May 24, 2015

On ABC's This Week, Bill Kristol attacked Rand Paul for blocking an extension of the Patriot Act over the weekend and called him a "liberal Democrat" for agreeing on that and a number of other issues with progressive House member, Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN).

I hate to break it to Bloody Bill, but agreeing on a handful of topics doesn't make Rand Paul a "liberal Democrat." You guys are going to have to keep him. I do actually agree with Kristol that some of Paul's positions may make it hard for him to gain traction in the Republican 2016 primary.

Of course, in order to take Paul or the majority of them who say they're running seriously, you have to believe that the lot of them actually want to be president, and not just increase their political donations and speaking fees. I put Paul squarely in the grifter camp, just like his daddy. His family figured out this racket a long time ago.

That said, unlike Bill Kristol, I was happy to see Paul out there leading the bipartisan opposition to extending the Patriot Act and pissing off his leadership over the holiday weekend: Randstand: Republican Presidential Candidate Leads Bipartisan Opposition to Patriot Act:

Over the course of two-and-a-half minutes in the wee hours of Saturday morning, Rand Paul set off a few parliamentary explosions in the Senate, likely detonated another trademark "money bomb" for his presidential campaign, and seized a leadership role in what seems likely to be a prolonged, bipartisan debate over the way the U.S. handles terrorist threats.

Hours after Paul used a range of parliamentary maneuvers to blocked the Senate from extending the Patriot Act, the contentious anti-terror law that expires June 1, and forced his Kentucky colleague, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, to call senators back for a rare Sunday session on May 31, some of his colleagues suggested his motives were purely self-serving.

"I'm sure it's a great revenue raiser," Arizona Senator John McCain told reporters, referring to Paul's use of lengthy Senate floor speeches to win contributions for his campaign.

For Paul, though, the standoff was also a political coup that exposed the deep rift in both parties—but especially the Republican Party—over foreign policy and the so-called war on terror. It also showed the iconoclastic Kentuckian's ability to win allies across political lines. Eight Republicans joined 45 Democrats and independent Angus King of Maine in voting against advancing the Patriot Act extension (McConnell made a ninth Republican "no" vote when he switched his vote at the end, but that was on a procedural move that will allow him to call the legislation up for a re-vote). Read on...

In Bill Kristol's world, this makes him a "liberal Democrat." That was following his cohort on This Week, S.E. Cupp trying to pretend that liberals don't care about civil liberties at all any more, and it's only Rand Paul and his fellow Republicans having this debate, ignoring of course that most of the opposition to the extension came from Democrats, and the fact that the majority of the Democratic base doesn't like the spying and data collection, whether their elected officials want to pay attention to them or not.

UPDATE: Here's the transcript for anyone who can't watch the clip.

KARL: All right. Well, let me move on to Rand Paul, SE. We saw him lead this battle. He -- again, he wouldn't allow the PATRIOT Act to be extended for a single day. He held the line.

SE CUPP, CNN COMMENTATOR: Yeah. Well, look this is a -- this is I think a necessary debate to have. And I remember a time when Democrats were having this debate, when Democrats had problems with the PATRIOT Act.

KARL: Well, they still do. Right now the Democrats are standing with Rand Paul on this.

CUPP: No -- they are, but the argument really is on the right between moderates on the right and people like Rand Paul. And I remember when this used to be a liberal issue over civil liberties and drone strikes and privacy. And now really it's Rand Paul and Republicans having this debate. And it should not be just ushered through and reauthorized. We should be talking about it. It's serious stuff that matters to a lot of Americans.

KARL: Congressman, you stand with Rand on this, don't you?

REP. KEITH ELLISON, (D) MINNESOTA: I have to respectfully disagree with SE on this, because I think there's a lot of folks on the liberal left end of the party who definitely think that section 215, this bulk collection, probably should expire, that it hasn't had much value, and it is incredibly intrusive for Americans collecting everybody's phone information.

I think that it is absolutely the case that there is a bipartisan agreement that the PATRIOT Act went too far and certain provisions of it should be -- should expire.

KARL: Did you find yourself kind of quietly cheering Rand Paul as he went on for 10 hours?

ELLISON: Let me tell you, I'm working with Rand Paul on civil forfeiture reform, on the reset act to look at drug sentencing laws. He agrees that we should get rid of mandatory minimum sentencing. I think he's right about that. And I've been proud to stand with him on press conferences talking about these very issues.

Why? Because at the end of the day for me it's about trying to do the best we can by our constitution and the American people. We might cut the cake differently on taxes policy, but on these basic, core issues of freedom we agree.

KRISTOL: But Keith doesn't stand with Rand, that's not fair to Keith, Rand stands with Keith.

I mean that seriously. They had these positions first. Rand Paul has now decided he wants to be a liberal Democrat undercut necessary intelligence collection, weaken the police officers and our intelligence services. And Rand Paul thinks that's going to sell in a Republican primary. I think he's deeply misguided about that. But I guess he sincerely believes it. And he's welcome to make the case. But I...

KARL: It certainly stands out. I mean...


BRAZILE: We keep looking at these issues as right versus left and it's really right versus wrong. And I think on this issue, Rand Paul understands that it is right to ensure that our constitutional rights are protected, our privacy rights are protected, and I don't think, Bill, it is an issue that is going to drive him out of the so-called conservative wing of the Republican Party.

KRISTOL: How about protecting us from terrorists?

There is no claim that the metadata collection violates our constitutional rights. Zero claim of that.

KARL: Well, Rand Paul says...

BRAZILE: You act as if this is the only tool in our diplomatic and our military and other, you know, intelligence tool box. It's not.

There are more ways to keep us safe and secure than by collecting all of this data.

ELLISON: And by the way, we can make everybody safer if we took away everybody's rights, but that's not America. In America, we fight crime, we fight terrorism with the Constitution in mind. And I think that -- I like the idea that somebody on the right and people on the left are both saying what about the Constitution? What about the right to privacy? And what about the government being presumptively to leave us along rather than be in the middle of our business.

Can you help us out?

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