In the midst of this decade-long madness, this horrifying, covert embrace of extra-judicial robot death squads, a self-described libertarian Republican, Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, stood up for 13 hours on the Senate floor March 6 and yelled “Stop!” What began just before noon as a quixotic, one-man filibuster of CIA director nominee John Brennan (who, in another indication of the Obama-era civil liberties deterioration, had been deemed too pro-torture by Democrats as recently as 2008), soon evolved into a phenomenon the likes of which we may have never seen.

Instead of reading through a phone book or quoting random texts to kill the time and dull his colleagues’ ears, Paul launched a cogent, comprehensive, and inspirational half-day critique of bipartisan executive overreach. By framing his objection as a simple attempt to get an answer from the White House on one narrow but fundamental question—does the administration believe it has the legal and constitutional right to assassinate Americans by drone on U.S. soil?—Paul was able to rally unlikely allies and expose the opposition as arrogant defenders of unchecked lethal power. …

Even hawks such as Washington Post commentator Jennifer Rubin thought Rand Paul got the best of the exchange. McCain and Graham “never looked so old school and out to lunch as they did today,” she wrote. Rubin’s headline, or a version thereof, was on a lot of people’s minds after the filibuster was finished: “Rand Paul wins: Changing of the guard?” One can only hope.