Rand Paul Assumes There'll Be a Way to Filibuster the Syria Resolution

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
Sept. 4 2013 9:54 AM

Rand Paul Assumes There'll Be a Way to Filibuster the Syria Resolution

Rand Paul should drink less water next time.

Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

After yesterday's open hearing on the case for airstrikes in Syria, Sen. Rand Paul gave a group of reporters 18 minutes to quiz him on his preferred course of action. His fear, stated simply: Anything we do is likely to make the region messier, so why do anything?

"Is it more or less likely if the region will be more or less stable if we have this attack?" he asked, after I asked him whether he worried about the country losing clout if Congress prevented an airstrike. "Same thing for Israel—is it more or less likely that Israel will be attacked? I think there are valid arguments for saying the region will be more unstable if we get a superpower involved in a civil war, more unstable for Israel if we get a superpower involved and the Syrians feel like they have to show Israel something, or Iran gets involved. Russia feels like they're losing face and they need to get more involved." Nobody knew, he said. "It's all conjecture."

What did we know? For starters, we knew that there were no "different restrictions on the president, in the Constitution, [regarding] whether it's a little war." The idea that strikes on Syria would be limited to just that—strikes, no larger war—was folly. "A lot of people made the mistake of saying that because it's a small war, or because we're only using certain types of missiles, we're not going to call it a war. … Vietnam was that way, Iraq was that way to a certain extent." And how would it end? "I think it's almost inevitable there'll be a second war if Assad falls."

Paul repeated an argument he's deployed on a series of TV shows. Assad, for all his faults, is not prosecuting Christians. "The one thing you might say if you wanted to say something good [about him] is that there was some civility there for a generation or more," said Paul. Compare that with Egypt after the temporary fall of its military-backed dictatorship. "We may well be degrading Assad and allowing radical Islamists to take over the country."

A Kentucky reporter tried to bring Paul down from theory by saying that Syrian-Americans in his state were worried about the fates of their distant relatives. What would Paul say to them?

"I wish I had a good answer," he said. "I've talked to a lot of Syrian Christians who are now in the United States. Some of them still have family over there. Their biggest concern is Islamic rebels taking over—what will happen to Christians? They were allowed to have their own religion. You see what happens when the radical Islamists take over, the Muslim Brotherhood raging through Coptic neighborhoods in Egypt. If I had a way to wave a magic wand, I would, but it's chaos over there."

He didn't need a wand, anyway; his position was popular. "I was in Kentucky for a month," he said, "and I went to 40 cities. I didn't meet one person who was for going into Syria. When I told them I was opposed to it, I got standing ovations." Did this mean that Paul was ready to filibuster a resolution? "I can't imagine that we won't require 60 votes off this. Whether there's an actual standing filibuster, I need to check my shoes and hold my water."

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 



Crying Rape

False rape accusations exist, and they are a serious problem.

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

Why Men Can Never Remember Anything

The XX Factor
Sept. 19 2014 1:11 PM Why Men Can Never Remember Anything

The Music Industry Is Ignoring Some of the Best Black Women Singing R&B

How Will You Carry Around Your Huge New iPhone? Apple Pants!

Medical Examiner

The Most Terrifying Thing About Ebola 

The disease threatens humanity by preying on humanity.


The Other Huxtable Effect

Thirty years ago, The Cosby Show gave us one of TV’s great feminists.

There’s a Way to Keep Ex-Cons Out of Prison That Pays for Itself. Why Don’t More States Use It?

No, New York Times, Shonda Rhimes Is Not an “Angry Black Woman” 

Brow Beat
Sept. 19 2014 1:39 PM Shonda Rhimes Is Not an “Angry Black Woman,” New York Times. Neither Are Her Characters.
Sept. 19 2014 11:33 AM An Up-Close Look at the U.S.–Mexico Border
  News & Politics
Sept. 19 2014 1:56 PM Scotland’s Attack on the Status Quo Expect more political earthquakes across Europe.
Sept. 19 2014 12:09 PM How Accelerators Have Changed Startup Funding
Inside Higher Ed
Sept. 19 2014 1:34 PM Empty Seats, Fewer Donors? College football isn’t attracting the audience it used to.
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 19 2014 1:11 PM Why Men Never Remember Anything
  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.
Brow Beat
Sept. 19 2014 2:44 PM Where Do I Start With Mystery Science Theater 3000?
Future Tense
Sept. 19 2014 12:38 PM Forward, March! Nine leading climate scientists urge you to attend the People’s Climate March.
  Health & Science
Medical Examiner
Sept. 19 2014 12:13 PM The Most Terrifying Thing About Ebola  The disease threatens humanity by preying on humanity.
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.