If political tone deafness were a capital offense, let me just say I would be the first to petition to have John McCain’s death sentence commuted in light of his brave service in Viet Nam. But come on, Senator! After Senator Rand Paul’s dramatic, courageous, and ultimately triumphant filibuster against at-home drone strikes last week, Paul’s Arizona colleague made a complete fool of himself by harrumphing at Paul on the subject and by calling him and Senator Ted Cruz “wacko birds.”
To be clear, McCain’s disagreement with Paul was not wholly without merit. The ever-brilliant John Yoo strikes me as correct in saying that the president’s powers to strike at America’s enemies — even if they’re Americans and even if they’re on American soil — have not essentially changed. Only the mind-boggling incompetence and stupidity of Attorney General Eric Holder (and I’m only leaving out his dishonesty because it doesn’t apply here) caused the misunderstanding that brought Paul to his feet in the chamber for nearly 13 hours.
But seizing on the stupidity of your opponents and making political hay out of it is part of the job! It is one of the ways in which senators and other politicians serve their countries. Rand Paul did it brilliantly. If McCain and his fellow harrumphy Lindsay Graham couldn’t support that effort as a means of striking a blow against the radical, irresponsible, and corrupt party in power, then they should have followed the wise and honorable course and kept their mouths shut. Giving any sort of political fodder to the other side was simply not the right or proper thing to do.
I haven’t made up my mind about Rand Paul in general yet. I didn’t fully buy his rationale for voting to confirm Chuck Hagel to Defense secretary and I worry it means he bears some measure of his father’s dangerous kookiness on the subjects of foreign policy and Israel. But hey, I don’t have to agree with him on everything. This is a time for smart, shrewd, tough political action against the Obama assault on our political system. Rand Paul took that action in a piece of perfectly staged political theater. And if the antiquated Harrumphies of the GOP can no longer lead — and they can’t — and they’re unwilling to follow, the least they can do is get the hell out of the way.