by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Jonathan S. Tobin of Commentary magazine doesn’t share Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul’s concerns about the Obama administration’s drone program. But Tobin explains for readers why he respects Paul’s 13-hour filibuster.
[A]long with millions of others who followed the filibuster throughout the day and into the night, I had to admire Paul’s determination as well as the principled manner with which he conducted himself. During his long moment on our national stage, he set an example for other politicians and taught us again that there is still space in our public square for the sort of high-minded approach to public policy that we once associated with the Senate. It was no surprise that throughout the day many other Republicans, and even Democrat Ron Wyden, joined Paul on the floor giving his voice a rest (even if he could not sit down) and allowing them to share a bit of his glory. Paul probably will not succeed in getting the administration to budge on the issue of drones or stop the confirmation of John Brennan as director of the C.I.A., whose nomination Paul was filibustering. But over the course of those 13 hours he made it clear that he is no longer just a libertarian outlier with a fringe following like his extremist father. Whether you like him or not, there’s no escaping the conclusion that he is a Republican star of the first magnitude who will be a first-tier contender for the Republican presidential nomination in 2016.
Paul deserves enormous credit for having the courage to pull off such a stunt in an era where real filibusters of the “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” style are anachronisms. It took audacity to seize the floor and hold it, albeit with some help from a few friends, and to make his point about drones and the Constitution the focus of the Capitol’s attention. Though his real goal was not so much to derail Brennan’s nomination as to use it as pretext to highlight this issue, Paul was right in the sense that it was entirely appropriate for the Senate to avoid a rush to confirmation of a candidate whose views on any number of security issues are questionable. Watching Paul’s stand with admiration, I could only think how much I wished his colleagues had possessed the guts to do the same thing when Chuck Hagel’s nomination as secretary of defense was up for debate. Hagel, whose qualifications and out-of-the-mainstream views made him far less suitable for high office than Brennan, truly should have been filibustered and it’s a shame that no senator had the intestinal fortitude to do it then.