Remember when Rand Paul stood up to filibuster drones for a day? Remember how ‘don’t drone me bro’ somehow morphed into ‘drones are awesome for killing liquor store robbers‘? Well, he’s back, ladies and gentlemen! Senator Paul is filibustering the renewal of the USA PATRIOT Act, specifically the controversial Section 215 program made famous by Edward Snowden, and of course it’s all Obama’s fault:
“The president began this program by executive order, he should immediately end it through executive order,” Paul, who is a candidate for president in 2016, charged. “For over a year now he has said the program is illegal.”
[…] “He has the power to do it at his fingertips. He began this illegal program. He has every power to stop it and yet the president does nothing,” Paul said. “I will not let the Patriot Act, the most unpatriotic of acts, go unchallenged.”
Get that? President Obama, who took office on January 20th, 2009, is somehow responsible for a law which was passed by Congress in October of 2001. Who knew that the White House came with its own time machine? No wonder Rand Paul wants to be president so bad!
Never mind that Obama’s Justice Department actually blew this whistle four years before Snowden contacted Glenn Greenwald. Sure, the Electronic Frontier Foundation knew all about Section 215 and bulk data collection in 2011, when Snowden’s job at Booz Allen Hamilton wasn’t even a glimmer in the eye yet — in fact, they touted it as one of the three scariest parts of the PATRIOT Act — but pay that no mind, either. And yes, Snowden’s “revelations” turned out to be mostly old news repackaged in sensational headlines, but ignore those facts, please, because you would never have paid attention to these issues without a bespectacled young lad to scare the crap out of you by channeling Alex Jones over some purloined PowerPoint slides.
Of course, Paul is only able to get away with this garbage because so many on ‘the left’ have done all the really heavy propaganda-lifting for him. As I have been warning liberals since the Snowden story broke, the ensuing scandal has not, and will not, improve the actual state of American liberty, nor will it promote a progressive agenda. If you don’t believe me, just ask former Senator Mark Udall how his ‘let’s reign in the NSA’ reelection campaign went last year. This is never going to be a winning electoral issue. All the political benefits of the Snowden narrative will inevitably accrue to the panderers of paranoia — politicians who win office through the Jade Helm-fearing, Kenyan birth certificate-believing, chain email hoax-forwarding voter. Which makes sense, since that’s the world from which Snowden emerged in the first place.
So if you don’t like the way things are right now under the PATRIOT Act, just wait until Rand Paul’s friends take charge of the actual NSA and use Snowden’s ‘revelations’ to further replace its functions with unaccountable private contractors who won’t give a shit about your privacy. (As the inevitable product of an overpaid, underperforming national security contractor, Snowden himself ought to be a poster-boy for this problem, but still isn’t for some reason that only Greenwald and Julian Assange are smart enough to understand.) Just as Rand Paul evolved a more ‘nuanced’ position on drones, it’s a safe bet that President Paul would change his mind on metadata the moment he was sworn in. He’s just positioning himself now as slightly different from his fellow GOP candidates for the 2016 nomination — ‘triangulating,’ to use the industry term.
And with the myopic focus these formerly-marginal issues have gained from ‘the left,’ conservative elements can install every form of illiberal legislation they might dream up while declaring themselves nonpartisan ‘champions of civil liberty.’ Rand Paul’s “stand” today vindicates everything I have said on this score since 2013: outside the mainstream media spotlight, he’s pandering to anti-gay culture warriors, would put government in the business of regulating who gets an abortion, still pals around with neoconfederates, has gotten suspiciously quiet about the CIA’s torture program, and has expressed a view that the Civil Rights Act should not apply to private businesses — but after today, you can expect Paul’s campaign staff to gild his frame as a ‘civil rights hero’ because he’s protecting us from the unmitigated evil of NSA analysts having easier access to metadata than they otherwise might.