Friday, June 21, 2013

The Rand Paul moment


You won’t find him on any Federal Election Commission disclosure forms, but Director of National Intelligence James Clapper is the biggest in-kind donor to the incipient Rand Paul for president campaign.

Whatever its merits, the National Security Agency meta-data program couldn’t be better fashioned to play into fears of the government. Is it vast? Yes. Was it secret? Check. Does it arguably run outside the normal checks and balances of government? Uh-huh. Does it raise profound questions about privacy? Roger.

This is the kind of issue Rand Paul was born and (literally) raised to raise holy hell over. And it isn’t just the NSA program lately. The leak about the program came on the heels of revelations that the IRS was singling out tea party groups for extra scrutiny and invasive questions, and on the heels of the AP and James Rosen investigations.

Add in the gun control fight from earlier this year and Paul is nearly 4-for-4 in fights sticking up, in his view, for the first four amendments of the Bill of Rights. The only thing that is missing is the third, because no has proposed the quartering of troops in our homes — yet.

On Wednesday, a Paul aide told me that another aide in the office came to him with a printout of a news article and asked, “Can anything else break that plays into Rand’s core issues?” It had just been revealed that, unbeknownst to anyone, the FBI had been using drones for surveillance. The sound you hear is TV producers falling over themselves to book the Kentucky senator who rocketed to conservative celebrity on the strength of his filibuster of the administration’s drone policy.

It is a Rand Paul moment in the Republican Party not just because the headlines almost every day seem to reinforce his core critique of leviathan as too big, too unaccountable, and too threatening, but because he is smart and imaginative enough to capitalize on those headlines.

Paul has that quality that can’t be learned or bought: He’s interesting. How many potential Republican presidential candidates have helped shepherd a new verb into the English language. The hoopla around Paul’s filibuster gave us, “to drone,” in the sense of “don’t drone me, bro,” as an attendee yelled when Paul took the stage at CPAC.

Other conservatives in the Senate like to brag that they joined Paul’s filibuster, but it was Paul who came up with the idea and executed it, in an inspired bit of political theater.

He taps into an American tradition of dissent not usually invoked by Republicans. At the Time magazine gala this year honoring the 100 most influential people in the world (he was one), he raised a glass to Henry David Thoreau. In his inaugural Senate address, he contrasted his Kentucky hero, the irascible abolitionist Cassius Clay with the more conventional Kentucky political legend, the Great Compromiser, Henry Clay.

Full article: http://www.politico. … ul-moment-93085.html

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