Kentucky Senator Rand Paul has friends all over the spectrum — from establishment conservatives to the freewheeling libertarian devotees of his father — after a nearly 13-hour filibuster of John Brennan’s CIA nomination on Wednesday. He’s also managed to make two of the Senate’s most establishmentarian figures, John McCain and Lindsey Graham, look like outliers, and Republicans are privately grumbling about them…
“This marks [Paul’s] arrival as a serious national figure in the Republican party, said Steve Schmidt, McCain’s 2008 presidential campaign manager, who said Paul would be a “formidable candidate” in 2016…
The strategist called the filibuster “big beyond it just being a big moment for Rand Paul. It was kind of a big moment for the party because you suddenly had people rallying together on a cause of principle.”
“It was one of the first examples in a long time of messaging that made the base feel like we had control of the day,” said Rick Wilson, a Florida-based Republican strategist. “Rand Paul’s stock price rose sharply today, and being the guy who set Obama on his heels — even for a day — will pay dividends for Paul in the short term, at least.”…
By the time the 2016 Republican presidential race rolls around, the Paul filibuster will be a distant memory — even to the grassroots of the party. But, the motivation behind the filibuster — a combination of genuine conviction and a sense for the dramatic — will still burn strongly in Paul.
It’s why we continue to believe no one should underestimate Paul’s ability to have a major impact on the 2016 race. While his beliefs — particularly on foreign policy — are outside the mainstream of current Republican thought, Paul will get points among the base for actually believing what he says.
Republicans off Capitol Hill clearly were using Paul’s filibuster to their political advantage. It instantly galvanized the warring factions of the Republican Party in a fight against Obama, including the NRSC and the Tea Party Patriots, two groups that have been at odds in recent years over GOP candidates in Senate races. Both were quick to call on their supporters to unify behind Paul.
“People appreciate that someone is finally standing up and playing hardball with the president and his administration,” said Greg Mueller, a Republican strategist. “The party has been far too much seen as a party of capitulation and deal-making with a radically liberal president. Conservatives, tea party, mainstream Republicans want a fighting opposition party in Washington.”
Fueled in large part by support from a Twitter political class that flexed its muscles on policy issues, Republicans rallied around Paul in a way that hasn’t been seen on the national stage in years and could provide a glimmer of hope for a listless party.
“There was a hell of a lot of team play tonight,” a senior GOP leadership aide said Thursday morning, acknowledging that Paul’s filibuster had given the GOP a much needed jolt of energy. “Everybody’s in a three-point stance, helmets on and ready to fight,” the aide said.
The pace of politics and policy is mind-blowing. Paul is a junior senator from Kentucky, a darling of the tea party and libertarians who thrives on the margins of the political establishment. And yet he was able to cow the White House by harnessing Twitter and other social media to rally public support. Sen. John McCain, a Republican from another era, sniffed at Paul’s appeal to young voters in “dorm rooms.” Like the anti-piracy legislation thwarted by online activists last year, the Paul drone filibuster may mark a turning point in American activism. For better or worse, public opinion is now more democratized than ever.
Paul is a force. What started as a Paul-only affair quickly turned into an after-midnight gathering of GOP senators who were literally summoned to Capitol Hill by supporters via Twitter and e-mail. This burst of exposure and influence will help Paul’s prospects for 2016, when he could seek the GOP nomination and, possibly, as many Republicans fear, divide the party.
GLENN: A man who is I believe going to be the logical choice for president of the United States because he is reasonable, polite, and a ‑‑ I believe in a teaching mode right now, teaching the American people, not throwing around firebombs, not calling anybody names but speaking about principles, and the principles are those basic human rights that we all know naturally we’re born with. One that he spoke about last night, the right to live and to have a trial and to have a warrant, not just be killed, gunned down in the streets, or in this case killed by a drone because this president or any president says, “Yeah, take him out.”
CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER: Stroke of political genius. He will be remembered. This raises his image, and he’s completely sincere about this. This will be a moment that people will say has launched him as a national figure.
Paul chipped away at the Democratic Party’s monopoly on romance yesterday. His actions broke through traditional firewalls that keep politics out of the homes of the nation’s marginally interested voters. He showed that the struggle for personal freedom is an idealistic pursuit. For a moment, the pervasive cynicism that has hardened voting patterns over the last two decades melted away. The political class will miss it, but the apolitical citizenry who could care less for what a consultant or a pundit says or thinks will not. The shift that Paul’s actions have ushered in will not remain imperceptible for long.
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.
It was heartening to see Republicans — several joined the filibuster — take the initiative and put the administration on the defensive, but Paul’s filibuster was an ambling affair. Chalk it up to having to talk for hours on end. Paul’s case against the targeted killing of American citizens designated as terrorist combatants marshaled rhetorical support from sources as diverse as our own Kevin D. Williamson and hard-left scold Glenn Greenwald, broke the proscription on reductio ad Hitlerum early and often, and included lengthy and occasionally insightful excurses on everything from counter-majoritarianism to Alice in Wonderland to the French Revolution…
Holder told Senator Ted Cruz at a Judiciary Committee hearing — after persistent questioning — that attacking on our soil an American citizen who is an enemy combatant in the absence of such a threat would be unconstitutional. We are not sure he is right about that. It would be possible to craft extreme scenarios — involving invasions, domestic insurrections, or other outlandish circumstances — in which such an attack would pass muster. But we would be testing the boundaries of the plausible, and of the Constitution…
The Rand Paul filibuster was great entertainment and will probably mark a new stage in his emergence as a national figure. We salute his brio, even if we suspect he is ultimately fighting a phantom menace.
Asked why more Democrats didn’t come to Paul’s aid, Sen. Max Baucus of Montana said, “Each has his own view. To be honest, I haven’t been focused as much on that issue, an da lot of others probably haven’t either. I assume that’s the reason.”
One Senate staffer, said Democrats were privately “amused by the whole thing.”
“There was a sense the Paul filibuster was a distraction from the real issues of privacy and civil liberties, and was just not an issue worth spending an entire day on in the Senate,” said the Democratic staffer. “When Senators are getting ready to break ranks, you feel these tremors before it actually hits, and we didn’t hear any of that yesterday.”
Where Rand Paul led, other Republicans followed: some out of conviction, some out of opportunism, and some out of fear.
Since 2008, the party has executed a huge about-face on issues of executive power and national security. Yesterday marked an important pivot in that complex maneuver. I worry it won’t be the last…
Something more than ordinary partisanship is driving this switcheroo. The alienation and fear to which Rand Paul spoke in the Senate yesterday – the alienation and fear that shapes the political environment to which Marco Rubio and Mitch McConnell must adapt – comes from some deeper and more tangled place than disappointment at the outcome of an election.
Executive assassinations, hyperinflation leading to populist dictatorships, ordinary Americans protecting themselves by launching insurgencies against the state – these are themes of Rand Paul’s politics, now endorsed by his Republican Senate colleagues. Out of what doom-haunted imagination are such dark fantasies born? The Republican party used to be the party more serious about defending America. Now it provides a home to those more doubtful that America is worth defending.
Paul himself seemed to appreciate that this was an important moment for himself, confidently acknowledging to POLITICO in an interview that he was “seriously” considering running for president in 2016.
“I think our party needs something new, fresh and different,” he said. “What we’ve been running — nothing against the candidates necessarily — but we have a good, solid niche in all the solidly red states throughout the middle of the country.”…
“I don’t think you can underestimate how big of a moment this was. If the Iowa Caucuses were tomorrow, he would win in a landslide,” said conservative talk radio host Steve Deace, who lives in Iowa. “Imagine taking what Scott Walker did in Wisconsin and combining it with what Mike Huckabee did with Chick-fil-A, that’s how big this is.”