Who speaks now for the GOP?
On March 6, Sen. Rand Paul rose on the Senate floor to declare a filibuster and pledge he would not sit down until either he could speak no longer or got an answer to his question about Barack Obama's war powers.
Does the president, Paul demanded to know, in the absence of an imminent threat, have the right to order U.S. citizens killed by drone strike on U.S. soil?
By the time he sat down, 13 hours later, Paul had advanced to the front rank of candidates for 2016 and established himself as a foreign policy leader whose views must be consulted equally with those of John McCain.
How did he pull this off?
First, Attorney General Eric Holder arrogantly refused to rule out the possibility that President Obama could order execution by drone-strike of U.S. citizens, even here in the United States.
When Rand demanded to know what Holder was talking about, all across America people tuned in.
Here was a deadly serious issue: Had we, in our determination to prosecute the war on terror ferociously, begun to sacrifice our constitutional rights?
Whom do we have a right to kill?, Americans are asking. What are the borders of the battlefield upon which we may designate an individual an enemy and kill him without warning?
Has America become part of that battlefield?, Paul asked.
After hours of speaking, Paul had attracted a vast audience on C-SPAN and Twitter. Soon, colleagues who do not share all of his views — Sens. Mike Lee of Utah, Marco Rubio of Florida, Ted Cruz of Texas — came down to the floor to speak for Rand and give him time to rest.
To see these new Republicans standing by Rand Paul presented the image of a band of brothers standing up for principle. Rarely has this Republican Party looked better.
What made Rand's presentation so appealing was that he began it alone, inviting the mockery of the media. It was done with simplicity and dignity, without histrionics or demagoguery. It was evident that a genuine principle of Rand's philosophy was at stake. And Rand has a bumpkin quality that fairly drips honesty and sincerity.
Agree or disagree, it is hard not to like the guy.
But the play would have been incomplete without the foils.
The next morning, John McCain declared himself disgusted with Sen. Paul and pronounced his filibuster “ridiculous.” Sen. Lindsey Graham lectured the senators who stood by Paul that he did not recall them being exercised about drone strikes when George W. Bush was president.
Paul's victory was conceded when a letter arrived from Holder conceding that he and the president now agreed with Sen. Paul.
What Paul achieved in a half day of speaking from the Senate floor is astonishing. There is a new tent pole in the GOP that stands as tall as any of the rest.
McCain and Graham are routinely trotted out by Big Media to speak for the party, but can they any longer claim to do so?
Henceforth, be the issue sending weapons to Syrian insurgents or launching a war on Iran, the media will have to consult Paul, who can credibly claim to speak for a large segment of the GOP.
The hegemony of the neocons and the lockstep conformity of a vast slice of the GOP that cost Reagan's party its primacy during the Bush wars seem to be coming to an end.
Pat Buchanan is the author of “Suicide of a Superpower: Will America Survive to 2025?”