Kentucky Senator Rand Paul’s nearly 13-hour filibuster last week has been highlighting the divide within the Republican Party in a way that crystallizes previous disagreements between the so-called “Old Guard” and the newer, more libertarian-minded members.
For those who haven’t been following the story, Paul took to the floor of the Senate last week to demand clarification on domestic drone strikes on U.S. citizens not posing an immediate threat after Attorney General Eric Holder didn’t rule out the possibility in a letter to the senator.
Though Holder did eventually respond saying the president can’t actually authorize such a strike, Republican Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham tore into Paul, and are now being joined by Weekly Standard editor Bill Kristol.
In an article due to be published in the March 18 issue of the magazine, Kristol quoted Shakespeare to say Paul’s stand was “full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.”
He continued (all subsequent emphasis added):
…Paul’s political genius strikes us as very much of the short-term variety. Will it ultimately serve him well to be the spokesman for the Code Pink faction of the Republican party? How much staying power is there in a political stance that requires waxing semihysterical about the imminent threat of Obama-ordered drone strikes against Americans sitting in cafés? And as for the other Republican senators who rushed to the floor to cheer Paul on, won’t they soon be entertaining second thoughts? Is patting Rand Paul on the back for his fearmongering a plausible path to the presidency for Marco Rubio or Ted Cruz? Is embracing kookiness a winning strategy for the Republican party? We doubt it.
It should be noted that time and again throughout his 12+ hour filibuster, Paul said the threat is not necessarily from President Obama. Rather, the risk is in ignoring the Constitution and giving the power of “judge, jury, and executioner” to yet-unknown future presidents.
Moreover, the fact that Paul found common ground with the likes of Code Pink and former White House adviser Van Jones is something that offered hope for many Americans, that both sides can at least agree on preserving civil liberties.
But after admitting that the Constitution is a key element to reviving the Republican Party, Kristol found a way to insult Paul’s handling of the issue.
“…[I]t does no favor to the cause of conservative constitutionalism to let it become identified with pseudo-constitutionalist paranoia,” he declared.
Kristol’s article concludes with a final Shakespearean insult to Paul and talk radio, coupled with his suggestion of a winning strategy for Republicans:
It would of course be unfair to compare Rand Paul to Macbeth—unfair both to Paul’s lawfulness and to Macbeth’s greatness (of a kind). It would be unfair to compare conservative talk radio to Lady Macbeth, just because both recklessly egg on their heroes. But it’s true that a Republican party that follows the path of Rand Paul will end up as thoroughly defeated at the ballot box as Macbeth was routed on the battlefield of Dunsinane. And as deservedly so.
But there is another course for Republicans. It’s increasingly clear, just two months into his second term, that President Obama has overreached on behalf of a rhetorically tired and substantively discredited agenda. “We still have judgment here.” Liberalism will be ripe for the judgment of the American people in 2014 and in 2016.
But you can’t beat something with nothing. The filibusterer from Kentucky has had “his hour upon the stage.” When will other, more serious, Republican dramatis personae step forward?