Senator Rand Paul (R-Ky.) ended his filibuster after 13 hours. The filibuster began at 11:47 a.m. ET on Wednesday and ended at 12:39 a.m. on Thursday. Paul had vowed to “speak until I can no longer speak” to draw attention to his concern that President’s Obama’s drone program policy represented the latest unconstitutional affront to American civil liberties. Paul’s filibuster was the latest incident of the Republicans penchant for obstructing the Obama administration.
The Republicans have been grandstanding and impeding the ability of the government to function. Their obstructionist posture has damaged the country’s economic health and now it is potentially damaging the country’s national security. Republican obstructionism is not a representation of what is meant by an adversarial relationship between the parties and branches of government. It is a petty and shallow reaction to their disappointment in losing the election. The Republicans are acting like petulant children in need of a good “time-out.”
The Republicans have decided on a strategy that does two things, grounds the government to a halt and attracts negative attention for grandstanding. It began with the Tea Party wave of 2010. Starting in 2011 the Republicans had the capacity to fulfill the wishes of House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) to do all that they can to prevent the Obama administration’s effort to lead the country. That effort began with a debt ceiling discussion that ended with two things — a downgrade of the country’s credit rating and a debt ceiling raise.
They then turned their attention to obstructing the administration’s job program. Labor, especially manufacturing and blue collar work is essential to moving the country forward. There is tremendous support and historical precedence for doing this by supporting a robust infrastructure job program. The Republicans have said no and the result is unemployment came down anyway but not nearly as fast as one would hope. So the economy inches forward no thanks to Republican obstructionism.
Now they are obstructing foreign policy by attempting to derail the appointment of the national defense leadership team. First they took aim at UN Ambassador Susan Rice citing a need to blame her for the aftermath of the Benghazi incident. When Rice was exonerated by the investigation reports and the testimony of General David Petraeus amongst others they turned their attention to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. They suggested that her illness was an attempt to avoid testifying then when that was proven wrong they decided to grandstand.
Paul of course has become the biggest grand stander of them all, rivaled only by Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas). Clearly those two, Cruz and Paul, are in a battle for national headlines and jockeying for position within the party. By the way what happened to Senator Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and how are we doing on the immigration plan?
During the Clinton testimony, Paul remarked that if he were president he would have fired Clinton. How’s that for hubris? He must have thought to himself “how do I top this?” Light bulb — Filibuster! Cruz must have taken umbrage to Paul stealing the evening cable news and blogosphere cycles and planned to one up him. His opportunity arrived with the confirmation hearings of Secretary Defense Chuck Hagel.
Cruz suggested that Hagel was less than honorable and tried to attack Hagel’s integrity. He was admonished by his colleagues Senators Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and McCain (R-Ariz.). Then the whole obstructionist plot fell apart when it was discovered that the “source” for some of the speculation on Hagel was a farce.
The goal of attacking Rice, smearing Clinton, and holding up the confirmation of Hagel was to “uncover” more information regarding what happened in the immediate aftermath of the attack on the Benghazi consulate. Unfortunately no new information has been revealed, Rice is out of the news, Clinton is enjoying the largest approval ratings of her career and Hagel went on to be confirmed. The only thing that was accomplished by the Republican obstructionism was to delay the administration from moving forward with addressing the draw down of troops in Afghanistan.
The Republicans have now turned their obstructionism towards the confirmation hearings for CIA Director-nominee John Brennan. This time they want the administration to be more “transparent” regarding the drone program and they want the administration to acknowledge that the president will not use military force to attack Americans on American soil without due process. They must understand that the president has the authority to use military force against all enemies that attack America, but they are specifically concerned with a “targeted drone program against citizens who are not actively engaged in combat.” The Republican senators wanted the Obama administration to issue a statement saying they would not do such and when the administration waffled they decided to obstruct the confirmation process.
Rand’s filibuster ended without an admission or change in policy by the Obama administration and now the senate will move forward and confirm the appointment of Brennan. The Wall Street Journal editorial board sensing what so many felt labeled Paul’s obstructionist stunt “The Drone Rant” asking for him to “calm down.”
Rand’s filibuster was more nostalgic than it was effective. It was theater reminiscent of a bygone era when senators were known for their compassion and oratorical skills. But it was not effective. Not in the least. It didn't accomplish anything except what I suspect was the real goal — to raise the national profile and draw attention to Paul. The absurdity and futility of the moment was crystallized when Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas) joined the filibuster and began reading Twitter messages i.e. “tweets” in support of Paul. How low have we sunk when tweets are now part of the congressional record? The question was answered when Senator Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) read into the congressional record lyrics from rappers Wiz Khalifa and Jay-Z. Pop culture has now been forever linked to old school politics and that may be the only significant thing to come out of this farce.
The Republicans have taken their obstructionism too far. The sad part is they haven’t accomplished anything. McCain, McConnell, Boehner, Graham, Cruz, and Paul have all taken their turn whining and although it plays well to the base for America is a sad commentary on what once was a great political party.