Thursday, March 07, 2013

Sen. Rand Paul’s filibuster and Democrat partisan hypocrisy

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Senator Rand Paul (Republican-Kentucky)
Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY)

Something pretty amazing (and disheartening) happened yesterday, for the two of you who may not yet have heard: Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), a certifiable regressive kook in almost every regard, took the Senate into a 12-hour filibuster – spent actually talking about policy rather than, say, reading from a phone book or some such – to stall the confirmation of John Brennan, President Obama’s chosen appointee for Director of the CIA, over concerns about the Obama administration’s use of drones.

Basically, you know something somewhere has gone egregiously wrong when a handful of stopped clocks led by a Tea Party darling are the ones who are completely and unambiguously right about something, while those who make themselves out as champions of justice and civil liberties opt for partisan pettiness, instead:

Senate Republicans took the floor on Wednesday, launching an historic filibuster in an attempt to extract an answer from the White House to a simple question: Does the administration believe it has the legal authority to kill an American citizen on American soil with a drone strike?

It's a question that seems fairly nonpartisan on its face, but a second one occurred to those watching the C-SPAN broadcast late into the morning: Where are all the Democrats?

Republicans, from Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) to filibuster-leader Rand Paul (Ky.), spoke for more than 12 hours. But only one Democrat, Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon, spoke in support of Paul during that time. Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Oregon) tweeted support, but otherwise progressives who might have assumed to have been supportive were absent, leaving members of the GOP as the sole defenders of civil liberties. The White House was equally silent.

A resounding silence … as opposed to immediately offering the only reasonable (and eminently obvious) answer: “No, the US Government does not have the right to order and carry out the extrajudicial and explicitly unconstitutional murder of its own citizens on its own soil (or anywhere else, for that matter).” But then, anyone paying attention has long since abandoned any hope that the President would seriously follow up on his erstwhile promises to reform the various executive travesties begun under President Bush & co, particularly given how he’s only expanded on them while in office.

What’s more, people’s reactions to Rand Paul’s filibuster are as close to perfect an encapsulation of everything that’s wrong with the current state of US politics as we can ever have. Republicans applaud him for standing up for the same civil liberties they waste absolutely no time in voting against over and over again under the thin pretense of “national security!” (they practically stamp “TRAITOR” on the forehead of anyone who dares raise any questions about the PATRIOT Act, not counting virtually every other Fourth-Amendment-desecrating bill since). And meanwhile, the liberal/progressive/Democrat camp – the same who raised such unmitigated hell over the Bush administration’s handling of executive powers – are now conspicuously quiet whenever President Obama does the exact same goddamned thing, if not even worse still (Bush was content to capture and torture suspects based on little evidence, while Obama prefers to kill them all instead, often based on even littler evidence) … quiet, that is, except when they’re scorning and mocking anyone who dares suggest that the (Democratic) President is engaging in some questionable policies.

It’s exactly as Glenn Greenwald and Ed Brayton describe with the (latter’s) term of “sports fan politics”: It’s all about fealty to the party over any actual commitment to principle. When the same people who attack one elected official for their unconscionable and illegal acts then start defending another elected official who commits the very same unconscionable and illegal acts (if not even worse), they seriously need to find a nearby mirror and see if they can even bear to look at themselves.

Sen. Rand Paul is absolutely right about this (even if he’s absolutely wrong about almost anything else). And it’s an absolute disgrace that he isn’t receiving any support from the camp that’s supposedly staked itself as the defenders of justice and liberty in the first place. Really, the more I watch the Democratic Party and its faithful voter base in action, the less I want to be associated with them. This isn’t even politics anymore; it’s basic right and wrong, and that’s one test the liberal/progressive camp is failing catastrophically in this instance.