Saturday, March 16, 2013

Rand Paul, George Orwell and the GOP

    While Rand Paul captivated the (politically attuned segment of the) nation in early March with his drone-powered filibuster, a dozen GOP senators were dining with President Obama.  According to the Washington Examiner, while Rand Paul was making do with candy bars and water, the president put on quite a spread for his guests at the Plume restaurant in Washington's Jefferson Hotel:
Created by Plume's executive chef Chris Jakubiec, entree selections included roasted striped bass, Colorado lamb acai, filet of prime beef and lobster "Thermidor." Appetizers were golden beet soup, hamachi tartar, Maryland blue crab risotto and a raw and cooked vegetable salad. And finally, for dessert, the selections were a peanut butter crumble, the heart of Guana chocolate tart and an iced Tahitian vanilla and praline bar.
    The following day, two attendees of the soiree, Lindsey Graham and John McCain had some rather harsh words for their younger colleague.  McCain made his now infamous and awkwardly-worded "wacko birds" remark about Rand Paul and some of Paul's supporters (for which he eventually apologized).  Graham seemed to take a cut-off-your-nose-to-spite-your-face stance (via Politico):
Graham told reporters in the Capitol that Paul’s filibuster has persuaded him to support the nomination of John Brennan for CIA director.
“I was going to vote against Brennan until the filibuster. So he picked up one vote!” Graham said. “It’s become a referendum on the drone program.”
    Personally, I cannot support all of Rand Paul's libertarian tendencies, but the record of the Obama administration justifies Paul's insistence on a direct answer to his question about targeting U.S. citizens on American soil.  Some commentators I greatly respect have suggested it was ludicrous for Paul to make such a big deal out of this, but perhaps we'd be better off today if someone had demanded answers to some other ludicrous questions of politicians in the past.  Questions like, "Would you ever support the legal right for a man to marry a man?" Or, "Would you support allowing a baby who survives an abortion attempt to legally be allowed to die?" Or, "Would you support taxing someone who refuses to buy medical insurance?"  Or, "Would you support outlawing the incandescent light bulb?"  In retrospect, questions don't always look as ludicrous as they once did.

    When I read of the GOP senators' dinner with President Obama during Rand Paul's filibuster, and then of McCain's and Graham's attacks on Rand Paul the next day, I immediately thought of the closing scene of George Orwell's classic book Animal Farm.  I will not quote at length from the book, not because I don't believe the comparison is useful, but simply because the actual words may come across as inflammatory.  I am not putting our country's current struggle of Republicans and Democrats, conservatives and liberals on par with the struggle Orwell was portraying.  But Animal Farm is a cautionary tale for all time, and even in our time the lesson of the book is relevant.  If the GOP is to be effective and turn back the liberal tide this White House has unleashed, the party must stand firm and remain distinct in its principles.  The American public already holds politicians in low regard, and the current Congress has set records for low approval ratings.  The last thing the GOP needs is for the public in general and its base in particular to look back and forth from the president to Republicans in Congress and conclude "it [is] impossible to say which [is] which."

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