I’m starting to like Rand Paul more. When he first ran for the Senate in Kentucky, I remember watching an awkward interview with Rachel Maddow and thinking he was trying to seem like a Ron Paul 2.0 who could get farther in the Republican Party but was so much less charismatic than his father that he might not get anywhere.
Of course, Paul won the Republican nomination, won the Senate race, and has only continued to expand his influence. Last year he lent support to the elections of some like-minded Republicans, many of whom supported his filibuster on Wednesday.
Not A Bad Speaker
But what I really liked about the filibuster was how well Rand spoke – extemporaneously, and for hours, at that. He doesn’t project the energy level of, say, Ron, but his “Kentucky drawl” can deliver some great lines. Here some of the highlights of his 12+ hour speech:
(Or, if you’re more of the reading type, here are Conor’s “Cliff Notes”)
“We shouldn’t be asking him for drone memos – we should be giving him drone memos.” That’s some brilliant stuff right there, pretty much encapsulating the way the executive branch has been writing its own rules about its limits on power since 9/11.
Now I guess some people say all this authority comes from the 2001 AUMF, but it sure seems like that authority keeps getting bigger. So it’s nice that Paul at least got the administration to admit a limit on its own power, however hypothetical and absurd that limit may seem to many.
Some say if Congress wants to more explicitly limit the executive branch’s power they should pass more laws to do so; well, that’s precisely what Paul and his buddy Ted Cruz are trying to do – but maybe this filibuster attentions will help Paul’s bill get farther than his previous attempts to limit the NDAA.
Some say that focusing on drone killings of US citizens on US soil who are not imminent threats takes away from focusing on the dangerous powers the government claims to wield for various and sundry broader subsets of those criterion – and let’s not forget the executive branch’s creative definition of the word “imminent,” either. Well, I say anything’s a start.
Pragmatism and Principle
Another thing I like about Rand Paul is that he seems to be striking a healthy balance between being principled and being pragmatic. For example, Rand’s foreign policy speech last month admitted the existence of radical Islam much more confidently than the most dovish “isolationist” libertarians while expressing concerns about our war against such radicals much more skeptically than the most hawkish “imperialist” neoconservatives.
If one were more cynical one might think Rand is just trying to cleverly calculate a moderate, compromised Republican worldview that will tap into the fervor of the Tea Party without turning off the ones that didn’t like his father. Yet there is no compromise in the values he finds important – as evidenced by his 12-hour no-bathroom-break filibuster.
In my writing, I strive for a similar balance between pragmatism and principle – not wanting to be arrogant or overconfident or extreme regarding complex topics that have legitimate disagreements, but not wanting to cop out and never take a stand for those issues that I truly feel are most important.