WASHINGTON, March 10, 2013 ― Following Kentucky Senator Rand Paul’s now-infamous filibuster, Twitter, pundits, and politicians decided to weigh in.
Many conservatives, liberals, and civil libertarians applauded the efforts of Senator Paul; however, there were others from both sides of the aisle who were quick to condemn Paul’s actions. Senator John McCain labeled Paul a “wacko bird,” and much of the discussion on MSNBC, descending into personal attacks of the Kentucky Senator, were seemingly without even a basic attempt at the reasonable challenge expected in an intellectual discussion. Each of these attacks signals Paul’s filibuster having “hit many a sensitive spot” and highlights the fear and resistance that can be inspired when questionable political ideologies and underlying personal agendas are revealed and challenged.
Intense criticism from Senators McCain and Graham on the floor of the Senate belies an uneasiness that people’s approval of Paul’s tactics may signal a changing of the guard; namely, that conservatives are beginning to become skeptical of current foreign policy overseas and more open to embracing the idea of less interventionist approaches. McCain had previously expressed his concern over the direction of the Republican Party at a conference hosted by Foreign Policy Initiative, a DC think-tank: “I worry a lot about the rise of protectionism and isolationism in the Republican Party.”
A possible shift in the thinking of foreign policy and drone warfare by conservatives was seen during Fox News’ Sheppard Smith’s recent interview of McCain when he labeled the Arizona Senator an “interventionist” in response to McCain’s comments on Paul’s filibuster. Other noteworthy conservative pundits also were quick to admonish Senator McCain for his comments, proving that the Party is both perhaps slowly embracing Paul’s ideals, and that McCain’s fears may be well-founded.
On the other side of the aisle, liberal criticism of the filibuster seems to be divided into two camps. The first camp, celebrating Paul’s filibuster, were upset that no Democrat other than Oregon Senator Ron Wyden participated. This camp’s frustration and criticism focused not on Paul, but on other self-proclaimed Democrat champions of civil liberties who did not involve themselves in such an important undertaking.
The second camp engaged in a partisan criticism of Senator Paul’s filibuster. MSNBC’s Toure’ and Krystal Ball were perhaps the best example of this when on the program they co-host, The Cycle, they labeled Senator Paul “crazy,” “fringe,” and “absurd.” This criticism should come as no surprise, as several weeks before Senator Paul’s filibuster, Krystal Ball defended President Obama’s drone program using a weak partisan argument: “If someone’s gonna do it, we trust a nice guy like Obama with the power.” MSNBC host Lawrence O’ Donnell also engaged in partisan attacks and stooped to name calling on his program, labeling Paul “stark raving mad,” and characterized his filibuster as “infantile.”
Rand Paul should be commended for his efforts to bring transparency to an issue that many in the Obama Administration wish to keep hidden from the public. Paul’s nearly 13 hour filibuster drew praise and united a variety of pundits and groups, including Sean Hannity, Glenn Beck, Charles Krauthammer, Conor Friedersdorf, Glenn Greenwald, John Cusack, Tea Party, ACLU, and Code Pink. In uniting behind the filibuster, liberals, conservatives, libertarians, and progressives alike have not consented to support all of Rand Paul’s beliefs; rather, they have sent a clear message that some causes demand looking beyond party lines. The endangering of American civil liberties is one such cause.
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