Sen. Rand Paul’s marathon filibuster against the nomination of CIA Director John Brennan prompted Republicans to deliver an almost unanimous verdict: The solon was no longer simply the political heir to the libertarian mantle of his father Ron Paul, but an independent political force.
The Kentuckian is even gaining the admiration of Republicans who normally don't have much in common with the tea-party wing of the party.
“After that filibuster, I was very impressed with Rand Paul, whom I haven’t been close to at all, and very disappointed with my old friend John McCain, who was so critical over the Brennan nomination,” said Orson Swindle, onetime member of the Federal Trade Commission and friend of the Arizona senator since they were Vietnam prisoners of war together four decades ago.
“Sen. Paul did what he had to do and got some hard commitments from the White House with his filibuster. I just wish John had been right there at his side,” Swindle told me in an interview.
Swindle added: “And please put down I am also disappointed in my old friend [South Carolina Republican Sen.] Lindsey Graham, who also criticized Rand Paul unfairly.”
Following the filibuster, McCain lumped Paul in with a group of legislators that he called “wacko birds” on the right that get the “media megaphone.”
Graham criticized Paul’s view on drones on the Senate floor and said in an interview with Fox News, “This idea that we’re going to use a drone to attack a citizen in a cafe in America is ridiculous.”
That Orson Swindle — no friend of the tea party movement or libertarians by a long shot — should embrace Rand Paul is emblematic of near-universal response to the senator known chiefly until now as “Ron Paul’s son.”
The National Republican Senatorial Committee launched a fundraising drive on Twitter during Paul’s filibuster on Brennan and raised more than $75,000 nationwide. Moreover, the “Paul filibuster,” as it is becoming known, was the talk of many state Republican Party leaders throughout the country.
“There’s no doubt in my mind that this raised his profile,” South Carolina State GOP Chairman Chad Connelly told Politico last week. “It made a positive impression in most people’s mind, even if they disagree with him … [by] standing up to Obama and getting an answer.”
The “answer” Connelly was referring to was the White House assurance that drone strikes would not be used against non-combatant Americans on U.S. soil. In return for that assurance, Paul agreed to let the nomination of Brennan move forward on the Senate floor, where it eventually met confirmation.
This is a far cry from the greeting that the national press had toward ophthalmologist and first-time candidate Paul when he won his Senate seat in 2010. Virtually every question in interviews with reporters outside the Bluegrass State wasprefaced with references to Rand’s famous father.
When I interviewed him at the time, I asked what issues he disagreed with his father on, to which the younger Paul replied: “Medicare. He is against it, but I’m for reforming it—most of my patients are on Medicare.”
Since his father finished his presidential campaign on the eve of the Republican National Convention in Tampa last year and Rand Paul endorsed Mitt Romney for president (which the elder Paul never did), speculation has been mounting that the younger Paul himself will run for the GOP presidential nomination in 2016, when he will also be up for his second Senate term.
Whatever his plans, Rand Paul’s standing among Republicans who are neither libertarian nor tea partiers was enhanced with his gutsy filibuster. And it’s a good bet fewer of them will be calling him simply “Ron Paul’s son.”
John Gizzi is the former political editor for Human Events, working for the conservative weekly from 1979 to 2013. Gizzi is a recipient of the William A. Rusher Award for Journalistic Excellence, was named Journalist of the Year by the Conservative Political Action Conference in 2002, and has appeared on hundreds of radio and TV talk shows.
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