What kind of Senator is Rand Paul?

March 8, 2013

Rand Paul certainly succeeded in drawing attention to issues surrounding the United States drone war during his day-long filibuster this week. He also succeeded in drawing attention to…himself.

Which brings up the question: now that he has your attention, what’s he going to do with it? What kind of Senator is Rand Paul going to be?

The fearly returns are disappointing. Paul, with Ted Cruz, dropped a particularly silly bill yesterday which would outlaw drone strikes on U.S. citizens at home. As Adam Serwer pointed out, it’s pretty much a joke of a bill.

So is that it until the next publicity stunt? Or will Paul use the positive publicity he received from his Senate speech to find some substantive issues on which both Democrats and Republicans can agree? There certainly would seem to be a fair number of possibilities, from redefining by law the war on “terror,” to revisiting Gitmo and detention, to a full accounting of torture during the Bush years. Surely the available coalition here could be concerned about much broader (and more urgent) issues than the narrow question Paul was pressing the administration about and that this bill supposedly addresses.

The one thing Paul said during his extended speech that was most important was that the real failure here wasn’t so much the Obama (and Bush) administrations for not telling Congress what they were up to; the real failure has been that Congresses have been very happy to look the other way. Absolutely. But a two page nonsense bill is hardly what’s needed. We’ll see what he’ll come back with next week. If this is all about enabling Rand Paul to boost his credentials for a presidential run without doing the hard work of actually drafting serious legislation and forming a coalition able to get bills through Congress, then his filibuster will have proven nothing more than an empty publicity stunt.

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Greg Sargent | March 8, 2013