How Sen. Rand Paul’s Filibuster Won the Day

Who's winning, who's losing, and why.
March 6 2013 7:02 PM

Everybody Loves Filibusters

At least the way Sen. Rand Paul does them.

(Continued from Page 1)

Paul had joined both of those efforts. His vote against cloture on Chuck Hagel made some libertarians furious, but Paul explained that he was trying to use the delay to coax more drone answers from the White House. The experience left him burned. After winning a 12-day delay, most Republicans went back to their states and frittered time away. They got a few answers from Hagel about whether he’d said cruel things about Israel, shrugged, and moved on.

That led right into Paul’s filibuster of the Brennan nomination. He understood the value of high dudgeon and infinite time to talk. “I will speak until I can no longer speak,” said Paul at the top of his speech. “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.”

What followed, for more than six hours, was a plain-talking series of arguments, precedents, and hypotheticals about an opaque issue: Can the executive branch assassinate American citizens without due process? “The 1947 National Security Act says the CIA doesn’t operate in our country,” Paul said. “Nobody questions if planes are flying towards the Twin Towers whether they can be repulsed by the military. Nobody questions whether a terrorist with a rocket launcher or a grenade launcher is attacking us, whether they can be repelled. They don’t get their day in court. But if you are sitting in a cafeteria in Dearborn, Mich., if you happen to be an Arab-American who has a relative in the Middle East and you communicate with them by email and somebody says, ‘Oh, your relative is someone we suspect of being associated with terrorism,’ is that enough to kill you?”

Advertisement

After three hours, as the media perked up, Paul was joined by Lee, then by Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, who said that Paul was “standing here today like a modern Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.” After four hours he was joined by Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden, a Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee who’d been able to see some classified drone legal arguments from the administration. Wyden had always planned on speaking; now, he was doing it with an inordinate number of people watching and tweeting. Senators who rarely agreed with Paul got up to help him tease out his arguments. “We ought to take out bad guys or guys who are about to do us harm,” said retiring Georgia Sen. Saxby Chambliss. “I think that’s been your position all along, that with due process, we ought to let that happen.”

It looked like a debate that altered the day’s media coverage. It didn’t look like another drive-by filibuster of a judicial nominee. In an interview with Roll Call—conducted before the Paul speech—Democratic whip Sen. Dick Durbin tried to explain how badly that second sort of filibuster had been broken.

“If this is an indication of where we’re headed,” he said, “we need to revisit the rules again.”

TODAY IN SLATE

Medical Examiner

The Most Terrifying Thing About Ebola 

The disease threatens humanity by preying on humanity.

I Bought the Huge iPhone. I’m Already Thinking of Returning It.

Scotland Is Just the Beginning. Expect More Political Earthquakes in Europe.

Students Aren’t Going to College Football Games as Much Anymore

And schools are getting worried.

Two Damn Good, Very Different Movies About Soldiers Returning From War

The XX Factor

Lifetime Didn’t Think the Steubenville Rape Case Was Dramatic Enough

So they added a little self-immolation.

Politics

Blacks Don’t Have a Corporal Punishment Problem

Americans do. But when blacks exhibit the same behaviors as others, it becomes part of a greater black pathology. 

Why a Sketch of Chelsea Manning Is Stirring Up Controversy

How Worried Should Poland, the Baltic States, and Georgia Be About a Russian Invasion?

Trending News Channel
Sept. 19 2014 1:11 PM Watch Flashes of Lightning Created in a Lab  
  News & Politics
Weigel
Sept. 20 2014 11:13 AM -30-
  Business
Business Insider
Sept. 20 2014 6:30 AM The Man Making Bill Gates Richer
  Life
Quora
Sept. 20 2014 7:27 AM How Do Plants Grow Aboard the International Space Station?
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 19 2014 4:58 PM Steubenville Gets the Lifetime Treatment (And a Cheerleader Erupts Into Flames)
  Slate Plus
Slate Picks
Sept. 19 2014 12:00 PM What Happened at Slate This Week? The Slatest editor tells us to read well-informed skepticism, media criticism, and more.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Sept. 20 2014 3:21 PM “The More You Know (About Black People)” Uses Very Funny PSAs to Condemn Black Stereotypes
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 19 2014 6:31 PM The One Big Problem With the Enormous New iPhone
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Sept. 21 2014 8:00 AM An Astronaut’s Guided Video Tour of Earth
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 18 2014 11:42 AM Grandmaster Clash One of the most amazing feats in chess history just happened, and no one noticed.