Another filibuster and another headline for Rand Paul. The junior senator from Kentucky seems to be on a roll. First there was his attention-grabbing filibuster of America's drone policy, and now he is threatening the same on gun control. One might be tempted to be impressed, especially since he is being joined in this filibuster by the likes of Marco Rubio and Mitch McConnell.
The problem is that filibustering is not governing and this latest stunt by Paul on an issue as important as gun control is not a sign of a rising leader but of an ideological hack. For a minute and a half, especially after his courage in questioning drone strikes and his subsequent level-headed statement on immigration, it seemed like Paul might have something substantive to say. It seemed, actually, like he might be capable of stepping outside of libertarian principles and becoming a national leader of some importance.
But now it appears that he doesn't want to say anything at all, and he doesn't want anyone else saying it either.
In the letter that Paul and his Republican cohorts sent to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, they made it clear that they will oppose any legislation that imposes restrictions on gun ownership at all, including the most basic level of protection that Americans deserve, namely expanded background checks to prevent guns from being sold to criminals and the mentally ill. This despite the fact that existing gun laws, which allow the sale of military-style assault weapons to civilians and enable buyers at gun shows or over the Internet to purchase weapons without a background check, are inadequate for our society's needs -- as evidenced by the tragedy in Newtown and countless deaths since through gun violence (click here for the frightening infographic).
Yet the uncompromising tone and the threat of a filibuster implicit in the language of the Paul-led letter is designed to prevent the Senate from even being able to discuss it.
It's one thing for Republicans to vote against gun control legislation, but a whole other matter for them to stifle any debate on the issue. As even Senator John McCain has blasted his colleagues for, the whole purpose of the Senate is to debate and then vote, so what justification is there for Paul to gag political discourse, no matter how strongly he feels about the Second Amendment? In an earlier post, I pointed out how Paul's forays towards the center are little more than an eyewash to broaden his electoral appeal, and this latest gambit by him proves me right.
Nothing has changed. Rand Paul is still the right-of-right zealot that only the Tea Party can love. Just because he stood up against drones does not mean that he has suddenly become a real patriot, since his patriotism evidently does not extend to our democratic process, or to carefully weighing up issues to determine the best course of action for the nation. The only views that matter to Paul are his own, and the only right that he really stands for is the right to bully those who disagree with him.
It is political brinksmanship and government by ideology at its absolute worst, and Rand Paul is the worst type of player: one who baits us into a false sense of security by pretending to be moderate one minute, then quickly switches back to his true extremist self the next.
Zebras don't change their stripes and neither will Paul.
SANJAY SANGHOEE has worked at leading investment banks Lazard Freres and Dresdner Kleinwort Wasserstein as well as at a multi-billion dollar hedge fund. He has an MBA from Columbia Business School and is the author of the financial thriller "Merger" (available below) which Chicago Tribune called "Timely, Gripping, and Original". Please follow him on Twitter and Facebook (Candid Politics & Business Blogs).