Donald Kaul: Standing up to theoretical threat
Strange things are happening in Washington.
In the Senate, Rand Paul, the son of presidential candidate Ron Paul, recently proved himself a chip off the old blockhead by conducting a one-man filibuster.
I’m not talking about the namby-pamby sign-a-piece-of-paper-and-forget-about-it filibuster in the modern style. I mean a real, old-fashioned, “Mr. Smith goes to Washington” Jimmy Stewart filibuster — the kind where a senator takes the floor and talks for hour upon hour to block a bill until he or she collapses or has to go to the bathroom, whichever comes first.
The gentleman from Kentucky gave up after nearly 13 hours. He didn’t collapse so I guess … well, I don’t want to overload you with information.
The issue in question was whether the president of the United States has the right to order a drone-bombing of a U.S. citizen on American soil.
It seems that a few days earlier Attorney General Eric Holder, when asked about the legality of such bombing, said it was potentially feasible, given “an extraordinary circumstance in which it would be necessary and appropriate” such as the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Following Paul’s filibuster, Holder responded again, simplifying his answer to “no.”
It’s good to know the Senate isn’t squandering its time on banal issues like health care and immigration. It’s busy keeping us safe from the domestic use of drone strikes.
By the way, in the three months since the Newtown massacre, approximately 2,600 U.S. citizens have been killed on American soil by gun violence. None by drones.
And neither the full Senate or House has taken any action on guns.
Meanwhile, back at the White House, President Barack Obama is waging a blistering charm offensive to win over Republicans. (There’s been a good deal of criticism of Obama over the years regarding his failure to buddy up to Republicans and get them to stop filibustering everything.)
Well, he’s out there at last, courting Congress, inviting GOP members over for dinner, playing golf with them (or trying to).
And how do the conservative commentators who were so critical of his prior aloofness react? By criticizing him for faking fellowship.
All the while, the only organization less liberal than Congress’s Republican caucus, the Vatican, is trying to choose a new leader. Its task is similar to that of the Republican Party — choose someone who will look like the face of change but won’t actually change anything.
Like the Republican Party, the College of Cardinals contains virtually no liberals. All the Popes since John XXIII have resolutely chosen conservatives as Cardinals and the few leftover liberals that the Pope chose are older than 80 and can’t vote. (I thought the Church had run out of groups to discriminate against, and now I find it practices age discrimination too.)
A two-thirds majority of cardinals is required to elect a Pope, not unlike our Senate where you need a 60-percent majority to break a filibuster. It’s a race to see which institution has become more out-of-date, out-of-touch, and out-to-lunch.
Donald Kaul is an OtherWords.com columnist who lives in Ann Arbor, Mich.