Rand Paul is the worst sort of political idiot stooge. He's an ideological moron. But, as they -- including Chris Matthews, who said this last night in this context -- also say, "A stopped clock is right twice a day."
Rand Paul isn't "right" with anything close to that frequency.
But all the liberals and especially liberal journalists/commentators like Matthews and his MSNBC evening cohort Ed Schultz and others, should really STFU and stop embarrassing themselves about Rand Paul's filibuster.
Paul's filibuster went to a lot of silly places, and, frankly, it was, as is so much of his political career, a triumph of theory of practice, of ideas over reality. He stated as much, in so many words, himself.
But this is what the filibuster is for. I don't particularly disagree with the point Paul was making (I'll get back to this later) and, likewise, I think Senator Lindsey Graham made an important point about the partisan nature of the ginned-up outrage so many Republicans are expressing toward the drone program, but that's neither here nor there. When we talk about filibuster reform, there's a reason I don't want to see it done away with entirely, and this is why.
The filibuster exists so that a senator who has a deep and important concern about an important matter of public policy can bring the chamber to a pause, a moment -- or a few hours -- of cessura, to give attention to that matter. It's a Good Thing.
I'm especially troubled by the willful ignorance being exercised by MSNBC's Chris Matthews, a very good journalist who would be a great one if he would realize that he'll have more value if the people he's interviewing get to actually say what they're trying to say, in his criticisms of Paul's remarks.
Rand Paul said, and he's absolutely right, that Barack Obama is not an evil despot and that there is no reason to fear that he will kill an American sitting outside Panera Bread for breakfast in Chillicothe, OH, for political criticism of his administration. As Paul put it, "Nobody is Hitler," and he added that he finds the comparison of various political opponents to Der Fuhrer wrongheaded and distasteful. But what Paul points out is that it's not good enough to simply say, "I trust President Obama," because it's always possible that the tools we trust him with will end up in the hands of a duly elected government that is genuinely evil. Americans in 2016 or 2020 will not be inherently more moral than Germans in 1934.
So if you're going to rail at Rand Paul for comparing Obama to Hitler, STFU, because he didn't. If you're going to rail at him for comparing ANYBODY to Hitler, STFU, because he didn't.
And, Chris Matthews, don't pretend it's incomprehensible why he mentioned Hitler if he wasn't trying to compare anyone currently involved to Hitler, because you're lying. I know you're lying, because you've shown a fine grasp of the way Democrats and Republicans both seem loath to take away oft-abuse powers like the silent filibuster, because both sides are eager to have the ability to abuse them when THEY are in power.
Rand Paul spent thirteen hours talking to the nation about the importance of remembering that the powers you give a President you love and trust and respect will also belong to a president you loathe and fear and are ashamed of, and giving a good man the power and authority to kill anyone, anywhere, because you trust him not to abuse that authority is dangerous, because that office and authority will not always belong to that good man. That's a point worth making.
Now, the fact is, the whole matter of the drone program and its attendant issue of the targeted killing of individuals, including Americans, is not the failure of transparency its critics pretend it is. It's a TRIUMPH of transparency, because we know it exists as a program. I assure you, there has never been an administration in this nation's history that has not had some agents of some sort who would go out and kill threats to the nation without allowing recourse to due process. It's ugly, but true. Every country has and has had its illicit assassins. Matt Helm and James Bond represent something real, and we've been happier not knowing about them.
In the "West Wing" episode "Isaac and Ishmael," Aaron Sorkin gives Alison Janney, as C.J. Cregg, the following speech:
"Look, I take civil liberties as seriously as anybody, okay? I've been to the dinners and we haven't even talked about free speech yet and somebody getting lynched by the patriotism police for voicing a minority opinion. That said, Tobus, we're going to have to do some stuff. We're going to have to tap some phones and we're going to have to partner with some people who are the lesser of evils. I'm sorry but terrorists don't have armies and navies. They don't have capitals. Some of these guys we're going to have to walk up to them and shoot them. Yeah, we can root terrorist nests but some of these guys aren't going to be taken by the 105th armored tank division. Some of these guys are going to be taken by a busboy with a silencer. So it's time to give the intelligence agencies the money and the manpower they need. We don't hear about their successes. Guess what? The Soviets never crossed the Elbe. The North Koreans stayed behind the 38th parallel. During the Millennium? Not one incident. Do you think that's because the terrorists decided that'd be a good day to take off? Not much action that day? End of song."
Welcome to the drone program. That's why Rand Paul is ultimately wrong. It's not that we will always have presidents who are trustworthy, and will never abuse the technology and authority and power. It's that all governments already have and exercise that power as they see fit, and, even though we'd rather not think about it, we're happier and better off because they do.
But Rand Paul's filibuster was a lawmaker bringing us to a halt for a little while to tell us that we need to pay attention to an important issue of law and morality. It was a Good Thing, and I thank him for it. This is what the filibuster is for, and it's still something we need.
Get off his back.