defenses of their positions and, above all, insisting that this nation is We the People not We the Ministers & Lesser Bureaucratic Warlords of Whatever Current Government the Public Has Had the Folly to Install In Office.
I don't entirely agree with Rand Paul, at least if he's arguing for an absolute bar-- the Terrorist On His Way To Deliver a Working Nuke to NYC obviously (to me anyway) merits a unilateral exercise of prophylactic lethal force (assuming time won't permit regular order to be followed).
But this filibuster is bigger even than that issue (which is itself large). This filibuster is about the basic character of a Democratic Republic, and restoring that character to good working order.
The real object of the filibuster was less to slow the almost inevitable confirmation of Brennan than to call attention to the administration's drone policy and its failure to be forthcoming on this matter.
Attorney General Eric Holder, appearing before Congress earlier in the day, was not at all satisfactory on this subject. As Jonathan Tobin of Commentary writes:
When asked whether the government considered it had the right to use an armed drone on an American citizen within the borders of the United States, Holder didn’t give the senators a straight answer. They were entitled to such an answer, as well as to the documents they requested. But those who are now saying that the dustup over using drones in the United States is the sole point of Paul’s filibuster hasn’t been listening closely to him as he held the Senate floor.
The folks at Powerline, one of the best conservative blogs out there, think that the Holder position, as set forth in a letter to Paul, is the correct one.
Moreover, Tobin points out that, if you read what Paul said, he appears to be against the use of killer drones period. (If you want more details, Jordan Bloom of The American Conservative live blogged Paul’s filibuster.) Just for the record, I support the use of killer drones abroad, as long as the administration goes through the proper legal process. But this is an administration that has not been shy about consolidating executive power. So I would like to know more about it legal thinking on the possibility, far-fetched as it sounds, of using drones domestically.
Still, whatever you think about drones and whatever Rand Paul thinks about drones, we owe the gentleman from Kentucky a debt of gratitude.
His actions are a first step towards restoring the Senate as a place where policy is debated seriously.
First the sequester, which indicates that somebody is willing to take a stand on increased government spending, and now the filibuster. It's been a long time since I felt optimism.
So this is a very good morning.