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What Was Rand Paul’s Filibuster Really About?

The WSJ editorial board sniffs and calls Rand Paul’s filibuster a “rant,” and a “stunt” that “fires up libertarian college kids.” Jennifer Rubin points out, in an otherwise praise-filled post, “at times he ventured into skepticism about the war on terror itself.” Ben “Friends of Hamas” Shapiro informs us that it “signals a groundshift” in the GOP.

Though all three pushed various fallacies and untruths about Chuck Hagel, the tepidly interventionist Republican Secretary of Defense, none mentioned Rand Paul’s vote to confirm him in their coverage of the filibuster.

Most of the Republican senators who rose to support Paul [my live-blog here] framed their statements in terms of defending the Senate’s procedural prerogatives and oversight responsibilities. The GOP only decided to embrace Paul’s filibuster when they realized how successful it was–Marco Rubio’s press office told reporters earlier in the day that he had been “snowed in.” That’s why, even though Jennifer Rubin doesn’t have a problem with drones, weakly supports Paul and says Benghazi is a good enough reason to hold up or oppose the nomination, and why Ben Shapiro claims this is mostly about transparency.

They’re all wrong. Wrong, wrong, wrong. How can they claim that the support Paul received, from Twitter–where he was trending internationally–from Jon Stewart, and even from a few honest liberals, was due to a minor policy clarification? Transparency is important, but there’s more going on here.

His support was due to the fact that, go figure, people care about the right of Americans to not be killed by their government without a trial, and they have the nerve to believe they deserve assurance that it will be respected. It matters to them that we’ve been engaged in a boundless, endless war for more than 12 years. The GOP’s hawkish cheerleaders can’t seem to grasp that.

Tim Stanley has a saner take:

Aside from being a fun time had by all, Paul’s principled stand has reversed some of the logic of US politics, turning a Democratic president into an agent of authoritarianism and the Republicans into defenders of civil liberties. If the GOP could marry that small-state message on rights to a small-state message on economics, this could affect a paradigm shift that broadens the party’s appeal (particularly to younger voters). This is no idle fantasy.

I’m pretty skeptical that Paul’s speech actually signals a “groundshift,” but if it did, Shapiro seems pleased that the GOP has merely shifted towards confrontational oratorical grandstanding. The real lesson should be that the party has much to gain by turning away from militarism.

[Update: John McCain reads that WSJ editorial on the floor of the senate]

about the author

Arthur Bloom is the former editor of The American Conservative online. He was previously deputy editor of the Daily Caller and a columnist for the Catholic Herald. He holds masters degrees in urban planning and American studies from the University of Kansas. His work has appeared in The Washington Post, The Washington Times, The Spectator (UK), The Guardian, Quillette, The American Spectator, Modern Age, and Tiny Mix Tapes.

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