One nefarious action, or being on the wrong side of history in the course of policy making during a taciturn moment in time when the greatest priority, the cause of serving the greater good, takes a back seat to greed, corporate interests, or keeping K Street and Wall Street happy, can forever blacken a life time’s worth of work of good deeds, progress, and achievement. I’m not sad to see retiring Senator, Carl Levin, (D) Michigan, go. He has been a roadblock to filibuster reform which is one of the greatest priorities that both parties should be halting business as usual for to deal with right here and now. Rand Paul’s thirteen hour, sophomoric filibuster of one of the President’s appointees, John Brennan, ended anticlimactically with a two line written response to Pauls’ grandstanding from Attorney General Eric Holder: “It has come to my attention that you have now asked an additional question: “Does the President have the authority to use a weaponized drone to kill an American not engaged in combat on American soil?” The answer to your question is no.”
When the dust settles, the American people will be bewildered over how the purpose of Rand’s filibuster, an attempt to derail the nomination of Brennan to lead the C.I.A. morphed into using the time to demand an answer to Rand’s question which, by his own self-admission, was off-topic. Most Americans will be disgusted by what I saw that day; thirteen hours of self-promotion, personal campaigning, electioneering and base appeasement.
Pauls’ question is and will be viewed as ridiculous by any thinking person’s standards. Further, Rand Paul stated he realized he didn’t have enough votes to keep the nomination from happening, yet he took up thirteen hours of Senate time anyways. This isn’t the first time Paul has taken up public time to address, through the guise of questioning, his InfoWars demographic. During the Benghazi senate hearings, Rand Paul decided to use his time to ask then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton about another non-issue; the supposed sale of U.S. arms to Turkey via Libya. The question was summarily dismissed as crazy as it should have been by Clinton and the press. The question arose from an erroneous story written on InfoWars days earlier. It might as well have arisen from a story in the Onion.
InfoWars, for those unaware, is the disinformation and ultra-right wing propaganda website founded by perpetually discredited Alex Jones. The website is frequented by those in the paranoid survivalists movement, crazy conspiracy theorists, hippies in name only, and wing-nuts. Infowars is the dumbed down internet version of Fox News which is a collection of dumbed down shills for the Republicans. Rand Paul basks in the InfoWars demographic - he uses it to spread unwarranted fear and bullshit to the public in order to further the causes of the ultra-right.
The disinformation is disseminated by those like the former mayor of my home town, Rienette Sennum, who unwittingly do the bidding of ultra-right wingers by doing so. Politicians like Sennum become de-facto Republican shills by spreading InfoWars disinformation and easily disproven conspiracy theories to their followers who lap it up like hungry puppies. Just like Fox News was the instrument that helped keep the Republicans in office during the last decade, propagandized internet sites threaten to undermine democracy in the same way – misleading potential voters into voting against their own interests, even from those whom aren’t the usual suspects. The filibuster, via Rand Paul, just became the new vehicle for InfoWars propaganda.
Senator Levin is an enemy to filibuster reform. And really, even though he grinned happily for the cameras with Mitch McConnell when they agreed to a facade of filibuster reform in January, so is Harry Reid. That dog and pony show wasn’t enough reform to keep Rand Paul from using the filibuster as problematically now as it’s been used in the past. In fact, it’s been used for even more nefarious purposes now than it was, namely it’s become a players-pass to campaign for one’s self and to spread propaganda through the media frenzy a filibuster generates. Reid’s concession to McConnell and the Republicans is especially egregious when we consider how Reid has been so outspoken in pointing out the what a cog in the machine the filibuster was to a functional Senate over the years. Reid has tried the patience of his progressive base.
In recent years, Reid has seen increasing disapproval from many progressives like myself who feel Reid lacks the balls to be a strong speaker and too easily concedes with the opposition. Outspoken liberal film maker, Michael Moore recently tweeted; “And Harry Reid- U are the biggest weenie leading a party of wimps. U let the Republicans continue their 4-yr long filibuster. Disgusting.” over Reids’ lackluster performance on filibuster reform. Many Democrats look forward to the day Reid is replaced.
In Levins’ case, his constituents love him, and they should. He’s done much for Michigan. But watering down and effectively self-sabotaging filibuster reform will be his legacy. He will be known as the fox in the hen house when it comes to the badly needed reform desired by both sides of the Senate.