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Thursday, December 8, 2016

Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) has found a fun way to run for president.

In a party desperately in need of a “Sister Souljah moment” — wherein a party leader takes a stand against the orthodoxy of his base — Paul tends to follow in the path of his father.

Former Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX) actually opposed government spending during the George W. Bush era — though it flowed generously to his district — and seemed to give Rick Santorum an aneurysm during the 2012 GOP primary debates every time he suggested we shouldn’t immediately go to war with Iran.

Rand, too, alternates between veering to the far right — end Medicare as we know it immediately — and back to the left — legalize hemp!

But unlike his father, he’s always careful to shroud his heresy behind the one organizing principle of the Republican Party at this moment in time: opposing President Obama. The junior senator from Kentucky dramatically roused Republicans and one Democrat in the Senate to join him in a filibuster opposing the nomination of G.W. Bush’s former director of the National Counterterrorism Center on the basis of questions about President Obama’s drone policy.

He also has been in favor of negotiating with Iran over its nuclear program rather than building a case for war but has mostly been silent on that issue since taking a drubbing as an appeaser for endorsing diplomacy on Fox News in November.

Wisely, Paul has decided to focus his most public efforts on the activities of the National Security Agency, an issue that gives him license to go after the president in a way that appeals to people who actually may have voted for the president. The Tea Party hero essentially launched his 2016 presidential campaign with a class-action lawsuit against the Obama administration on the issue of “whether or not constitutionally you can have a single warrant apply to millions of people.”

Who is eligible to join the lawsuit?

The senator says, “Everybody in America who has a cellphone!”

He’s already gathered more than 250,000 names and you can sign up now at Rand-2016.com, in case there were any doubts about the motivation for this effort.

But Paul’s effort does bring light to a very important issue: the overreach of American surveillance efforts post-9/11 that began illegally under President Bush. Mass capture of data was then enshrined into law with little oversight by Congress, then exposed by former NSA contractor Edwin Snowden, who lifted the veil on what seems to be systematic abuse by the government.

Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) — a longtime critic of what he calls the secret laws created by the PATRIOT Act — has said, “If we do not seize this unique moment in our constitutional history to reform our surveillance laws and practices, we are all going to live to regret it.”

So Paul’s effort will bring attention to himself and an important cause.

And nothing makes the case for reform of these laws and practices better than the identity of the man who will be advising Paul on this lawsuit:

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