The Paul Coda: The Libertarian Hijacking

Nob Akimoto

Nob Akimoto is a policy analyst and part-time dungeon master. When not talking endlessly about matters of public policy, he is a dungeon master on the NWN World of Avlis

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65 Responses

  1. Kolohe says:

    It’s worth pointing out (again) that former Senator Barack Obama from Illinois would have been a key member of the Progressive Democratic coalition that has, now at least twice, been ‘hijacked’ by the libertarian(s) in the Senate. But alas, he has left the Senate – all too soon, really – and can no longer be a powerful voice and moreover, a constructive, positive and effective force to fix the difficult and important problems that the libertarian(s) prevent us from ever fixing with all their bluster.Report

  2. trizzlor says:

    I look at the Paul filibuster in the same way I look at the Benghazi fiasco, which happens to involve a lot of the key players. With Benghazi, there are legitimate questions about what kind of role we want our foreign service officers to play in unstable countries: the necessity of consulates; the necessity of security; and the resulting trade-off between safety and accessibility. Those are not fun questions but the Benghazi attack left a vacuum for them to be discussed, even multiple opportunities for the Republican nominee to wring hard answers out of the administration. But instead that vacuum was filled with baseless conspiracy theories and point-scoring: weeks of debate over the semantics of “act of terror” versus “terrorist act”; endless parsing of Susan Rice hedged preliminary statements – an administration spokesperson completely incidental to the whole affair; Senators incredulously badgering Secretary Clinton over non-existent “live video feeds” from an overhead drone, al Qaeda flags, CIA arms-trafficking operations, etc. Whatever opportunity there was to publicly re-evaluate our diplomatic policies was completely squandered, and all in the name of getting to the bottom of things. The Republicans appointed themselves vigilant inquisitors and then made a mockery of the process and anyone who supported them; The Democrats responded in kind and shamelessly fawned over anyone involved with a D after their name, sweeping any legitimate questions under the rug.

    And now we’re seeing the same exact performance but over a much more serious issue: Paul had 13 hours to explain precisely why Holder’s initial “No” on domestic strikes was insufficient and he squandered them on stem-winders about liberty and tyranny, got his media spot-light, got another meaningless “No” from Eric Holder, and moved right on with a few more donors on his e-mail list; Cruz had the opportunity to draft a poison-bill reigning in the executive, finally defining a battlefield and a time-line in the GWOT, amending the AUMF even! and instead he jammed his thumb in Obama’s eye some more and moved right on as well.

    This isn’t a celebrity DUI or a homicidal husband so the media attention is going to be finite, and Paul just drained that well.Report

    • Recovered Republican in reply to trizzlor says:

      It wasn’t about changing policy. It was what you think it was. It was about a few more donors to their lists and a day or two when they could count on money flowing in from the tinfoil hat crowd.

      Cruz is spending his time showing us the kind of stupid that Texas bleeds over the rest of the country.Report

  3. BlaiseP says:

    Here’s the nut graf:

    Don’t get me wrong: There are obvious political reasons why, in both circumstances, focusing on the government’s authority on the homefront was more politically expedient–and commanded a greater and more bipartisan coalition of critics. But lest we miss the point, I think both cases highlight not just that libertarian hijacking tends not to accomplish much (other than grabbing headlines), but that it may in fact be counterproductive from virtually every other perspective–whether as a matter of civil liberties and human rights, democratic accountability, or even governmental efficiency.Report

  4. James says:

    obfuscating, if not downright suppressing, the far more problematic elements of the relevant national security policy.

    It’s hard to suppress what’s not happening. Frankly, I’m not at all impressed by any liberal claims that somehow they’ve actually been having a serious discussion about those problematic aspects of national security. All that’s really problematic about national security for Democrats is how to not appear weaker than the Republicans.Report

    • BlaiseP in reply to James says:

      The dog that didn’t bark: the absence of any such claims. I haven’t heard much conversation about presidential overreach from the Liberals, at all. Have you?

      The Liberals, or at least what passes for Liberal these days, are discussing it, in private. I am, with my friends. Obama was given all these powers, he’s guarding them, which I would expect anyone with power to do — not everyone can be a Cincinnatus. And even if he wanted to give them up, how would he do it?

      My suspicion is this: Obama is being buffaloed by his Chiefs of Staff. That’s one reason he fought so hard for Hagel as SecDef. Hagel was a hawk but he was against Gitmo. Hagel has already torn the DoD a New One, getting to the bottom of all these rapes in the military getting covered up. Hagel was loudly opposed to Gitmo. And he has Senate connections, though the GOP hates his guts, they will talk to him in private, I’m betting.

      Obama’s people obviously hate the bad press they’re getting on the drone issue but the President’s opponents are such ninnies he can easily give them the brushback. I wish Obama would get rid of Holder: he’s a chump. He played right into his enemies’ hands.Report

      • James Hanley in reply to BlaiseP says:

        Oh, I know liberals are discussing it. They talk to me about it. But the Democrats? At least the ones in Congress? The ones who are supposed to be the counterweight to the right’s continuing fascination with fascism? They’re the Vichy Americans, Putainists.Report

        • Chris in reply to James Hanley says:

          Vichy Americans is I’m going to call Democrats from this point forward.Report

        • Nob Akimoto in reply to James Hanley says:

          I know Ron Wyden is one voice, but he and Franken at least have been loud proponents of reforming the current process. On the House side we have the likes of Jared Polis who is also a reformer. At the very least there’s a whole lot more Congressional Democrats who have tried substantive steps than congressional Republicans.

          Not enough, I grant you, but did Paul’s filibuster actually make a useful contribution or just suck more oxygen out of the room?Report

          • James Hanley in reply to Nob Akimoto says:

            His filibuster got a shitload more national press than anything the Dems did. If actually bringing attention to an issue sucks the air out so the Dems are even less willing to push on it, then fuck them to hell and back for being even worse than any of us could have imagined, both for being such p*****s and for blaming someone else as an excuse for their p*****ness.Report

            • Nob Akimoto in reply to James Hanley says:

              So far it looks like the Dems are willing to continue to push it, at least in so far as Durbin’s signalled on where they’re going.

              But that’s different from whether or not the filibuster actually brought USEFUL national press. It didn’t, and Cruz’s followup brought even more useless attention while they’ve both backed off and moved on with more donor money having not fixed the issue.Report

            • BlaiseP in reply to James Hanley says:

              If anything, the press coverage backfired horribly on Rand Paul. His fans look like raving idiots.

              Rand Paul is a male version of Sarah Palin. Or Ted Nugent, there’s a better comparison. With this filibuster, Rand Paul’s so jumped the shark he’s beyond salvation. Sure, he’ll always have a few Angry Dudes who think he’s great. But any hope of garnering gravitas from some Principled Stand was utterly blown. Not one good sound bite came out of his filiblustering.Report

            • Nob Akimoto in reply to James Hanley says:

              Also, why in this argument do Paul et. al. get a pass on doing a pointless filibuster then dropping the issue without making any substantive progress? They did this during the detention debate (and have even made it worse by helping to leave in provisions preventing the executive from moving detainees to US soil) and they’re doing it now with the AUMF related use of force, but somehow it’s always the Dems we have to blame, never the right wing fascination with fascism nor for that matter the libertarian leaning groups for cheering on people who do nothing of substance and in fact provide useful cover for the worst abuses of their party.

              …but hell, I’m the Vichy collaborator, not Paul.Report

              • BlaiseP in reply to Nob Akimoto says:

                Notice who’s farting in outrage when FBI seized Sulaiman abu Ghayth and — heavens! — put him on trial in a civilian court.Report

              • James Hanley in reply to BlaiseP says:

                Graham was one of the most dedicated supporters of the detention provisions in the Defense Authorization Act. I’m sure he’s furious that his effort to instantiate mandatory military detention into law is being circumvented. He’s an evil and a stupid man.

                (It’s worth noting, though, that the Obama administration pushed for those provisions, too, and only after they got them into the law did they say they’d interpret them to make mandatory detention non-mandatory. POTUS played both sides of the street on that one, acting shocked by the very language he’d insisted upon.)Report

              • James Hanley in reply to Nob Akimoto says:

                You’re not the Vichy collaborator. For fish’s sake, you’re not even American, so you can’t count. And you’re a serious liberal. I’m talking about mere Democrats.

                Really, I don’t think the media notice backfired on Paul at all; it’s just liberals who don’t like his followers (and of course that’s understandable) saying so. Frankly, I think there’s a bit of jealousy. And if you want to ask why he gets a pass for not doing more, I’m going to ask why the Democratic leadership gets a pass. Everyone’s all het up about Paul, but why are you directing your fire at him instead of Obama and Reid? Quit using Paul as an excuse–“Gee, the Democratic leadership ought to be pushing X and aren’t…oh, look, Rand Paul spoke about X and we all know he’s an insane lunatic, let’s blame him!.”

                Hell, at least he used a filibuster the way it’s supposed to be used. The Dems need to put their own damn house in order before they worry about Paul, and you liberals need to put pressure on the Dems to put their own damn house in order before you worry about Paul. It’s all misdirection and smoke screen–to the extent Paul has done harm to the issue it’s because he gave liberals a target to vent (waste) their spleen on other than the Democratic leadership.Report

              • BlaiseP in reply to James Hanley says:

                The Democrats are doing just fine. The GOP only opens its mouth to change feet these days.Report

              • James Hanley in reply to BlaiseP says:

                The Democrats only appear to be doing fine; they’re only winning by default. It’s not hard to look good when your opponents are busy pantsing each other.Report

              • Kim in reply to James Hanley says:

                Yes. We ought to do something about that.
                You in?Report

        • BlaiseP in reply to James Hanley says:

          Some of that is pushback from Boeing and General Atomics. Any time we see a politician take a stand on anything, you can be sure that gelatinous gentleman is being propped up by some Special Interest.Report

        • dexter in reply to James Hanley says:

          James, What democrats in congress. I am very far to the left and would vote for Eisenhower for president before Obama. I truely believe he would have ended these stupid wars and rebuilt our bridges by now.Report

          • BlaiseP in reply to dexter says:

            Don’t let’s get all sentimental about Ike. He was a great one for coups: Iran, Guatemala and others. And it was Eisenhower who first sent military advisors to Vietnam.Report

            • dexter in reply to BlaiseP says:

              Oh, I don’t hold Ike up as the pinnacle of perfection and I am aware of his using our troops to protect United Fruit Company and I know the world is paying a heavy price for the CIA sponsored coupe in Iran, but whether it was lip service or reality, I also remember some speeches warning about the milatary industrial complex and about protecting social security.Report

              • BlaiseP in reply to dexter says:

                Oh, that…. That was Ike on his way out, his Farewell Address. During his presidency, he presided over just such a military-industrial complex and did not see fit to complain about it while he could have done something about it.Report

          • James Hanley in reply to dexter says:


            Yeah, but last time I suggested Obama wasn’t a liberal I had commenters standing on my front porch with torches and pitchforks. I dursn’t say it anymore.Report

      • Nob Akimoto in reply to BlaiseP says:

        My suspicion is this: Obama is being buffaloed by his Chiefs of Staff. That’s one reason he fought so hard for Hagel as SecDef. Hagel was a hawk but he was against Gitmo. Hagel has already torn the DoD a New One, getting to the bottom of all these rapes in the military getting covered up. Hagel was loudly opposed to Gitmo. And he has Senate connections, though the GOP hates his guts, they will talk to him in private, I’m betting.

        This is good news. I’m glad Gillibrand is working with Hagel to push this stuff through.Report

  5. Madfoot says:

    It must really bother you to see a libertarian do the right thing.Report

    • Nob Akimoto in reply to Madfoot says:

      If he had in fact done the right thing, I wouldn’t be making a big deal of calling it out, would I?

      Did you, in fact read what Vladeck has said? He’s completely right that every time the “libertarian” members of Congress (note: Paul doesn’t actually identify himself as such) take up these issues, they get some pointless and completely trivial “concession”, take a bow, collect plaudits by the twitterati, add some names to their donor list and help bury the actual substantive issue.

      In so far as it bothers me, it bothers me in seeing Paul, Cruz et al play the civil libertarians the same way the rest of the GOP plays the religious right: as chumps who they give lip service to, but don’t do much (and in fact help obscure) the actual policy questions. I don’t mind religious nutjobs getting the shaft with pretty lip service, but these issues deserve better than the fake high-mindedness of Paul and his black helicopter caucus.Report

      • Mopey Duns in reply to Nob Akimoto says:

        Now, I may be a small-town canuck, easily confused by high-fallutin’ American politics, but isn’t that exactly what the Democrats do with the progressive wing of their party?Report

        • Russell M in reply to Mopey Duns says:

          not quite. the national party wispers sweet nothings in our ears, takes our money, and then makes sure some “Centrist Moderate” democrat wins the party primary, because an actual progressive might not win the district. then when we ask what we get for our money and support we are told to shut up and let the adults talk.

          then us progressives look around for 5 seconds, realize no one else wants to talk to us or even uses our language, and slip back under the tent until the next chance to be screwed by the corporate tit-sucker faction of our party comes along.Report

      • George Turner in reply to Nob Akimoto says:

        If the left ditched a progressive Democrat everytime one did something that counter-productive to progressive causes, there wouldn’t be any progressive Democrats left on the Hill.

        Heck, Chuck Schumer finally added text to his SB.374 “Protecting Responsible Gun Sellers Act of 2013,” that guarantees it won’t pass, since probably half the members of Congress, along with the President, would spend five years in federal prison for leaving their rifles, pistols, or shotguns back in their home district under the care of a housesitter, or for firing someone else’s shotgun in one of their routine “I’m not anti-gun” photo-ops. Pretty much anything you might do with a gun gets you five years in jail, including leaving your back-up pistol with your wife for seven days when your job in the Secret Service sends you TDY to Hawaii, or failing to notify federal authorities within 24 hours when your fishing boat capsizes on a remote Montana fishing lake, your rifle and cell phone fall in, and it takes you two days to get back to your car.

        Why add such nonsense to a bill that might have had a chance of passing? Lord only knows.Report

        • Russell M in reply to George Turner says:

          Oh ho ho I know the answer to that one! because he is trying to make the bill as liberal as possible so that when the original bill he was working on with Kirk and Coburn will comes back up it will look like a nice middle of the road bill.

          second note. none of this stupidity would have been necessary if Coburn had not decided that having to keep a record of a private gun sale with the local gun seller like every single friggin sale at the shop has to for their background check. because having private parties follow the same record keeping on their gun sales as dealers is of course the first step to the U.S.S.A.!Report

          • Kim in reply to Russell M says:

            Coburn is ALWAYS an asshole. ready to damn everyone else, just to prove his point.

            Why ANYONE EVER lets the creator of the Coburn Omnibus on any negotiating team is beyond me.Report

        • Madfoot in reply to George Turner says:

          Why try to pass a nonsensical bill in the first place? That’s a good question.Report

      • James Hanley in reply to Nob Akimoto says:

        the “libertarian” members of Congress


        I think the problem here may be a misunderstanding about who exactly we’re talking about.Report

      • Madfoot in reply to Nob Akimoto says:

        I’m accusing you of putting partisanship before principle. Your only criticism here seems to be “He’s a Republican, and that makes Democrats look bad!”. Using loaded buzzwords like calling them the “black helicopter caucus” only makes you look more irrational.Report

  6. Michael Drew says:

    Paul made a hash of the legal questions and the real facts about the policy in his letters and in his filibuster, and I think there’s basically no defense for it. I’m pretty annoyed about it. If you’re going to make this bag show about these issues, get the facts and the critical questions about them right. (And Dems made similar errors and/or distortions when criticizing Bush.)

    But I have to strongly disagree that Paul didn’t, despite these errors (and some of it I think actually was error on his part, though clearly some of it was intentional misinformation), significantly advance the issue politically, both raising its profile and, significantly if it continues, initiating what looks like the beginnings of a(n overdue) reshuffling of the politics around this issue. It looks like he did, and that is to the good.

    Contra James, I don’t hold either party particularly responsible for doing this kind of check on the executive and oversight of the government’s defense function. Democrats aren’t “supposed” to do this more than Republicans. They’ve done it some, but not enough, and certainly neither have Republicans. In fact, I give the party of the person in the White House significant leeway on doing this simply because, ultimately, what do you expect but for a party to tend toward backing up a fellow member holding that office? That’s what’s going to happen. I don’t have a particularly large degree of disdain for Mitch McConnell for not opposing Bush’s overreaches; I have significant;y more disdain for him for not strongly opposing Obama’s. It’s more discouraging if the combination of partisan advantage and the availability of a substantively righteous stance aren’t enough to produce at least political, if not institutional pushback on overreach. It’s good that that has finally come to pass among a few Republicans under a Democratic president, and not at all surprising (and less concerning than Republican’s absence on the questions heretofore) that under a Democratic president, Democrats are slow and sluggish to push back against the leader of their party. Partisanship is a large part of what rules behavior in Washington, but if the parties will play their roles, it can be made to work for us, or at least not as much against us as it might.Report

  7. Patrick Cahalan says:

    FWIW, Nob, I agree that the conclusion to the filibuster affair did not reflect well on Mr. Paul’s actual supposedly principled stand.

    I’m not going to judge too harshly, though, since politics is driven by political theater and saving face as much as by anything else, so I suppose I’m rather more grateful that there’s someone in the Right side of the aisle that feels that it’s appropriate to occasionally engage in this sort of political theater, even if he saves face too early for my comfort.

    In short, yeah, I agree with your criticism a lot more now, ex-post, than I did before.

    That said, moving either of the behemoths any direction is unlikely to come by Rand Paul turning himself into Denis Kucinich. You have to maintain a certain amount of face to get people to join your coalition. Kucinich sticks a lot more to his principles, but it’s inarguable that he doesn’t get much done about it.Report

    • Kim in reply to Patrick Cahalan says:

      Kucinich is the resident Drama Queen. Bernie sticks to his principles. Hell, Pelosi sticks to her principles. Only Kucinich threatens real accomplishments because of his “principles”.Report

  8. Bernard King says:

    Stop complaining about Rand Paul not raising the serious questions about drones and targeted killings, and start raising them yourself.Report