Catching up from the weekend, one thing that jumped out at me was the response of many DC establishment, notably John McCain, to Rand Paul’s filibuster. You can check out one of the interviews here, where he rehashes his complaint that Paul is a nut who was stirring up libertarian college kids. But McCain, in the span of eight minutes, manages to say a lot of stupid things. And they are stupid things that have become a common response to Paul’s concerns.
First, McCain focused on a small part of Rand’s 13-hour speech in which he wondered, sarcastically, if a hellfire missile could be fired at Jane Fonda in a cafe. The point of Rand’s filibuster, however, was not that we would be attacked in cafes. The point was that, when it comes to the targeted killing of American citizens, we need a clearer and more definitive answer from this Administration than “Dude! Just trust us! We’re totally cool.”
The second stupid thing McCain says is that Paul opposes responding to an actual attack, citing the example of the President ordering a plane shot down on 9/11. But Paul specifically addressed this issue, saying it was one thing to kill Americans in an ongoing attack. What he was concerned with was Holder leaving the door open for killing Americans when there wasn’t an ongoing attack.
In short, McCain was happily bashing a straw man.
The thing is that McCain does have one point: there is a struggle going on for the soul of the Republican Party. That’s not a bad thing, given that the Republican Party from 2000-2006 gave us huge spending increases, an unfunded entitlement and two ill-considered and badly managed wars. Rand Paul is a response to this. He is a living symbol of the growing irrelevance of the expansionist, interventionist big-government wing of the GOP and McCain specifically.
You can understand McCain’s bitterness. After nearly a decade of media worship, he lost the election to a half-term Senator. And after positioning himself as the head of the Loyal Opposition, he saw attention move to the Tea Party. In this specific instance, he was having dinner with Obama while Paul was discussing policy. McCain is increasing irrelevant on Capital hill and he simply can not deal with that fact.
Look, Paul’s filibuster resulted in more conversation about Presidential power and drone policy in the last week than the media had given in the previous four years. For the first time, many people are realizing that this President has claimed more power than President Bush ever did. For the first time, many people are starting to remember that we have these things called “civil liberties” and they’re kind of important. People are focusing on Paul having scored a political victory against the President (something McCain conspicuously failed at). That’s a side show. What’s important is that the conversation has changed; the dialogue has changed. And as both the Man Who Should be King and a worshipper of executive power, this makes McCain’s bunions act up.
Being called out by John McCain is a badge of honor these days. It’s a sign that you’re doing something right.