Yesterday, Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) took a page from the 1939 film Mr. Smith Goes to Washington. At 11:47 AM, he began a filibuster that lasted 13 hours. Afterward, he thanked everyone from his fellow senators to the doorkeepers.
Paul’s filibuster was an amazing event to behold and a production that Hollywood’s top writers could not have scripted more perfectly. Paul embodied the importance of taking a stand in his enduring effort to defend the Constitution and Americans’ liberties. His opening comments, which follow, laid the groundwork for the next 13 hours:
I rise today to begin to filibuster John Brennan’s nomination for the C.I.A. I will speak until I can no longer speak. I will speak as long as it takes, until the alarm is sounded from coast to coast that our Constitution is important, that your rights to trial by jury are precious, that no American should be killed by a drone on American soil without first being charged with a crime, without first being found to be guilty by a court.
Paul continued to outline what he sees as the drone program’s danger: the possibility of the government or military killing American citizens who are non-combatants on U.S. soil without due process of law. Paul reminded his listeners that the drone program’s “sentence first, verdict afterwards” mentality is better suited for Alice’s Wonderland than America the Beautiful. He went on to caution that, when Americans lose the due process of law, “…basically what you have is an unlimited imperial presidency.” He also cautioned, “Don’t think if you give the president the power to kill Americans that it’s a temporary power.” Governments rarely relinquish power.
Paul requested that President Barack Obama give him direct and clear clarification on drone use in the United States. When Obama provided no response, Paul continued his crusade in defense of life, freedom, and Americans’ liberties. In the end, Paul did not stand alone. Citizens nationwide tweeted their encouragement and thanks for Paul’s efforts, and the filibuster became a bipartisan discussion about the importance of protecting liberty. During the filibuster, senators from around the country stepped up with long-winded questions for Paul, giving him breaks from constant speaking and helping his cause.
Conspicuously missing during the filibuster was the malice and name calling so often found in Congress. Paul even spoke several times of his great respect for President Obama, calling him a “champion of civil rights.” Paul reminded everyone listening that the filibuster was not about stopping a Democratic president’s nominee, as Paul had in fact supported several of Obama’s previous nominations.
The filibuster also remained remarkably on topic. Paul, and senators who stood to show him support, read relevant letters of correspondence from constituents and government memos, pages worth of #StandWithRand tweets, and pertinent quotes from Shakespeare, Ronald Reagan, and several poets. Unlike previous filibusters from other senators, Paul never sank to reading aloud information from a phone book.
I rarely suggest that we should use a member of Congress as a model of behavior, but today I make an exception. Paul was classy and strong. He picked up a torch with no guarantee that others would help him carry it. We would live in a better world if we all stood as courageously, honestly, and confidently for our beliefs and our liberties as Paul did yesterday.
Widespread concern over the loss of basic liberties is coming up late in Obama’s presidency. Citizens are losing ground. However, as anyone who enjoys good baseball games (such as ones between the Yankees and the Red Sox) knows, a game is not always over at the bottom of the ninth inning. Paul’s filibuster may not have garnered Obama’s immediate response about drone use —the administration waiting until today to respond, but Paul may have gotten us into extra innings in the fight for liberty. Let’s make them count.
Original version originally published on The Modern Advocate.