"I am the least popular guy in Washington." Thus spoke Rand Paul at a stopover rally in Massachusetts on his way to New Hampshire on June 7. Who can doubt that claim after the events of the last few weeks.
When you have Barack Obama, John McCain, Harry Reid, Lindsay Graham all arrayed against you, you are bound to get the award for least popular guy in Empire’s capital city. An accolade of this magnitude also means that you must be doing something right. And that something right was Paul’s filibuster against the PATRIOT Act in the Senate in defiance of his own Party, an act that killed the PATRIOT Act dead.
Now here is the strange thing about Senator Paul’s acts of courage and defiance. Those who wish to see respect for privacy and the Bill of Rights withhold their praise from Paul! Is that not strange on the face of it? It is great to have sympathizers who are also critical when the occasion demands it – and Paul has these in abundance. But when a political figure like Rand Paul does something right, he also deserves praise. To withhold such praise will in the end weaken an ally and perhaps lead to his political demise.
So let’s get to the overdue praise right now. One loud full-throated cheer for Rand Paul – for his courageous stance that killed the PATRIOT Act and also for opposing Obama’s fake reform USA Freedom Act which has replaced it.
(If you have any doubts that the USA Freedom Act is a sham reform, the PATRIOT Act in disguise, here is what the ACLU’s director Jameel Jaffer had to say about the “USA Freedom Act”:
“This bill would make only incremental improvements, and at least one provision – the material-support provision – would represent a significant step backwards. The disclosures of the last two years make clear that we need wholesale reform.”
For more detail and a hint of how bad the USA Freedom Act really is, read what Jaffer said to Glenn Greenwald here.
If that does not convince you, think about this. Obama has been making love to the PATRIOT Act since he has been in office, advocating and winning its extension in 2011. But after Snowden’s revelations burst on the scene in 2013, the widespread anger made it impossible for PATRIOT to survive. So Obama offered a “reform.” It would have been very surprising, given Obama’s record, if that reform were anything other than a fig leaf. And so it has turned out, and a pathetic fig leaf it is, incapable of providing adequate cover for our clothes-less spying Emperor.)
At the Massachusetts rally Paul launched into an impressive and detailed defense of the Bill of Rights, a theme this writer heard him pursue last Fall, at the Liberty Political Action Conference (LPAC) in Virginia. And this time, as then, there was emphasis on the toll that violations of the Bill of Rights took on Blacks, Latinos and other minorities. He put it this way, that violations of the Bill would most affect the “least among us,” those discriminated against based on the color of their skin or other minority status. Of course that is a phrase echoing Matthew 29:40 which would be convincing to the many Christians in the audience. And Paul reminded the audience that one could take on minority status based on what one thinks or believes, another strong appeal to contrarians and libertarians among the listeners. Paul went on to appeal to the audience to turn the Republican Party into one that represents and recruits Blacks, Latinos and other minorities, adding that this was not only an ethical imperative but also a winning strategy. It is easy to imagine the appeal of the Rand Paul libertarians in those communities that are subjected to the New Jim Crow, victimized in the “war” on drugs, hunted and often killed by brutal, militarized police. Rand Paul has stood against all these things openly and vigorously
It is a pity that only the rare progressive will hear such a speech by Paul. For in these matters he is their ally. Unfortunately, most progressives do not feel a need to do this since, as they will tell you, they “already know” what Rand Paul stands for.
So let a second thunderous cheer go up for Rand Paul’s opposition to the war on drugs with its mandatory minimums, to police militarization and brutality and to other manifestations of the New Jim Crow.
Finally, let us look at a stance of Paul’s that has attracted less attention but may be one of the most important. He has called attention to the disaster unfolding as a result of the War on Libya, and quite correctly called it Hillary’s War since she was the driving force for it. It has destroyed Libya, which before the war had the highest rating in all of African on the UN’s Human Development Index. It has launched a wave of immigrants to Europe, many of them perishing at sea along the way. And to get approval for the Western intervention, the U.S. lied to the UN Security council, claiming that there would be no bombing but only a no-fly zone for “humanitarian” reasons. Instead the West became the air force for the opposition to Gaddafi, bombing Libya mercilessly. That lie has had grave consequences for world peace, with Vladimir Putin stating that lie was the last straw in terms of believing or trusting the U.S.
So let us add a third and final rousing cheer for Paul in bringing the War on Libya to the forefront where its ugly significance can be seen by one and all. This conflict was no inheritance from Bush but the Obama administration’s very own war from day one.
To return to the issue of mass surveillance, the cause of the first cheer, and those who regret that Rand Paul was unable to stop the USA Freedom Act as he did the PATRIOT Act, they should recognize he did what he could. With a bigger base and some more cheers, there is little doubt that much more could be done to stop the Spy State.
John V. Walsh can be reached at John.Endwar@gmail.com..