Erika already touched on this but watch the vid too to see one of the more memorably tone-deaf performances in modern political history. Whatever your feelings about Paul’s position on drones, there’s no denying the truth of what Philip Klein says here:
A lot of the outpouring of conservative support for Paul’s filibuster on Obama’s drone policy went beyond the libertarian and anti-interventionist blocs of the movement who were also deeply troubled by Bush era counter-terrorism policies. Even those conservatives who may not agree with all of Paul’s views on presidential war powers were supportive if for no other reason than they relished seeing a conservative win a messaging war with Obama. It was impossible to dismiss this as just a right-wing Tea Party attack, because a lot of liberals agree with the substance of Paul’s criticism. This filibuster had to get under Obama’s skin. As much as anything else, he was elected on a promise to turn the page on the Bush era and conduct the war against terrorism with greater concern for civil liberties. Watching Paul’s filibuster last night, I couldn’t help but think that this is how Obama imagines himself – a principled crusader for justice. When Bush and Cheney were running the show, whatever could be said about them, at least they were consistent in supporting broad presidential powers in the realm of national security. But it’s hard to look back at the pre-2009 Obama and see him as anything other than an arrogant hypocrite now — somebody who thinks a muscular executive branch is okay so long as he’s running it.
Paul’s performance yesterday was, I think, the biggest rout Obama’s suffered since the 2010 midterms. The sense we were left with after November was that, as a matter of pure politics, he and the Democrats are running rings around the GOP. They’re shrewder about their messaging, they’re vastly, vastly better in using technology to appeal to voters, and of course they can count on the media to help them in a pinch when needed. They know what they’re doing whereas the GOP seems chronically hapless. Yesterday felt like watching Wooden-era UCLA getting run off the court by an unranked team. If Obama caved to Paul’s demand that he formally repudiate drone strikes on Americans inside the U.S., he’d lose. If he stayed conspicuously silent while Paul begged him, hour after hour, to simply be the guy he pretended to be in 2008, he’d lose. Meanwhile, the spectacle of seeing Obama humiliated on a big political stage in the name of civil liberties managed to bring both libertarians and mainstream conservatives into alignment, however temporarily, behind the Paulian view of the war on terror. And the left, which is usually frantic to come to O’s defense, had to sit mostly silent after being reminded that they’re supposed to be critical of executive overreach on terrorism. It was a shockingly deft play by a guy whose patrilineage did not suggest an ability to rally support from mainstream Republicans. And while I don’t share Mollie Hemingway’s receding cynicism, I understand why she feels that way. No one, including me, doubts that Paul spoke from the heart. As Noah Rothman puts it, he chipped away at the Democrats’ “monopoly on romance,” which may mean something to young voters.
So now here comes McCain, with the unranked team and its fans celebrating at halfcourt after the game, to tell them that they played terribly and deserved to lose. He’s the antithesis of Paul in every relevant way: Much older, part of the Senate establishment for several decades, extremely pro-interventionist, way too eager to compromise with Democrats on constitutional matters (campaign finance reform), and not a little bit personally nasty in quoting the Journal’s line about Paul pulling a “stunt” to fire up “impressionable libertarian kids.” His underlying point is straightforward — why wait for an enemy combatant to pose an imminent threat to take him out, even if he’s in the U.S.? — but it’s difficult to engage that point because his tone is so jarringly discordant from the mood of the rest of the party today. Leave it to a guy who lost to Obama head to head to try to spoil a rare victory against The One by not even mustering polite disagreement with the man responsible for it.