Monday, April 4, 2011

Is Rand Paul awesome?

I had an interesting discussion with a fellow economist friend on Rand Paul and Mike Lee's decision to append an amendment to prevent a President to unilaterally declare military action, related to the discussion on President Obama's legitimacy in the operations in Libya.

The conversation started awesomely, actually, with a video of Anthony Weiner at the Congressional Correspondents' Dinner. Except for a joke about, you guessed it, Rand Paul, I thought the bit was quite good

So after that, I wanted to see Rand Paul's performance. He blew it, though there were some nice jokes.
My friend then linked to this article from firedoglake referring to Senators Rand Paul and Mike Lee's threat to filibuster everything in the Senate until a vote on Barack Obama's 2007 infamous statement was resolved. The  statement is:

The President does not have the power to unilaterally authorize a military attack in a situation that does not involve an actual or imminent threat to the nation.
My first reaction was that the two Senators were a bit hypocritical since a voice vote on a UN-led Libyan intervention had been taken, through Senate Resolution 85. Now, there are a couple of problem with this. The resolution is "non-binding". Also, it's a voice vote resolution. Senators can vote by e-mail.  Still, it was an unanimous consent vote. (A biased review of the process is given by Lawrence O'Donnell in the Last Word of last Friday. Just try not to listen to the bias. O'Donnell is probably worth listening to, given that he's been a legislative aide in the Senate for 7 years and a freaking writer of the West Wing). It seems to me that if the two senators really cared about the issue, they could have voted Nay. The problem is that the Resolution specifically says

Now, therefore, be it Resolved, That the United States Senate (...) (7)urges the United Nations Security Council to take such further action as may be necessary to protect civilians in Libya from attack, including the possible imposition of a no-fly zone over Libyan territory;
which sounds like a pretty good endorsement of Obama's strategy.

Once again, the question is not, for me, whether Rand Paul and Mike Lee have the right of doing what they are doing. I think there is no problem with that. I can even agree that the question is not whether Rand Paul and Mike Lee are hypocrites.

The fact is, I believe that Rand Paul especially means what he is saying. The Pauls are not really fond of war. I think that Rand Paul's action was at the very least counter-productive. Plenty of Democrats were uncomfortable with Obama's decisions on Libya. A review of the process leading to military intervention was maybe possible. Now, with the partisan brinkmanship and the sarcastic inclusion of Obama's quote, I can't see how a legitimate question on the lack of public debate and open discussion on the military intervention can be addressed. That is a shame. A SHAME

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