The Drudge Report called it the "Randstand" and the "Randpage." Whatever you want to call it, it got people's attention. Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky did something that few people think of doing anymore: finding some stunt so old and forgotten that people mistake it for something new.
Paul got up on the U. S. Senate floor and conducted an old-fashioned filibuster (the only kind of filibuster worthy of the name) in an attempt to attract attention to his objection to the use of drones for use against American citizens. It worked. In fact, it worked so well it may go down as the political stunt of the year.
This little piece of political street theater, which ended after midnight last night--over 13 hours in all, was the talk of the political world today.
You've got to hand it to Paul, he knows how to get attention. But the thing about him that is so unlike most other politicians today is that he not only knows how to get your attention, but once he gets it, you find out that he actually has something to say.
One of the constant refrains amidst the buzz that followed his marathon talk was that he was actually saying something worth listening to. There were numerous reports of people tuning in to C-Span 2 and listening for several hours.
When was the last time you heard of somebody willingly listening to a politician talk for hours? When was the last time you heard of a politician talking for hours? In fact, when was the last time you heard of anyone watching C-Span 2?
I know. There are actually people who watch C-Span 2. And to them I say: Get a life.
But it is not only Paul's creativity in attracting media attention that is remarkable--or, more importantly, his willingness to stand up for what he believes in. Those things are admirable enough. It is his message on issues like this.
Unlike many so-called "conservatives," Paul actually believes we should follow the Constitution. And when was the last time you heard of anyone actually reading that? Certainly not any judges we know of.
Paul is one of the people who really gets the idea that (as Pat Buchanan rightly points out) we are a republic, not an empire. But while Paul and his little band of rebels were articulating Constitutional principles on the Senate floor, John McCain and Lindsay Graham were over playing patty cake with the Emperor. After sleeping off last night's big dinner with Obama, McCain took to the Senate floor today and assailed Paul, saying, "I don't think what happened yesterday is helpful to the American people."
Well, um, neither is getting killed by a drone.
I almost expected McCain to say something on the order of, "Now, young Skywalker, you will die."
For the last 25 years or so, the national Republican Party has been in the clutches of people who view the world in starkly imperial terms. The Iraq invasion is only the most egregious example of this. They are "Patriot Act" conservatives who think they have struck a blow to the enemies of America every time we frisk a little old lady at the airport.
I think of them every time I go through the airport security scanner.
Note the difference between the foreign policy of Ronald Reagan on the one hand, and the foreign policy of most modern Republicans (and, increasingly, Democrats, who at least have the excuse of being members of the party that got us into every major war over the last 100 years except the last one): Reagan knew that the way to handle such situations was to go get the bad guys and get out. The neoconservatives who still call the shots among Republicans will nod at the first part (get the bad guys), but have a hard time understanding the second part (get out).
Hopefully, Paul's leadership on issues like this will bring a little sobriety to a national Republican party that for over two decades has been drunk on internationalism.
It's no coincidence that McCain and Graham both gave their little lectures after drinking with the President the night before.