Yesterday, Rand Paul embarked upon a nearly 12-hour-long standing filibuster. The filibuster’s ostensible purpose and practical effect was to delay a vote on John Brennan’s nomination to head the CIA. It’s real purpose, though, was to force Attorney General Eric Holder to answer a straightforward question: “Does the President have the authority to use a weaponized drone to kill an American not engaged in combat on American soil?”
Paul posed this question because, on Monday, in a letter responding to questions Paul had about the drone program on American soil, Eric Holder had written that the President could order a drone strike on American citizens in America, if there was a 9/11 situation. Thus, Holder confined his answer to the President’s power in the event of actual combat on American soil. Eric refused to respond to Paul’s follow-up question about a non-combat scenario.
So Paul filibustered, and filibustered, and filibustered.
During his epic speech, in the course of which he even quoted Alice in Wonderland, Paul came up with some liberty-oriented bon mots that will forever enter the conservative playbook:
“They shouldn’t just drop a Hellfire missile on your cafe experience.”
“If you give up your rights now, don’t expect to get them back.”
[A hypothetical question to President Obama:] “So you can murder anyone you want, anywhere, any time?”
Paul not only managed to derail the scheduled vote for John Brennan, he forced Eric Holder to answer his question. Today, Eric Holder issued what is probably the world’s shortest letter ever written by a lawyer:
During his filibuster odyssey, Paul demonstrated that he is a lucid speaker, who still managed to make sense after almost twelve hours on his feet. No wonder the Young Gun Republicans in the Senate soon rallied to his cause. (And no wonder the Old Gun Republicans went off to enjoy an expensive dinner with Barack Obama.)
In one staggering feat, Rand Paul demonstrated he is contender material for the 2016 presidential election. Those who have been paying attention know that he has been angling in that direction for some months now, both by speaking up for Tea Party interests and by trying to convince both conservative and Progressive Jews alike that he does not share the disdain his father, Ron Paul, seems to feel for Israel.
These plays, however, were inside baseball stuff, with only political junkies paying attention to Paul’s Tea Party and Jewish outreach. The general public, including the conservative-leaning general public, was not paying much attention.
That all changed yesterday, with Paul’s filibuster. He really did channel Jimmy Stewart, in Mr. Smith Goes To Washington: He was boyish look, deeply committed to the cause of truth and liberty, and still making sense after hours of talking. Moreover, unlike Stewart, who was merely acting, Paul was really doing this. The conservative side of the internet went wild. This was Paul’s moment. This was when he catapulted himself into being a national player. Now the world — or, if not the world, America — will know that there is someone with political substance aiming to challenge Hillary’s almost inevitable 2016 run.
Except that’s not what happened.
Instead, of reporting honestly about one man’s impressive performance in the United States Senate, the mainstream, drive-by media did what it does best: it pretended Paul’s epic filibuster never happened. In some of the nation’s main newspapers, his dramatic stand for individual liberty didn’t even make the front page or, if it did, it was buried within another story about Senate business or was the subject of an attack about his being a dangerous loose cannon.
I hereby give you exhibits A, B, C, and D. The print is small in all of these front page captures, but it’s still large enough for you to see what’s missing — any mention, especially approving mention, of Paul’s epic stand:
The above front pages from some of the dominant newspapers in America provide a textbook example of mainstream media control over political dialogue in America. The media’s playbook is simple: For Democrats, elevate good stories and bury bad ones. For Republicans, elevate bad stories and bury good ones.
Because the drive-by media is no longer interested in reporting news, but only cares about obtaining outcomes, it is up to us — the Citizen Information Army, a CIA we hope John Brennan will never control — to offset the media hegemony. We do this by elevating good stories about the Republicans and reporting on bad stories about the Democrats. We have our orders now. Let’s march!
UPDATE: Don Quixote, who’s more aware of television than I am, told me that the Today Show this morning did do a fairly superficial segment on the filibuster. Let’s hope it was better than CNN’s coverage. Ed Driscoll caught the fact that, while CNN did provide some reporting the filibuster, including commentary from Reason’s Mike Rig, it still let its bias shine through. Check out the chyron CNN applied to the tape of Paul talking:
Although subtle, Ed notes that these things matter: “[T]he Chyron is likely the only thing the now-proverbial low-information voter will take from Paul’s historic filibuster.”