Thursday, March 7, 2013

Reason on the Rand Paul Filibuster

A great piece in Reason on the 3 takeaways from the Rand Paul filibuster:

Yesterday's 12-hours-plus filibuster led by Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) is among the most electrifying and insipiring events in recent political memory. The point of the filibuster - which derailed a confirmation vote on John Brennan as Barack Obama's CIA head - was to call attention to the president's insufficient answers to questions about his policy of targeted killings via drones and, one assumes, other methods.

Here are three takeaways from yesterday's epic event:

1. It shows what one man can do to call attention to a hugely important issue that nonetheless is largley ignored by the mainstream media and the political establishment.


2. It shows the power of transpartisan thought and action. Make no mistake: Despite the presence of Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Oregon) and Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), yesterday's filibuster was a GOP-conducted orchestra. But what was most bracing and ultimately powerful thing about the filibuster was that none of the speakers exempted the Republican Party or former President George W. Bush, whose aggrandized view of executive power still roils the sleep of the Founding Fathers, from withering criticism and scrutiny. How else to explain that hard-left groups such as Code Pink were proud to #standwithrand yesterday on Twitter? The same with reliable Rand and GOP critic Eugene Robinson and many others who up until yesterday thought little of Rand Paul.

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.


3. It ties a direct line between the abuses of power and the growth of the state.


A year or so ago, we were debating whether the government had the right to force its citizens to engage in particular economic activity - that was the heart of the fight over the mandate to buy insurance in Obamacare. That overreach - and the fear that a government that can make you buy something can also theoretically make you eat broccoli - was at the heart of Rand Paul's opposition to the Affordable Care Act. The Supreme Court ruled that in fact, the federal government not only has the right to regulate commercial transactions that take place anywhere in these United States, it has the right to force them to take place.

And now, we're arguing over whether the president of the United States in his role as commander in chief in an ill-defined, barely articulated "global war on terror" has the right to kill U.S. citizens without presenting any sort of charges to any sort of court. In fact, it's worse than that, since the president won't even share his rationale for what he may or may not believe with the country's legislature.

By foregounding the issues of limited government, transparency, and oversight as they relate specifically to the most obvious and brazen threat to civil liberties imaginable, Rand Paul and his filibuster have also tied a direct line to a far more wide-ranging and urgently needed conversation about what sort of government we have in America - and what sort of government we should have.

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