Mr. Paul Goes To Washington

Rand Paul has become my favorite politician. Of course, that’s a bit like being the tallest pygmy.

I found his talking filibuster in the senate the other day to be inspiring; and I’m somebody who’s very skeptical of any romantic associations with government activity. It did remind me of the dramatic filibuster in Mr. Smith Goes To Washington. Every politician talks about principles, but Rand Paul seems to really take them seriously.

The administration was getting away with not responding to congressional inquiries about its theories about limits to its authority to kill Americans who were not active, imminent, threats to security without due process of law. Most of the people who would have been outraged by a Republican administration doing this were busy covering for their guy.

The issue of explicit, clearly defined, limits to executive authority is an important one. I understand the administration’s reluctance to announce any limits to its power, but that’s part of the reason we need it done. It’s not about whether we really believe that there’s a serious threat of Barack Obama ordering our death or indefinite detention for annoying him without any due process. It’s about not having to worry about any future president thinking that he has the power to do things like that, or about people following such orders.

The system shouldn’t depend on angels being in power; it should be able to handle bad people (or normal, corrupted, people) in power. The issue deserves public attention, and it took a dramatic act like this to make it happen.

Also, Rand Paul has distinguished himself as a smart, formidable, leader (2016???). Many people will disparage this as a stunt, and want to paint all tea-party supporters as simple-minded slogan shouters. But, Rand Paul was able to stand and speak intelligently on the record in front of the world for almost thirteen hours.

I couldn’t do it. Could you?

For those who weren’t following it, here are some good links on it:

Julian Sanchez in words and audio.

Nick Gillespie with three takaways.

And some video:

Reason.TV short video with the beginning and end of the filibuster bookending other related clips.

Some highlights of the filibuster.

Jon Stewart on the filibuster. (first few minutes of this, anyway)

Senator Ted Cruz letting Paul rest his voice while “asking” him about (aka “reading”) #StandWithRand tweets.

Lawrence O’Donnell (and Lindsay Graham and John McCain) being an ass.

The Sequester

So, it looks like the budget sequestration might actually go into effect tomorrow.

I don’t need to remind anyone who’s been paying attention of the degree of exaggeration that’s been going on in describing the size of these “cuts”. Even with these modest spending reductions (from proposed budget levels), 2013 federal spending will exceed 2012 spending.

Of course, I understand Obama’s interest in portraying this as drastic, and using fear to rally political support for fewer cuts and more tax hikes.

But, if he actually prioritizes these tiny cuts in such a way as to inflict the greatest harm to people who have come to rely on federal programs, rather than eliminating wasteful spending in ways that the public shouldn’t even notice, it will only demonstrate his incredible incompetence as an executive.

The Royal “We” in the Inaugration Address

I didn’t watch the presidential inauguration live, and I didn’t watch any video of it until today when I saw a video of the inaugural address.

I, personally, find the pomp of the inauguration and the adoring crowds distasteful. But, I understand that others see it as an important tradition, and an opportunity for the newly elected president to set a tone for his administration.

There have been many reactions to the speech, with many on the left praising it as a bold statement of progressive principles that will be furthered regardless of what the opposition thinks of them; and, many on the right criticizing it for similar reasons. I suppose that it’s refreshing, in a way, that he’s stopped pretending to be interested in reaching out to those who disagree, and that there’s any reason to “Hope” for any positive “Change.”

I didn’t think much of the speech. There was a promising section that seemed to recognize reality, and the distinctive virtues of this country:

Through it all, we have never relinquished our skepticism of central authority, nor have we succumbed to the fiction that all society’s ills can be cured through government alone. Our celebration of initiative and enterprise, our insistence on hard work and personal  responsibility, these are constants in our character.

But, the rest of the speech belied any commitment to those words.

One particularly despicable section was this straw man argument:

No single person can train all the math and science teachers we’ll need to equip our children for the future, or build the roads and networks and research labs that will bring new jobs and businesses to our shores. Now, more than ever, we must do these things together, as one nation and one people.

Sheldon Richman wrote a better comment on this than I could.

But, beyond the usual rhetorical tripe, what struck me about the speech was the constant use of “We”, and “Together.”

I never felt included in these assertions about what “We” believe and what “We” must do, except as one of the intended victims of the extortion that would finance the schemes of the real “We”. And, the real “We” is Obama himself, the government, and those who collude with them. When Obama says “We” he means himself (The Royal “We”) and his misguided followers.

And, “Royal” seems to be an apt adjective for this president, since his behavior has often been reminiscent of a king or dictator (e.g., going to war without congressional approval, illegal “recess” appointments and other abuses of executive orders, kill lists, targeted killing of an American and his child without due process, declarations that he will not debate with Congress on issues legally requiring its approval…).