| I can't believe I'm saying this, but I want to thank Rand Paul.
First, he filibustered. He actually filibustered. He stood up for 13 hours in the Senate and he went on. And on. And on. (And Ted Cruz helped). But that's ok. Why? Because that's what filibustering is. It's actually physically and mentally taxing. Saying you're going to filibuster is one thing. Actually doing it is really difficult. You don't think so? You try talking almost non-stop on your feet for 13 hours.
(Actually, that's what millions of low-income service industry professionals in America do every day, but growing income inequality is another topic for another day).
More on Paul's filibuster below the jump.
|He showed Democrats just how far he was willing to go. Recent history shows a pattern of senators (during this administration, Republican senators) threatening to filibuster and then the party trying to pass legislation backing down (see e.g.: nomination of Chuck Hagel for defense secretary). (Imagine teams preemptively forfeiting every time the Yankees were on their schedule).
In an odd way, not only did he draw attention to the issue that had riled him (see below), but he actually restored dignity and credibility to an arguably odious, countermajoritarian protection. Moreover, he made Democrats look less like chumps. They weren't facing the prospect of an up or down vote being blocked and retreating from a shadow; rather, they were actually, procedurally blocked from an up or down vote.
In another strange silver lining for Democrats, Paul just helped Democrats call all future Republican bluffs on filibustering. Think of how many votes Democrats could have actually forced had they actually made a Rand Paul do this on prior occasions. He has set a precedent - if a Republican says he or she is going to filibuster a Democratic bill or nominee (see the increasingly vacant federal judiciary), Democrats can now double-dog dare Republicans to actually do it. In related news, Bear Grylls is moving to K Street to open a Filibustering Survival Boot Camp and Workshop.
Second and more importantly, it's why Rand Paul filibustered (if his stated reasons are to be believed). He filibustered over the drone program, and more specifically, in response to Eric Holder's letter response to him in which Holder stated that the president has the authority in limited situations to use drones to exercise lethal force against American citizens on American soil without trial or any other due process. Yep. He cited no legal authority, and offered a response that essentially amounted to "trust us," with no principled distinctions save a couple of perfunctory, throwaway references to Pearl Harbor and 9/11. Whether this was a calculated political move or a ham-handed response remains to be seen. The buzz is that a legal memo is forthcoming. Really? Totalitarianism with citations. I can't wait.
I agreed with Rand Paul. I'm now going to go boil the fingers I used to type this.
Update: Attorney General Holder has, post filibuster, stated that the drone authority in question does not extend to killing an American not engaged in combat on American soil.