The Great Randstand Of 2013-- Rand Paul Makes His National Debut
Zaid Jilani's report on Rand Paul's stand against drones provides the best coverage of Wednesday night's 13 hour filibuster-- which preceded a strong bipartisan vote (63-34) confirming John Brennan as CIA Director. In the end Rand Paul voted to confirm and the only NO votes were from heroic progressives Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Pat Leahy (D-VT), Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and a gaggle of drooling obstructionists like Ted Cruz (R-TX), Jeff Sessions (R-AL), Ron Johnson (R-WI) and Pat Toomey (R-PA) who ritually oppose everything and everyone that Obama proposes. Their opposition is meaningless and says nothing about anything except that they are unfit for office themselves.
Paul, to his credit, has been remarkably consistent in his effort to restrain government violence. He has repeatedly called for substantial cuts to the military budget. In 2011, I attended his “coming out” foreign policy speech at Johns Hopkins University. During that address, he said he’d “much rather send some of your professors around the world than I would our soldiers, if at all possible. Even in Iran, does anybody want to go to Iran? Iran has a large undercurrent of people who like the West. They like our music, our culture, our literature, and so I think we can influence people in those ways. I’d rather do that than go to war with Iran.”McCain and Lindsey Graham went into attack mode-- against Rand Paul and the whole #StandWithRand mini-movement. The Washington Post reported, shockingly, that "McCain and Graham said they support the president’s right to use deadly force-- including drones-- against U.S. citizens on U.S. soil who are engaged in terrorism, when there aren’t other options available... [and] Graham even labeled Paul’s effort-- which was joined by more than a dozen Senate Republicans-- as 'ill-informed'." There are six major drone manufacturers in the U.S. and they have spent millions of dollars supporting Members of Congress who they felt had votes for sale on behalf of their cause. Three of them made significant contributions to Graham-- who didn't even have an election in 2012-- last year alone:
Yet for many who affiliate with the Democratic Party, including those who are skeptical of the drone program and U.S. militarism, praising Paul is just a bridge too far. He’s a “nutjob,” tweeted one of my former colleagues at CAP, the smart law blogger Ian Millhiser. MSNBC’s Lawrence O’Donnell called his filibuster a “stunt.” The only progressive cable news host who offered supportive remarks was Rachel Maddow.
This reaction says a lot about what the Democratic Party-- both its elected officials who overwhelmingly failed to join Paul on the Senate floor and its activist wing and pundit class-- prioritizes, and what it doesn’t.
For most activist Democrats, the drone program is a distraction from issues they joined the party to tackle-- economic inequality, gay rights, women's rights, environmental degradation. These other issues, which also matter deeply to me, supersede any concern about, say, the sanctions regime on Iran that is denying people needed medicines, or a drone program that regularly kills innocent men, women and children. Restraining state violence simply isn’t high on their list of priorities.
• General Atomics- $2,000Last time Graham was up for reelection, in 2008, he was one of the top ten recipients of legalistic bribes from the "Defense Aerospace" industry. That year alone they gave him $74,100. Since he started running for federal office, these companies have doled out $162,600 to ole Lindsey. McCain, of course, finds nothing wrong with this. Instead he has his staffers fanning out across Capitol Hill telling anyone who will listen that Rand Paul is a kook who should be ignored. Maybe the irrelevant Sunday morning talk shows will realize that the reason they've become so irrelevant is because they have McCain and Graham on so often. But probably not.
• Northrop Grumman- $2,000
• Lockheed Martin- $3,000
Paul's filibuster attracted over a dozen senators to the Senate floor, including Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. It launched a fundraising push from the NRSC and even got an assist from RNC chairman Reince Priebus, who urged other senators to join the filibuster on Twitter. Most other Senators have praised Paul for the effort, with the notable exception of Graham and McCain, who called the filibuster a "political stunt."Miss McConnell's aide was lying and-- no irony here-- Miss McConnell has taken even more cash from the drone manufacturers than Lindsey Graham. Last year-- again, a year when McConnell wasn't running for reelection-- he took massive legalistic bribes from the drone manufacturers to help further their toxic agenda-- which was, after all, what Rand Paul was filibustering against Wednesday night. Miss McConnell was #StandingWithRand because he's against coloreds in the White House. Here are the drone manufacturers who paid him off to go along with Buck McKeon's bill to allow 30,000 drones to fly over U.S. skies:
"Either they were drinking a lot at the Obama party or they're just completely dismissive of what was going on," said one senior Republican strategist. "They're living in an alternative universe. I don't get it at all. You have a party where there's all this talk about how divided the establishment is from the grassroots, and then you have John McCain and Lindsey Graham come out of left field with this. People are just scratching their heads."
The strategist called the filibuster "big beyond it just being a big moment for Rand Paul. It was kind of a big moment for the party because you suddenly had people rallying together on a cause of principle."
Another GOP operative called Graham and McCain "just completely out of touch.
..."Senator McCain is obviously well aware of the politics of this - he just doesn't care," said one McCain aide. "He's doing what he thinks is right. Unlike many of these guys, he's actually been involved in a few national security debates over the years. He knows that jumping on the Rand Paul black helicopters crazytrain isn't good for our Party or our country, no matter what Twitter says."
...[I]t was an opportunity for an establishment figure like Mitch McConnell, up for re-election in 2014, to prove his civil liberties bona fides.
Jesse Benton, formerly Ron Paul's campaign manager and now McConnell's re-election campaign manager, said that McConnell hadn't planned to go down to the Senate on Wednesday.
"We didn't know that Rand was planning a talking filibuster but there's been plenty of communication at multiple levels that Rand planned to hold up the nomination," Benton said. McConnell "had let Rand know that he was supportive of the idea of at least holding [Brennan] to 60 votes."
• General Atomics- $4,000Since 1990 the "Defense Aerospace" sector has rewarded Miss McConnell with a nifty $214,345. Arms manufacturers and war contractors in general have given McConnell $542,149 in the same time period. But he loved getting up there to #StandWithRand the other night. It made him feel like he was part of something popular for a change. McCain has less interest in being part of anything popular-- as long as he gets to be on Meet the Press instead-- and call people who are trying to discuss real problems wacko birds.
• Northrop Grumman- $5,000
• Honeywell International- $2,500
• Lockheed Martin- $1,000
• Raytheon- $1,000
Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) is continuing to criticize his fellow Republicans for their filibuster of incoming CIA Director John O. Brennan over drone policy. In an interview with the Huffington Post, McCain referred to Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) and Rep. Justin Amash (R-Mich.) as “wackos.”
“They were elected, nobody believes that there was a corrupt election, anything else,” McCain said. “But I also think that when, you know, it’s always the wacko birds on right and left that get the media megaphone.”
Asked to clarify, McCain said he was referencing ”Rand Paul, Cruz, Amash, whoever.”