By now, anyone who’s been paying attention is aware of Rand Paul’s (R-KY) 12 hour old-school, Mr. Smith Goes To Washington filibuster of the Brennan CIA nomination. Briefly (because this has been covered in depth already), the filibuster was in response to Obama’s implication that the use of drones to target (kill) American citizens on American soil who were suspected of terrorism, but not engaged in any imminent threats was within executive discretion. This, of course, was as opposed to having the subject arrested by the police and given the due process afforded all citizens under the 5th Amendment.
What followed was a fairly epic defense of the Constitution and the rights of citizens, as well as the role of the Government. During the lengthy filibuster, Paul was aided brilliantly by several other senators, including John Cornyn (R-TX), Marco Rubio (R-FL), John Thune (R-SD), Tim Scott (R-SC), Mike Lee (R-UT), Jeff Flake (R-AZ), Mitch McConnell (R-KY), and especially Ted Cruz (R-TX) among others. However, as the events were unfolding, especially towards the later hours, many were wondering where the other senators were, and why they were not on the floor assisting Paul with continuing the filibuster. A “Wall of Shame” list of the absent senators can be found here.
Well, as it turns out many of these senators were having having a dinner party with the president to discuss the budget (or lack thereof) during the filibuster. The Republican senators reported to be at this dinner were Tom Coburn (OK), Richard Burr (NC), Saxby Chambliss (GA), John Hoeven (ND), Pat Toomey (PA), Lindsey Graham (SC), John McCain (AZ), among others. Now, there’s certainly nothing wrong with meeting with the president to discuss important issues facing the country (although, I have to admit, this seems to me more like a PR stunt now that Obama’s approval numbers are dropping); however, I’m sure that these senators know of the filibuster. When one of the conditions Paul put forth form him to yield the floor was a clear statement from the White House affirming the 5th Amendment, one would think that someone at dinner could have put a little pressure on Obama to release the statement, but no. One might expect that they could have joined Paul on the floor after dinner to help out, but no.
Oddly, the exact opposite seems to have happened, with a pair of senators who led the “dinner delegation” actually criticizing Paul for filibustering in the first place. I’ll bet you can guess who they were (even if you didn’t already know):
“The country needs more senators who care about liberty, but if Mr. Paul wants to be taken seriously he needs to do more than pull political stunts that fire up impressionable libertarian kids in their college dorms. He needs to know what he’s talking about,” said Mr. McCain, Republicans’ presidential nominee in 2008 — who topped Mr. Paul’s father, former Rep. Ron Paul, in that year’s primary.
Lindsey Graham was even more petulant, “I do not believe that question deserves an answer,” Mr. Graham said. Continuing on in that vein, the senior senator from South Carolina discussed his opinion on the subject of the filibuster, John Brennan’s confirmation:
Speaking to reporters after he came off the floor Wednesday, Mr. Graham said he defends Mr. Paul’s right to ask questions and seek answers, but said the filibuster has actually pushed him to now support Mr. Brennan.
Mr. Graham said he had been inclined to oppose the nomination because he’d found Brennan to be qualified for the job but also “arrogant, kind of a bit shifty.” He said he wasn’t going to filibuster him but would have voted against him on final passage, but now he’ll vote for him.
“I am going to vote for Brennan now because it’s become a referendum on the drone program,” he said.
Finally, he dropped this “bomb” on anyone who would doubt him:
“If I can’t go have dinner with the president of the United States to talk about the problems that face our nation, I shouldn’t be running,” Mr. Graham said. “If you want to elect me and for me to promise you I’ll never talk to any Democrats or to the president about solving our problems, you’re voting for the wrong guy.”
Not only are Sens. McCain and Graham shamefully on the wrong side of this issue, judging by this tweet:
— John C. (@JCinQC)
March 7, 2013
It appears as though the South Carolina voters agree with Mr. Graham: they voted for the wrong guy. Now if something could be done about the senior senator from Arizona… As an interesting aside, in both cases, the junior senators from McCain’s and Graham’s states: Jeff Flake and Tim Scott (respectively) were on the Senate floor aiding with the filibuster. Looks like the times have passed them by.