Mistermix at Balloon Juice has two pretty good reasons why Rand Paul’s filibuster yesterday wasn’t as cool as it seems. While it is good he was brought more attention to the President’s use of drones without oversight, he kind of dodged the more serious issues.
1. What Paul was talking about is a fairly hyperbolic hypothetical.
Paul was talking about something that’s a far-off hypothetical when the reality of killing American citizens with drones has already happened, and the Obama Administration has repeatedly dodged Congressional oversight of the drone program. Paul’s stunt wasn’t aimed at addressing either of those substantive issues. Instead, he was, as is typical of the true glibertarian, chasing a dark shadow in a corner while ignoring what was obvious to all in the bright sunshine. The reason is simple: the people who write Paul checks are fine with killing brown Muslim Americans in a far-off land, and are irrationally afraid of a black president sending a Hellfire missile down their chimney.
2. Paul’s filibuster was designed to fail.
Paul chose to filibuster the nomination of the head of the CIA, even though he stated repeatedly that his concern was the killing of Americans on American soil… The place to protest that is when the defense and intelligence appropriation bills come to the floor. At that point, Paul could filibuster until an amendment was added to the bill to compel the Administration to release more information on drone killings, at a minimum, or to require specific authorizations of force before drones are used in any foreign country… But that would be possibly effective and certainly risky to Paul’s electoral future, so instead he filibustered Brennan… If Paul would threaten the drone program in a way that could actually change the drone program, then shit would get real on the Senate floor very quickly.
Also, here’s Josh Marshall on Rand Paul’s filibuster making the case for filibuster reform.
This was a real talking filibuster. And as I said earlier today, three cheers for it. It’s a good safety valve and it is self-correcting. Making filibusters visible like this does nothing to diminish the power of the filibuster and would preserve it as a robust minority right. It would be something that could be maintained for long periods of time if substantial numbers of the minority supported it. But it would be far, far less open to abuse than the current system of an accountability-free ability to block majority votes at will precisely because of its visibility. (See my argument on why here.)