In focusing his filibuster on John Brennan, the one man most likely to reign in the government’s use of drones, Sen. Paul also distracted from the broader issue: the issue of the rule of law. Sure, Rand eventually got around to talking about it late at night after everyone had gone to bed, but it’s the real heart of what’s wrong with the current policy.
So on its face, Paul’s filibuster seems like a tempest in a teapot. It focused on a non-issue and deflected attention from the bigger, more important issues we should be discussing. The real lost opportunity with Paul’s filibuster (especially in this way, over Brennan) is that Congress has a critical role is should be playing in the debate over the war on terrorism. Bringing Congress into the deliberations for how to construct the legal framework and accountability mechanisms is how the program becomes appropriately constrained, legal, and morally acceptable. A filibuster, especially from the opposite party over a nomination, cuts against that.
Right now, the White House is mulling over whether it will expansively redefine the original 2001 AUMF to include a broader set of targets it can target kinetically. It is a key opportunity for Congress to step in and participate in the process of writing the rules by which this conflict will be fought. Yet, there seems to be little appetite for that. Even Paul’s filibuster, a sensation especially among pundits on Twitter, garnered little more than a few junior Senators, one Democrat, and a shrug from most media. It isn’t building consensus, it’s lowering the debate.
March 7, 2013
The Filibuster of Follies