Rand Paul Finds Unusual Allies for Filibuster

Thursday, 07 Mar 2013 12:31 PM

By Alec Weisman

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Republican Sen. Rand Paul’s nearly 13-hour filibuster of John Brennan’s nomination to lead the CIA Wednesday attracted unusual support for the tea party favorite from several high-profile liberals, including actor John Cusack, talk-show host Jon Stewart, and former White House adviser Van Jones.

Meanwhile, he received a more lukewarm reception from some traditionally more conservative audiences, including The Wall Street Journal, which suggested he needed to “calm down.”

Paul used the filibuster to draw attention to the government’s ambiguity when asked whether drones could be used to kill targets within the United States that do not pose an imminent threat. He vowed to speak “until the president responds and says, ‘No, we won’t kill Americans in cafes. No, we won’t kill you at home at night,’” but had to give up after more than 13 hours without a bathroom break.

Progressive actor John Cusack was among the first to chime in with his support for the Kentucky senator. His tweets noted the conspicuous absence of Democrat senators supporting Paul’s filibuster.

Only Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon made an appearance, compared to 11 Republican senators, led by Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Paul’s fellow Kentuckian.

Liberal TV host Jon Stewart also praised Paul for using the filibuster. “I can't say that I agree with Rand Paul about everything, but as issues go, drone oversight is certainly one worth kicking up a fuss for,” Stewart said on Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show.”

On Thursday Van Jones, a vocal liberal environmentalist who formerly served as President Barack Obama’s Special Advisor for Green Jobs, echoed the pro-Paul sentiments on “CNN Newsroom,” and called the senator “a hero” for “sticking up for civil liberties.”

Although Jones prefaced his remarks by expressing his “love” for Obama, he said Paul’s filibuster was a “watershed moment” that was more than just a political “stunt.”

“This was democracy,” Jones added.

The anti-war leftist group Code Pink even plans to thank Paul today for focusing his filibuster on the Obama administration’s drone policy.

Paul received some support from more traditional conservative allies, including a wide array of Republicans including former Gov. Sarah Palin and 2012 presidential candidate Herman Cain, among many others.

More surprising were some of the senator’s conservative critics, which included The Wall Street Journal.

An editorial in the newspaper accused Paul of overreacting and claimed the senator did not “know what he's talking about.”

It explained that because of the “laws of war [the U.S. government can legally] target an ‘enemy combatant’ anywhere at anytime, including on U.S. soil. This includes a U.S. citizen who is also an enemy combatant.”

The newspaper further added, “The President can designate such a combatant if he belongs to an entity — a government, say, or a terrorist network like al-Qaida — that has taken up arms against the United States as part of an internationally recognized armed conflict.”

It concluded by accusing Paul of being more concerned with “political stunts that fire up impressionable libertarian kids in their college dorms” than actually advancing the cause of “liberty.”

Nevertheless, according to an analysis of reporting coverage by Glenn Beck’s website The Blaze, few mainstream media outlets even featured Paul’s filibuster in a prominent position on their websites as his speech drew to a close, with the exception of MSNBC, The Drudge Report, and the Huffington Post. CNN’s U.S. edition failed to mention the story entirely.

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