Give me that old-timey filibuster.

By mw | Related entries in cia, Civil Liberties, Constitution, Obama, Senate, The War On Terrorism
Mr. Paul goes to Washington

Some described Rand Paul’s historic 13 hour filibuster as “libertarian porn”. Note we are talking about a CSPAN feed of a man speaking at a podium for 13 hours, yet I couldn’t stop watching. It was far more engrossing and entertaining than it had any right to be. I reluctantly tore myself away at the nine hour mark to keep an evening engagement, and was sorely disappointed to learn it was over when I returned.

Rand Paul was ostensibly using the filibuster to block a vote on John Brennan’s nomination as CIA chief, but he made it clear the nomination confirmation was not his primary reason for the filibuster. Rather it was administration evasion on a simple question – Does the President think he legally has unilateral authority to launch a drone strike on an American citizen in America? During the filibuster Rand Paul referenced and read several articles into the record. They explain the issue better than I can:

Conor Friedersdorf: Killing Americans on U.S. Soil: Eric Holder’s Evasive, Manipulative Letter

“Any thinking person can see that Holder’s letter is non-responsive, evasive, and deliberately manipulative in its sly reassurances, right down to the rhetorically powerful but substantively nonsensical invocation of 9/11 To credulously accept this sort of response, on an issue as important as this one, is behavior unfit for any citizen of a free country, where safeguarding the rule of law is a civic responsibility.”

Kevin Gosztola: Attorney General Eric Holder: US Government Has Authority to Target & Kill US Citizens on US Soil

“Republican Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky, who sent three letters to CIA director nominee John Brennan requesting an answer on “whether the president has the power to authorize lethal force, such as a drone strike, against a US citizen on US soil,” finally received an answer from Attorney General Eric Holder. The answer indicates the administration of President Barack Obama does, in fact, believe it has the power to assassinate US citizens on US soil with lethal force…

As interesting as the filibuster itself was the reaction from the punditocracy. Commentary on the filibuster came from across the political spectrum with the most withering criticism from his fellow Republicans.

Ezra Klein - A great day for the filibuster, and for filibuster reform

” Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) went down to the floor of the Senate and used his prerogatives as a senator to mount a sustained, public argument against John Brennan’s nomination to lead the CIA. Now Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) is picking up the argument. This is the highest purpose of the filibuster: Allowing a passionate minority to slow down the Senate and make their case to both their colleagues and the American people. If more filibusters went like this, there’d be no reason to demand reform. And if there is reform, it needs to hold open the possibility for filibusters like this.”

Steve Benen - Opportunistically Standing with Rand

“… yesterday was quite a spectacle and brought legitimate questions about the scope of executive power to the fore — and the floor — in a way Americans haven’t seen in quite a while… Filibusters are supposed to be difficult, which made yesterday’s display a refreshing change of pace. It was not at all uncommon for even Paul critics to watch his endurance test and say, “Good for him.” … For the record, I don’t question the senator’s sincerity in the slightest, and I believe Paul would be raising the same questions and concerns if a member of his own party were in the White House.”

Nick Gillespie –  3 Takeaways from Rand Paul’s Filibuster About Drone Strikes

“The filibuster succeeded precisely because it wasn’t a cheap partisan ploy but because the substance under discussion – why won’t the president of the United States, his attorney general, and his nominee to head the CIA explain their views on limits to their power? – transcends anything so banal or ephemeral as party affiliation or ideological score-settling… The chills started early in the filibuster as Paul said things along the lines of, “If you’re gonna kill people in America [as terrorists], you need rules and we need to know your rules” … Those are not the words of a career politician trying to gain an advantage during the next round of horse-trading over a pork-barrel project. They are the words of a patriot who puts his country first and they inspire accordingly.”

Laura Ingraham –  Rand’s stand: principle and persuasion gives GOP reason for hope

“As a gaggle of GOP senators were returning from a cozy dinner with President Obama Wednesday night, the junior senator from Kentucky was in the midst of a marathon filibuster giving CSPAN2 what must have been its best ratings ever. I couldn’t turn it off… The Attorney General’s failure to categorically rule out such Executive kill lists is unconscionable. It is the duty of the legislative branch to check and challenge such blatant and dangerous over reach by any president, regardless of party….  Rand Paul didn’t eat for much of the day himself, but with his filibuster he fed an electorate hungry to hear from a politician of principle.”

Taylor Marsh –  Rand Paul Makes Democrats Look Feckless on Civil Liberties

“Democrats should be ashamed today. While Senator Rand Paul led a filibuster on the importance of civil liberties, fan politics and propping up their people in Obama administration gagged them into irrelevance on the issue…  It was a very good day for Senator Rand Paul. He helped Republicans find some meaning on an issue that matters… By comparison, the Democratic party looked petty, small, and hyper-partisan… But at least there is one honest man in the Senate, even if I rarely agree with him. Senator Rand Paul is a man to watch.”

Doug Mataconis:  Rand Paul Filibustering Brennan Nomination

“Paul says that he will continue this filibuster until he gets an answer from the Obama Administration regarding the use of drone strikes on American soil that is far less ambiguous than the one that Attorney General Holder issued late yesterday. He’s spent a good deal of his time pointing out the hypocrisy of the left on this issue, arguing quite convincingly that their silence over drone strikes under President Obama is starkly different from their justified criticism of the Bush Administration’s extraordinary tactics in the War On Terror. … Paul’s filibuster can’t last forever, of course, and Brennan is likely to get confirmed at some point. However, the Senator is raising important questions that we deserve answers to from the Administration. For that, at least, he deserves some thanks.”

The morning after Paul yielded the floor, Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham went on the attack. I’d like to believe they represent the last gasp of the discredited old guard Neocon faction in the Republican party, but – who knows? I will simply conclude with the hope I expressed as a “tweet” during the filibuster.

As the final minutes of the Brenner nomination debate wound down, Rand Paul again took the floor. He confirmed he finally received an unambiguous response from Attorney General Holder to the question that prompted the filibuster:

White House, Holder respond to Rand Paul: ‘The answer is no’

“White House Press Secretary Jay Carney quoted from the letter that Holder sent to Paul today. “Does the president have the authority to use a weaponized drone to kill an American not engaged in combat on an American soil?” Holder wrote, per Carney. “The answer is no.” Paul said that was good enough for him. “I’m quite happy with the answer,” he said during a CNN interview. “I’m disappointed it took a month and a half and a root canal to get it, but we did get the answer.”

Shortly thereafter the Senate voted to confirm John Brennan as Director of the CIA 63-34. Rand Paul voted against.

Well done Senator Paul. You got the answer you were looking for and the country got the debate we deserved.

Cross-posted at “The Dividist Papers”


This entry was posted on Thursday, March 7th, 2013 and is filed under cia, Civil Liberties, Constitution, Obama, Senate, The War On Terrorism. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

2 Responses to “Give me that old-timey filibuster.”

  1. Tully Says:

    I for one would welcome our new libertarian overlords … if they would quit sucking the bloody teats of the uber-authoritarian religious right.

    Not holding my breath on that. Blue is not my best color.

  2. mw Says:

    I just like the fact that libertarians have a voice in the Senate with Rand Paul, much like the socialists have a voice in the Senate with Bernie Sanders. Nice symmetry there.

    No coincidence that they are the last two old-timey talking filibusters – both on principle.

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