Rand Paul has disqualified himself from being considered for the Presidency by rational voters in many ways. His suggestion to MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow that he would have waited for market forces to end Jim Crow, and voted against portions of the Civil Rights Act was enough all by itself. Paul’s embrace of isolationism—he often sounds like Michael Moore on foreign policy—is as fanciful as it is dangerous. He has no executive experience, and based on some of his statements (and positions), I’m convinced he’s just not very smart.
Not only that, but he is the most arrogant candidate in a field that may contain Chris Christie, and that’s incredible.
Nonetheless, his filibuster-like Senate speech against National Security Agency counter-terrorism surveillance, forcing key portions of the Patriot Act to expire, was a brave, principled, and important act. In the end it was also a futile act, and the Senate quickly passed provisions that Paul opposed. The Daily Beast headlined the story, “It’s NSA 1, Rand Paul 0.”
It was still a public service. Yes, Paul alienated most of his party, and he took a huge risk: a single terrorist attack here will automatically turn him into a national pariah, and coming the same week that we discovered conclusively that the TSA is a joke, the chances of such an event occurring seem likelier than ever. (Saying, however, as Paul did, that “people here in town …secretly want there to be an attack on the United States so they can blame it on me” was inexcusably stupid. Really? People want to see American citizens die to make Rand Paul look bad, when he makes himself look bad on a regular basis?) The point Paul made, however, and it needs to be made again, and again, and again, is that there is no reason to trust the NSA, and no reason to trust the current federal government either. The fact that on security matters we have no real choice is frightening and disheartening, but nevertheless, no American should be comfortable with his or her private communications, activities and other personal matters being tracked by the NSA, which is incompetent (See: Snowden, Edward) and which lies, or the Obama Administration, which doesn’t care if the NSA lies, and has repeatedly shown that it has no qualms about violating the Constitution until a Court stops it.
Pooh-poohing Paul’s concerns, Charles Lane, a Washington Post op-ed writer, opines,
“What Congress has been having, for the most part, is a debate about the age-old tension between security and freedom and how to manage it, realistically, without shredding the Constitution.”
Those are soothing words, but the facts of the past several years do not support them, nor do the sentiments of Democrats, the primary supporters of this President. There has been a lot of Constitution shredding, from exceeding the President’s war powers, to abusing the press, to ignoring the rule of law, breaching the Separation of Powers, abusing the Commerce Clause, and making laws, and amending laws, in defiance of Congress. Meanwhile, a majority of Democrats want to gut the First and the Second Amendment. What Lane calls Paul’s residence in “a darker, angrier corner of the libertarian imagination” is neither entirely imaginary nor a perspective the rest of us can afford to ignore. The danger Rand Paul sees is substantially real, and the lack of trustworthy leadership is terrifying. He just isn’t the right candidate to do anything about it, other than to sound the alarm.
For that, we should still be grateful.
4 thoughts on “Ethics Hero: Senator Rand Paul”
I think I liked the idea of Rand before I dug deeper and found the reality of him. There are so many unique characteristics in him that I like… But because they come with the off the wall stances that are just deal breakers for me, I’m out. I wish him marginal success, so he can draw attention to a few important issues, and then I want him to duck out in time to run for his senate seat.
I never even liked the idea of Rand. The idea of any part of his father’s “let’s have everyone be junkies” and “the US should have let Hitler take over the world” philosophy, or even Ron’s DNA, having real power is terrifying. (Have you seen Ron’s scare-mongering ads hawking, oh, something on TV? Class. Pure class.) But basically you’ve accurately stated my view of Rand.
“people here in town …secretly want there to be an attack on the United States so they can blame it on me”
That was something that never should have been said publicly, but that I wouldn’t discount so quickly. Remember, our current authorities have shown little respect for rights, freedoms, or human life. How many people were injured and how many have been killed because of the current government’s policies on race and the police? Do you really think they would shed a tear if a terrorist attack resulted in them having a stronger hand? Look at what happened in Texas. Most of them seemed disappointed the terrorists didn’t manage to kill anyone.
Even to those vile enough to make such a wish, Paul isn’t a sufficiently important figure to be worth the trade off. He was flattering himself.