When Senator Rand Paul ended his nearly 13-hour filibuster of President Obama’s nominee for CIA director — to visit the restroom — Republicans were ecstatic. They’d found a way to attack President Obama from the left on drone policy while mentioning the Constitution, Jane Fonda and Hitler over and over.
It was like a Tea Party fever dream come to life on C-SPAN 2.
For some on the left, including The Nation‘s Jeremy Scahill, The Guardian‘s Glenn Greenwald, Esquire‘s Charles Pierce, Mother Jones‘ Adam Serwer, and Marcy Wheeler — many of whom Paul cited from the Senate floor — the junior senator from Kentucky was opportunely raising the issue of extrajudicial killings in a way their years of journalism could not. Other progressives joined Republicans in standing with Rand, knowing if a Republican ever got into the White House, it would be too late to check the broad executive power that’s been unfurled in the war against al Qaeda.
CNN’s Van Jones tried to explain how he could support a man who opposed federal civil rights legislation and a woman’s right to choose, even in cases of rape, with his essay, “Rand Paul, a civil liberties hero and civil rights villain.”
For a party desperately in search of a rebranding, Senator Paul’s Code Pink-endorsed leftward lunge finally gave them a moment in the sun – even if it was the middle of the night and their hero was a guy whose pet issues include low-flow toilets and imaginary currencies.
That unfettered joy lasted mere hours.
The next morning, senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham crawled out of the balcony, where they usually sit criticizing the other Muppets and mumbling about Benghazi, to hobble out to the Senate floor. They then proceeded to repeat nearly verbatim a Wall Street Journal op-ed criticizing Paul’s “drone rant.”
“Senator McCain is obviously well aware of the politics of this — he just doesn’t care,” one of McCain’s aides told BuzzFeed. “He’s doing what he thinks is right. Unlike many of these guys, he’s actually been involved in a few national security debates over the years. He knows that jumping on the Rand Paul black helicopters crazytrain isn’t good for our party or our country, no matter what Twitter says.”
On the floor of the Senate, the distinguished gentleman from Arizona was only slightly less subtle.
“All I can say is that I don’t think that what happened yesterday is helpful to the American people,” McCain said.
“Somehow to allege that the United States of America – our government – will drop a drone hellfire missile on Jane Fonda, that brings the conversation from a serious discussion about U.S. policy to the realm of the ridiculous,” he added.
Ah, the realm of the ridiculous.
How did we ever end up in such a realm?
If Senator McCain had been on Twitter Wednesday night instead of out to dinner with President Obama, he might have gotten a little reminder of how the Republican Party has become a haven for neo-McCarthyites who favor incendiary rhetoric and rely on email forwards for research.
Proud to #standwithrand since 2009. GOP, we need more courage like this!
— Sarah Palin (@SarahPalinUSA) March 7, 2013
If John McCain wants to understand how Republicans so quickly evolved in into a party that elevates its fringe to positions of national prominence, I have two words for him: Sarah Palin.