Rand Paul Filibuster was Succesful on its Own Terms

Howdy! I have been meaning to blog about Ron and Rand Paul for sometime now.

On Ron I wanted to go into his “offensive” twitter comment about serial kil…ah…er…SEAL sniper Chris Kyle, as well as the RonPaul.com controversy. I wrote a post about the first one but it lead me down a different path that involved writing nine, yes, NINE, other posts. And on the trademark dispute I barely even got started before those other projects consumed my time. Now these are stale issues and it may not even be worth posting on them, though I will be looking for an opportunity to do so, either with new developments that arise in those cases, or separate issues that I can cleverly tie into. We’ll see.

On Rand I wanted to have a back and forth with myself about the pros and cons. This was before the filibuster, which in my opinion is one more pro to add to the list. Before I do a more comprehensive piece on Rand I want to take advantage of the fact that he is currently in the news and blog mostly about that. I didn’t initially want to do this because everyone and their brother was doing it. But I see an issue that is not covered as much. It is mentioned in passing by a few. Perhaps even subconsciously acknowledged by almost everyone. But there are still some out there that don’t seem to see it or at least haven’t said anything about it in any detail.

That issue is whether the filibuster was successful or not, and what criteria really make it so.

“Hold on,” you say. “That is practically all everyone is talking about!” I would agree with you but I think the people talking about it are all focusing on the wrong criteria. The leftist critics say it was a pointless maneuver that didn’t even have the effect of stopping the Brennan appointment. These critics neglect that the delay of this appointment was a means and not an end. The rightist critics are all saying it was an immature — some would say harmful — political career advancement stunt. These folks are partially right, but not on the immature/harmful part. And most libertarians (left, right, and center), even some of the apolitical ones, are laying on the praise, though they sometimes qualify it. They are saying that the filibuster was great for raising the issue of drones, even if Rand is not (verbally, at least) entirely consistent in his opposition to their misuse (how one can properly use a flying robot of death is beyond me, but remember, “guns don’t kill people; people kill people”). These libertarians are also partially right, but they don’t recognize (at least, judging from the statements I have seen; I don’t want to pretend my generalizations are universal absolutes) that the awareness is about more than the drone issue.

To recap:

Critical lefties, in general, seem to think: Rand’s goal was to stop the Brennan appointment. He failed at this and instead made an ass of himself. He is incompetent.

Critical righties, in general, seem to think: Rand’s goal was to gain the spotlight for fifteen minutes in order to rile up the rubes in flyover country for when he runs for President. He is a demagogue.

Approving libertarians (left, right, and center), in general, seem to think: Rand’s goal was to raise awareness on drones, and maybe even to corner the administration into promising not to misuse them. He is valiant, but his chances at success, particularly on the second part of his goal, were always slim.

My contention: No, it was never about Brennan, who was a shoe-in for the job. He was a means to and end and nothing more. Yes, it was about furthering his career. So what? Better his career than McCain’s or Graham’s or Holder’s or Obama’s or Brennan’s or Reid’s or Clinton’s or even Rubio’s! And yes, it was about raising awareness of the possibility — likelihood, perhaps — of misuse of drones (in the form of assassinating US citizens, who are innocent until proven guilty and entitled to due process; on US soil, not that the assassination of US citizens on foreign soil is any less bad), and yet, so much more!

It was not just about letting people know they should be careful with what they say, or that they should give their representatives a phone call, or that they should protest in the street, or that they should take precautionary measures, or that they should only elect people who oppose domestic drone abuse, or that they should refuse to make contributions to political parties or campaigns that don’t come down on the right side of this issue. It was about all of those things. Most people probably know that.

But what most people seem to be missing, based on conversations I have had, comments and articles I have read, and this is shocking to me because it seems fairly obvious, is that it was about exposing the administration’s dishonesty and motivations more than it was about changing the administration’s policies through direct or indirect means. In my view, it was mostly about forcing the administration to be honest about it’s disdain for the Bill of Rights; its adherence to an ends-justifies-the-means, living-breathing-Constitution, legal positivistic philosophy of government; its hatred and opposition to any semblance of the rule of law or restraints on the executive office.

He did a good job of it. All it took to end 13 hours of filibustering was a clear, 3o second statement promising to abide by the Fifth Amendment, no exceptions. Anyone who thinks that Rand actually thought he would get this concession (even Holder’s letter to Rand was qualified and equivocating, I mean, define, “engaged in combat”) is probably being naive.* Maybe he did know that, but as far as I understand he was intending to continue pouring sand in the gears of the Senate whenever he could, and was surprised at Holder’s letter. It was the presumption that he would NOT get this concession that made this stunt so powerful.

I know this seems like a small thing. What difference does it make whether Rand was advocating policy change or simply applying pressure to the administration for honesty’s own sake? I don’t know. Perhaps none. It is just an observation.

I am still very much on the fence about Rand Paul, mind you. I admit it is because he doesn’t live up to the standard of his own father, who was far more radical and far less compromising.

Oh, by the way: the Daily Paul has a great little list of all the books and articles referenced by Rand Paul in his filibuster. It makes for some interesting reading. Speaking of reading, has anyone read Rand’s newest book? I haven’t yet. But I guess I’ll have to go pick it up now, since he’s probably going to run in 2016. His first one was pretty good, I reckon.

*UPDATE: I did find one article on yahoo news, with links to other sources, that goes into some of this. An excerpt:

During his 13 hours on the Senate floor, Paul repeatedly asked whether Obama believed he had the authority to kill an American, on U.S. soil, who was not “actively attacking” America.

The question prompted Holder to respond.

“Dear Senator Paul,” Holder said in a 43-word letter. “It has come to my attention that you have now asked an additional question: ‘Does the President have the authority to use a weaponized drone to kill an American not engaged in combat on American soil?’ The answer to that question is no.”

Holder didn’t use the phrase “actively attacking.” And administration officials privately agreed on Friday that “not engaged in combat” was the key phrase going forward. None of them agreed to define the expression on the record.

Why the concern? Paul himself raised some of those questions in his filibuster.

“Will we use a standard for killing Americans to be that we thought you were bad, we thought you were coming from a meeting of bad people and you were in a line of traffic and so, therefore, you were fine for the killing?” he said. “That is the standard we’re using overseas. Is that the standard we’re going to use here?”

Holder’s letter doesn’t answer that question. And observers from across the political spectrum made that point in the aftermath.

5 thoughts on “Rand Paul Filibuster was Succesful on its Own Terms

  1. Pingback: Rand Paul Filibuster was Succesful on its Own Terms | Propagating the Philosophy of Liberty

  2. I just have to comment on this phrase, “libertarians (left, right, and center).” I don’t know what it means to be a “left-libertarian” or a “right-libertarian.” I heard Rand Paul use the phrase “conservative libertarian” and have no idea what he means. Isn’t he just trying to sweep some conservatives into his corner with that? Either one believes that the government can coerce people into doing things they don’t want to do or you don’t believe that. Lefties and Righties, they both believe in coercion; they want to force people to act against their will. It would make more sense to divide libertarians into those who are a little libertarian and those who are a lot libertarian.

    • Yes, the left-right paradigm is problematic. But it can be a convenient shorthand. It comes down to preference. A left-libertarian is non-coercive but prefers to focus on x, y, z. A right-libertarian is non-coercive but prefers to focus on a, b, and c. The left-libertarian might say that c is coercive, to which the right-libertarian might say, no, z is coercive. They are both sincere ad they both make a good case, but at bottom there are a couple premises they can’t agree on. I consider myself a pretty fundamental libertarian with right-preferences. And not neocon “right” either.

      • Neocon. That is the antithesis of libertarian. They have no belief in justice or even the barest notions of rights and law embodied in the Bill of Rights. It all comes down to bullying and force with them; at the drop of a hat they ready to help their enablers in big business and abuse those to fail to kowtow to their demands.

        Thanks for the reply.

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