Thursday, March 07, 2013

Rand Paul: Delivering the Drama

Apparently, if you ask the political gods for drama (see our previous post), ye shall receive...

I don't know about you, but we were glued to C-Span last night watching Rand Paul deliver what would end up being a 13-hour filibuster on the U.S. Senate floor. It was riveting. And judging by the conversation on Twitter throughout the afternoon and into the night, I know we were not the only ones.

THIS is how Washington is supposed to work. Paul used a time-tested legislative procedure to hold up the nomination of President Obama's CIA chief pick, John Brennan. Filibustering basically requires a lawmaker to maintain control of the floor by continuously speaking and standing for as long as they want to hold court. It's the legislative equivalent of an Ironman. (I guess we'd have to fact-check that with Scott Brown.)

What we liked about the way Paul delivered this drama, was that it wasn't just drama for drama's sake. If it was technically a legislative gimmick, it wasn't gimmicky. He drew attention to an issue that we bet many Americans had no idea even existed.

Instead of reading the phone book or a cookbook for hours on end, Paul actually spoke about an issue he cares about: the use of unmanned drones by the federal government on United States soil. Whether or not you agree with everything he said, he made clear, cogent arguments as the minutes and hours ticked by.

For the past few months, we've been hearing about "fiscal cliffs" and "sequestration," but the possibility of the United States government using unmanned drones to kill Americans on United States soil without due process? Not so much. The very idea sounds almost made-up, or at least far-fetched, but to paraphrase Rand Paul, why couldn't the White House just say so last night? That no, they would not use drones in that way?

Paul was able to inspire some of his fellow GOP senators to take part in the filibuster, although his support was thin early in the day. As the conversation on Twitter picked up (#standwithrand), more senators started showing up, some fresh from a dinner with Obama. Some GOP House members reportedly showed up for moral support. One Democrat even joined the filibuster, Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon. It was clear he was there, not for the drama, but because he has serious, serious concerns about the use of drones.

We would have been just as impressed had a Democrat taken to the floor the same way Paul did last night to sincerely talk about their desire to raise taxes.

Can you imagine something like this happening in Massachusetts these days? The legislative rules are different here, of course, but can you imagine someone being ballsy enough to do anything even similar? And then there's Washington. While Rand Paul was snacking on some sort of candy to keep his strength up, GOP members of the House and Senate were dining with Obama. Some of them did show up to support Paul post-dinner, but many more did not.

We actually felt guilty turning off the TV last night while Paul was still speaking, so how could his actual colleagues feel comfortable leaving him out there on the floor?

And finally, can we talk about Paul's apparently super-human strength when it comes to “holding it?” The man went 13 hours without a bathroom break. Who will be the first reporter to break the story of Paul's secret method?

You know you want to know.

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