When we think of the word filibuster – if we do at all – we usually think of James Stewart’s moving portrayal of a junior Senator in the much-loved 1939 film, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington. In the film he famously gives a 24-hour speech on the Senate floor.
On March 6-7 the Senate witnessed another such filibuster, when 50-year-old Republican Kentucky Senator Rand Paul held forth for some 13 hours. The main topic was Obama’s proposals to use drone strikes to target non-military American citizens on their own soil. But it served as a greater rallying cry for freedom from despotic government.
And with his inspiring performance, there is already talk of his role as a Presidential contender in 2016. The son of another such contender, Ron Paul, Rand Paul is also a libertarian, but viewed as a bit less extreme and kooky than his father on some matters.
Two days later he explained his actions in a Washington Post article: “If I had planned to speak for 13 hours when I took the Senate floor Wednesday, I would’ve worn more comfortable shoes. I started my filibuster with the words, ‘I rise today to begin to filibuster John Brennan’s nomination for the CIA. I will speak until I can no longer speak’ – and I meant it.
“I wanted to sound an alarm bell from coast to coast. I wanted everybody to know that our Constitution is precious and that no American should be killed by a drone without first being charged with a crime. As Americans, we have fought long and hard for the Bill of Rights. The idea that no person shall be held without due process, and that no person shall be held for a capital offense without being indicted, is a founding American principle and a basic right.”
He concludes, “I hope my efforts help spur a national debate about the limits of executive power and the scope of every American’s natural right to be free. ‘Due process’ is not just a phrase that can be ignored at the whim of the president; it is a right that belongs to every citizen in this great nation. I believe the support I received this past week shows that Americans are looking for someone to really stand up and fight for them. And I’m prepared to do just that.”
While many Democrats of course, and some limp-wristed Republicans, such as John McCain, criticised him for his speech, he has drawn widespread support. Many are saying he has energised the Republican Party, conservatives, and the Tea Party movement.
Jonathon Moseley for example said this: “The political world changed its orbit Wednesday as Rand Paul seized the spotlight in his March 6 filibuster. Rand Paul – not this author’s favorite before – is probably now the 2016 front-runner for president. But the difference results from fundamental changes in substance.
“How can one day be that big of a deal? Because Rand Paul demonstrated a reproducible, winning formula. It was as if Ronald Reagan were granted just one day to come back to Earth to remind the Party of Lincoln of ‘how it’s done.’ Rand demonstrated a repeatable formula that all Republicans can copy. It is the template that is significant.
“But was March 6 ‘Republicans’ Last Stand’ or ‘Rand’s First Stand?’ What is most optimistic as the basis for this analysis is that Republican senators started showing up. The Senate floor was more crowded at 10:00 and 11:00 PM than it was at 6:00 PM. They felt it. They saw it. They ‘got’ it.”
He finishes this way: “Rand Paul had guts. Yet the GOP will be lost if it does not learn the lesson and follow Rand Paul’s brilliant ‘teachable moment’ example. Winston Churchill quipped: ‘Man will occasionally stumble over the truth, but most of the time he will pick himself up and continue on.’ We will see how thick-headed Republicans are if they miss the point….
“This author has often criticized Ron Paul on some issues. When Papa Paul is right, he’s right, when he’s not, he’s not. So Senator Rand Paul really had to earn my favorable opinion. But on March 6 he surely did. Count one very impressed convert here.”
Lloyd Marcus comments, “Courageous Tea Party Senator Rand confirmed my statement that no one can foresee the future well enough to be totally fatalistic. Since the presidential election, discouraged patriots have been saying we have lost the country. Obama holds all the cards. All hope of restoring our country back to the vision of our Founding Fathers is gone. Game over.
“As a Christian, I have encouraged patriots to keep the faith and stay on the battlefield, defending what is right. Situations can turn on a dime. Who could have foreseen that Rand Paul would challenge Goliath and win? Senator Rand Paul’s successful filibuster resulting in the White House backing down from its unconstitutional claim that Obama has a right to kill Americans without due process is huge.”
Daniel Horowitz begins his assessment as follows: “What was it about Rand Paul’s filibuster that has captivated conservatives all over the country and reinvigorated their desire to fight for our Constitutional Republic? The irony is that the drone issue was not even one of the most popular issues among many conservatives until last night. I suspect that many conservatives don’t necessarily agree with some of Paul’s assertions about targeting terrorists like Al-Awlaki overseas, although we are all (everyone except for McCain and Graham) concerned about targeting Americans on American soil. Yet he has become an overnight sensation, not just among his core libertarian base, but among the broad conservative movement.
“Conservatives have been starving for a fighter; longing for someone who will do something drastic, engage in a media savvy fight against an imperialistic president who has no respect for checks and balances and an invidious disregard for the separation of powers.
“We have witnessed this president shred the Constitution and implement his radical agenda by administrative fiat. We the People stand by flummoxed and frustrated at the lack of courage among Republicans to counter the president with anything more magnanimous than a press release. We have seen him abrogate our immigration laws, grant administrative amnesty, and let criminal aliens out of jail. Yet nobody has used their position and identified a point of leverage at which to take a stand and draw extended scrutiny to the issue or any other breach of authority.”
Except for now. And this momentum needs to be capitalised on. David Linbaugh says this: “The Republicans had better not squander the good will Sen. Rand Paul purchased for them in his filibuster over the Obama administration’s potential use of armed drones to kill non-enemy combatants in America.
“I am not simply referring to the constitutional issue of whether the president can engage in such acts, though that’s very important. I believe the significance of Paul’s filibuster transcends the drone issue. It was about challenging the administration’s lawlessness and accountability across the board and his runaway spending and statism. It was about championing freedom, God-given rights and the Constitution.”
Exactly. He continues: “I have sensed a general despondency among conservatives, born of their incredulity that voters could elect someone whose policies are so obviously damaging the country and who seems to continue to escape accountability for his actions. They have also been dispirited because they are skeptical – to put it charitably – that Republican officeholders are fighting for them.
“But the Republicans’ refusal to back down in the sequestration fight – despite Obama’s calculated, fraudulent predictions of apocalyptic consequences from sequester cuts – has given conservatives some renewed sense that we’re still in the game. Paul’s 13-hour soliloquy has taken it, even if only temporarily, to a new level. Conservatives can see we still have elected representatives who are in this fight and are unwilling to stand still as Obama continues his quest to fundamentally change the nation into something the Founding Fathers wouldn’t recognize.”
This speech was just one moment in politics. But it is hoped that it will act as a catalyst to energise conservatives and renew those who still take our Constitution and rule of law seriously. May we find many more with courage and tenacity like Rand Paul.