Unlike those Washington conservatives who only object to centralized government power when the government is trying to regulate business or help the poor, Paul is reminding his fellow Republicans that the power to wage war is the most dangerous government power of all. He’s reminding Democrats that no president can be trusted with the unrestrained power to kill, not even one you like. And he’s reminding Americans that senators can still stand on principle, even when it costs them their sleep. Not bad for one day’s, and night’s, work.
It would be foolish to presume that Paul’s moment in the spotlight heralds a new Senate willingness to roll back the expanses of the post-9/11 security apparatus. Rubio, for instance, stopped short of endorsing any of Paul’s substantive criticisms of the war. But Paul did manage to shift what political scientists call the Overton Window — the acceptable center of gravity of discussion. Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Michigan), the hawkish chairman of the House intelligence committee, put out a statement that started out subliminally criticizing Paul but ultimately backing him on the central point.
Michael Crowley thinks Paul’s worries about killing Americans on US soil are overblown:
[I]t’s worth remembering how narrow, and perhaps even academic this issue is. Only one American–the now-deceased Anwar al-Awlaki–has been targeted for drone execution. Three others have been what they call “collateral damage” in attacks on other targets. None of those actions occurred on American soil. Rand Paul has every right to press this question. But it’s almost an academic exercise when compared to the more relevant questions of how reliant we should be on drone strikes against non-U.S. citizens in foreign countries. And it has very little do with John Brennan’s ability to run the CIA, an agency that is quite clearly barred from operating within the United States
Matt Steinglass wishes other civil liberties and executive power issues would get their time in the spotlight:
For Americans to get exercised about government abuse of power, the victims have to be Americans in America, and it’s not enough to picture the lumbering behemoth of cloddish national-security organisations damaging people’s lives for reasons of venality or bureaucratic inertia. We need to imagine a ruthless, deliberate conspiracy, and the crime has to be murder. This distracts us from, as Sinead O’Connor would put it, fighting the real evil. The real domestic victims of our growing police state are namesakes condemned to eternal no-fly lists and whistleblowers subjected to techniques of psychic disintegration. The victims of drone strikes are mainly residents of Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia. There are unlikely to be any victims of drone strikes in America, but we shouldn’t let that distract us from fighting the steady encroachment of the anti-terrorist security state, here and abroad.
Kleiman is confused:
If Holder were claiming for the President the authority to decide, in non-exigent circumstances where arrest is practicable, that some citizen is merely better dead, that would be an outrage. (Though I’ve got a little list … .) But can someone point me to where Holder has made such a claim? So I’m trying to figure out the jump from “people – even citizens – making war on the United States may lawfully be killed by military means, even inside the country” to “The President claims the right to kill anyone he dislikes.”
Josh Marshall praises the talking filibuster:
[It] is significantly self-correcting. A minority that is doing constant filibusters of everything — and by that I mean, visible filibusters — is going to take a public hit pretty quickly. There’s also a cost just in terms exertion for the senators in question. How often do you want to do these marathons? You’re really only going to do it if it’s very important to you and you feel like it’s very important to your constituents as well. And if that’s the case then I think there’s a good to be served by letting one or more likely a group of Senators slow things down in just this way.
Avlon is on the same page:
Paul deserves respect for advancing a serious, principled, substantive debate. This is what filibusters are supposed to be—and one of the lessons learned might be the necessity of real filibuster reform that requires senators to take the floor rather than hiding behind the passing of paper. In addition, it has provided a happy reminder that the word filibuster itself is a Dutch word for “pirate”—fitting because there is something renegade about the capturing of the Senate floor in such a solitary stand.
Jonathan Bernstein pushes back:
I have nothing at all against what Rand Paul is doing today, and I think it’s fine that Senate rules allow it. But don’t be fooled into thinking that this is the Senate at its best; the Senate at it’s best is doing real legislating and real oversight, not making speeches. And to the extent that Paul is reinforcing the romantic notion that talking filibusters are some sort of ideal, it’s hurting the prospects for solid, effective Senate reform. Which remains, alas, badly needed.
Sarah Binder sees other negatives:
[L]et’s not lose sight of the target of Rand’s filibuster: The head of the CIA. Although the chief spook is not technically in the president’s cabinet, the position certainly falls within the ranks of nominations that have typically been protected from filibusters. Granted, that norm was trampled with the Hagel filibuster for Secretary of Defense. But rather than seeing the potential upside of today’s talking filibuster, I can’t help but see the downside: In an age of intense policy and political differences between the parties, no corner of Senate business is immune to filibusters.
And Kornacki thinks Paul is more politically formidable than his father:
It’s unclear where the intraparty ceiling is for Rand Paul, but it’s undoubtedly higher than it was for Ron Paul. This says something about the GOP and its Obama-era embrace of anti-government absolutism. But it says just as much about Paul’s desire to play a consequential role in his party and in national politics. If he does run for president in 2016, he’ll be taken a lot more seriously than his father was, and for good reason.