Since the election, I've been saying that conservatives now have a few real stars in the Senate: Florida Senator Marco Rubio, Texas Senator Ted Cruz, Utah Senator Mike Lee and Kentucky Senator Rand Paul. Yesterday, in an incredible display of principled tenacity, Senator Rand Paul proved why he is on that list.
Senator Rand Paul took to the floor of the Senate and engaged in a nearly 13 hour long filibuster of John Brennan's nomination for CIA director. The reason why Senator Paul began his filibuster was to force the Obama administration to answer a legal question pertaining to their drone strike policy. More specifically, Senator Paul wanted to know if the administration feels it has the Constitutional authority to use lethal force in the form of a drone strike on US citizens on US soil who do not pose an imminent threat. The answer seems stupefyingly simple, but apparently not for the current administration.
Senator Rand Paul has been pushing for an answer to this question for quite some time, though receiving little mainstream media press. Finally, two days ago he received a response from Attorney General Eric Holder, which failed to adequately answer the question at hand, leaving the issue still open to debate. Then yesterday during a Senate hearing, it took much prodding on the part of Senator Ted Cruz to get Holder to kind of answer the question as to the Constitutionality of this policy. Using a hypothetical of an American sitting in a cafe, not actively posing a threat to our safety, Eric Holder took to verbal gymnastics in trying to avoid answering the question of whether or not the US could use a drone to target this person on US soil. After claiming multiple times that it wouldn't be “appropriate,” Holder eventually said “change my answer to no.” That quasi-answer contradicts the little we've heard from the administration on this issue thus far, leaving us to question exactly what the administration's policy stands.
So that is was led Rand Paul to his epic filibuster, which spanned into early this morning. It's not something we see every day in Washington and it was certainly refreshing to see someone who was willing to stand up for our Constitution and demand answers from this administration. Senator Paul was not alone. At least 15 Senators, including Mike Lee, Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio took to the floor to give their colleague a few minutes to rest (though without sitting). Even Democrat Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon spoke in support of Senator Paul, though the vast majority of his Democrat colleagues were MIA. One has to wonder if many of those same Senators who failed to show any support for Rand Paul were the ones kicking and screaming during the Bush administration over the use of waterboarding, which they believe to be torture.
There is also something interesting happening as a result of Rand Paul's filibuster and that is a seeming divide within the Republican Party. Today, Senators Lindsey Graham and John McCain took to the floor of the Senate to chastise Rand Paul for his “political stunt” and express disappointment with Republican colleagues who supported him. McCain says, "If Mr. Paul wants to be taken seriously he needs to do more than pull political stunts that fire up impressionable libertarian kids. I don't think what happened yesterday is helpful to the American people."
If anything, Rand Paul managed to bring to the forefront an issue that most in the mainstream media haven't really covered. Politically, the groundswell of support for Senator Rand Paul, particularly on Twitter, was remarkable. Perhaps this is just the type of principled leadership that conservative Americans have been craving, though some within the Republican leadership apparently beg to differ.