And therein lies the first part of the hypocrisy. Republican senators who had embraced Cheneyism–enhanced interrogation, Guantanamo, rendition, military tribunals–last night evinced a touching, tender sympathy for civil liberties and due process. Conservative bloggers were quick to say there was no hypocrisy: Cheney-era policies were about enemy combatants, foreigners with fewer if any rights, as opposed to American citizens. But that doesn’t explain why the same conservatives had nothing to say for the rights of Bradley Manning, the Army soldier who transferred thousands of files to Wikileaks. Whether he’s a traitor or simply a well-intentioned whistle-blower gone awry, the point is that he was treated with questionable due process, and none of the Republicans who had hastily refashioned themselves as ACLU members had said a wit about it even though Manning is very much an American.
Greater hypocrisy lies with Democrats, who have expressed only modest interest in Paul’s cause. Where was Al Franken last night? Or Barbara Boxer? They could have joined Paul on the floor briefly, as did Democratic Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden, all while pledging to vote for the president’s pick to head the CIA, John Brennan. But their voices were in absentia.
The left and right Twittersphere lavished Paul with praise for his integrity (which, I guess, is what you could call it coming from a man who has questioned the constitutionality of the Civil Rights Act and Medicare). But at a certain point, Paul refused to take yes for an answer. The CIA doesn’t operate the military drones, so holding up Brennan’s appointment didn’t make sense. And I suspect Paul didn’t want to hold up, say, a defense authorization, which would have not been as popular. Attorney General Eric Holder’s response wasn’t as absolutist as Paul wanted, but it did make it clear that drones were not going to whack people out of the blue in Los Angeles, Houston, and Bowling Green, Kentucky, as Paul cited last night in a nod to his home state. At a certain point, you have to take yes for an answer, and if you don’t, then you’re engaging in the kind of lamentable politics you seem to disdain.