May 27, 2011

By their Fruits: Rand Paul Goes to Washington

During Rand Paul’s campaign to become Senator from Kentucky, he held a few positions that gave some of his father’s supporters pause. Specifically, his disagreement with Ron over the issue of criminal trials versus military tribunals was a point of contention making it difficult for some to back his candidacy without trepidation. Rand thought we should keep the tribunals while Ron was vehemently opposed to any trial that didn’t give the accused the best protection of his rights.

After this past week, It probably isn’t far fetched to say that any trepidation one may have had about Rand Paul’s commitment to the principles of freedom has vanished.

Paul managed to single-handedly take control of the Senate chambers in a heroic attempt to move the Senate to consider and debate the Patriot act - something shockingly absent since it’s first passage. In fact, in 2000, when the Patriot Act was first introduced, a single Senator read the bill before casting a vote. The vote cast was a resounding “NO” by Russ Feingold, coincidentally, the only vote recorded in opposition to the bill.

Rand’s efforts were unsuccessful if you deem passage of the Act’s extension the sole measure of success. However, Rand did far more than capture the imagination and attention of the country for a suspenseful 36 hours, 7 of which were spent on the Senate floor.

Rand’s actions were quite shrewd for someone with so little working experience in Washington. If Rand couldn’t achieve a total sunset of the Patriot Act’s “temporary” provisions, he would settle on a compromise that would allow Senators to propose and debate amendments, having plenty of his own that would be brought forth.

Harry Reid, a Senator with far more experience in the art of chicanery, had to work overtime to scuttle the upstart’s efforts. But not without first exposing his intent to keep government power in place, and simultaneously his hypocrisy in carrying water for neoconservative Senate Republicans who didn’t want to openly oppose Paul. Rand won that battle and quite possibly the war, the passage of the act notwithstanding.
Reid’s  was not the only hypocrisy exposed. One of Rand’s amendment’s would have placed strict restrictions on the government’s ability to use Patriot Act provisions to inspect gun-owner records. To kill the filibuster, Reid finally succumbed to allowing amendments to be debated and Rand’s proposal was killed in an 85-10 floor vote. But not before Reid uttered statements such as this one that sounded as if he had David Frum’s hand up his back:
"If the senator from Kentucky refuses to relent," Reid said earlier Wednesday, "that would increase the risk of a retaliatory terrorist strike against the homeland and hamper our ability to deal a truly fatal blow to al-Qaida."
By introducing his gun-records amendment, Rand also managed to twist so-called pro-gun Republicans in knots trying to get the Patriot Act extension passed.

Mitch McConnel, who is up for re-election in 2012, was forced to openly oppose Rand’s amendment. . If he previously thought he might avoid a primary challenge in 2011, all hope is now lost.

There are some very tired arms in Washington heading into the weekend. Even the NRA was forced to carry water for McConnel by coming out against Rand’s amendment. In a bizarre twist, the NRA had to defend itself using an explanation that sullied its credibility (and McConnel’s) even further. As Mike Riggs reported regarding an email he received from the NRA:
“If the Paul amendment were adopted, the FBI would have used other ways to access whatever firearms records it might need for intelligence or anti-terrorism investigations. This is especially troublesome for gun owners. 

This would result in United States Attorneys simply demanding the same records through grand jury subpoenas, which require no judicial approval before issuance. Fighting a subpoena after the fact can be very costly and carries legal risks of its own, including possible charges for obstruction of justice.”
What the NRA is saying is that if we bar the intelligence agencies and the FBI from using the Patriot Act to rifle through gun-owner records, they will just use other means, already at their disposal, to get access.

Not only does the NRA come out against gun-owner privacy, it does so to ensure that the Patriot Act continues to live. Both the NRA and McConnel have been forced to take desperately risky measures that in previous years would have gone un-noticed while the media and pundits whistled past, but it doesn’t seem likely that this will happen now.

Maybe some people will even note that if it weren’t for the NRA, there wouldn’t be millions of gun-owner records for the government to examine and their alleged devotion to liberty will be seen for the farce that it is.

Some hours after the Senate fiasco ended, the house took up its vote to extend the Patriot Act and the majority Republican house voted it into Obama’s care with little dissent. From the ranks of the House, that is. Very shortly after recording her vote, Michelle Bachmann, a Republican “hopeful” for the 2012 Presidential election, urgently took to  the floor to defend herself and calm the obviously bad reaction from constituents and supporters.

It gets better though. The blogosphere went nuts. Even Free Republic, a site known for supporting teocons like Bachmann and Andy West and smearing Rand’s father at every opportunity, was supporting Rand’s efforts.

Raising the issue of gun records was utterly brilliant. Rank and file Republicans do not have the luxury of hiding in Washington with equally sleazy politicians who condone, nay encourage them to preach principles while campaigning but undermine them while in office. Real people have to face their friends and their mirrors.

Rand took the Patriot Act, something that was a foregone and forever destruction of liberty, considered a necessity to keep us safe, and turned it into a gun-rights issue, something a significant number of Republican voters consider their only issue.

He’s also shown us how true and wise the following words, spoken by the Prince of Peace:
“By their fruits, ye shall know them”

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