Kentucky Senator Rand Paul (shown in photo) clearly had a good month of March. First, he engaged in a March 6-7 Senate filibuster to ensure that “no American should be killed by a drone on American soil without first being charged with a crime, without first being found to be guilty by a court.” The 13-hour filibuster won plaudits across the political spectrum and raised Paul to a national figure even more than his stunning Tea Party-inspired election over the anointed GOP establishment candidate in 2010.
Even enemies of the constitutionalist movement were driven to say that Rand Paul was engaging in smart politics. Neoconservative columnist Charles Krauthammer acknowledged that “Rand Paul’s now legendary Senate filibuster was a stroke of political genius.” Then in a partial take-back, Krauthammer called the filibuster “both theatrically brilliant and substantively irrelevant.”
On March 16 Rand Paul won the annual CPAC (Conservative Political Action Conference) Presidential Straw Poll, with 25 percent of the 2,930 votes, enough to best Florida Senator Marco Rubio’s 23 percent. After that victory, everything Rand Paul did became national news, from his comments on immigration to a threat to engage in a new filibuster on gun control legislation. By the first week of April, word that Rand Paul had scheduled a visit to New Hampshire — which just happens to be where the first presidential primary is held — became headline news.
Then the New York Times, in a March 26 hit-piece/op-ed on Rand Paul, admitted that the GOP establishment is in full damage-control mode: “Mitch McConnell, who is not only Kentucky’s senior senator but also the Senate minority leader, seems to worry more about Paul, the state’s junior senator, than vice versa.” CNN even posted the headline: “New leader of the GOP: Rand Paul.”
The neoconservative movement has tried backbiting Senator Paul’s public relations coup, to little effect. Neoconservative godfather and political enforcer Bill Kristol slammed Paul’s defense of civil liberties this way: “So if Rand Paul wants to run to the left of the Obama administration, he’s free to try that in the Republican primary.” But Kristol’s attacks on Rand Paul, which included labeling his supporters the “Code Pink faction of the Republican party,” were all but ignored by the larger political and media culture. According to polls thus far, Rand Paul’s stance just may run well in a GOP primary.
A Tea Liberty Movement?
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Photo of Sen. Rand Paul: AP Images