David Pakman: Is that a bold political stand, or merely posturing?
NORTHAMPTON — If you regularly discuss politics and politicians with others, it’s likely that at some point you or those you are speaking with have criticized elected officials for making proposals, statements or taking actions strictly for political posturing purposes.
That is, they’ve decided to sponsor a bill, take a campaign position or make a statement not because they truly care about or plan to effect change on the issue but because they’ve calculated that making the proposal, putting something in their platform or responding in a particular way during an interview will bolster public perception about them, get them attention or be helpful in some other way.
I’ve made this critique many times on The David Pakman Show. However, Kentucky Republican Sen. Rand Paul’s recent 13-hour talking filibuster on the floor of the Senate — and the reactions from both liberal and conservatives to that day-long event — have shown me that not all political posturing is the same.
In case you missed it, on March 6, Paul took to the floor of the Senate at 11:47 a.m. Eastern time and continued speaking, with only short interludes from other senators, mostly Republicans, until 12:39 a.m. that night, when he implied a call of nature was at least partly responsible for the need to stop the filibuster.
The reason for the filibuster was to delay the Senate vote on the confirmation of President Obama’s nomination of John Brennan to lead the CIA. Paul correctly stated during his filibuster that he knew he could not stop Brennan’s confirmation, which happened the next afternoon by a 63-to-34 vote. Paul was using the opportunity to ask questions and request information about the use of drones on Americans, both outside of the United States and on its soil, and the president’s powers to order Americans assassinated in a variety of situations. In both progressive and conservative circles, often for different reasons, concern over such policies has grown and the lack of clarity from administration officials has not helped to dissuade such concern. The topic has been discussed frequently on my broadcasts on a number of levels with a variety of experts.
I am not a Paul supporter in any way, both for his statements about civil rights and race, as well as his naïve and often juvenile Libertarian ideas. I also do not disagree with the comments of many progressives that his filibuster was nothing more than a stunt meant to get attention, even while Paul may have no plan to propose a bill that addresses his concerns over the president’s assassination powers and the use of drones.
That said, I believe that if his filibuster helped inform people about the controversy, it was a positive thing. The filibuster received coverage on a wide variety of mainstream and alternative media throughout the day, and led to many segments that had no choice but to explain what the subject of the filibuster was. Regardless of which side of the issue one is on, more awareness about government actions that lead to the deaths of Americans and foreigners is something we should encourage. It is truly disturbing how few Americans were aware of the policies at issue.
Paul might have a long political career, or he might not, but the filibuster addressed issues that will carry well beyond his political career. Some political posturing is despicable and embarrassing, like the Republican-led House of Representatives proposing and voting on countless bills to repeal Obamacare, something which never had a chance of passing the Senate and could not survive a presidential veto. At the same time, some political posturing is constructive and broadens public awareness, such as the standing up of several Democratic House members during the certification of the 2000 election with Vice President Al Gore presiding.
Although the House members standing to object to the certification of the Florida electoral votes knew they would not get far without a Senate co-sponsor, their actions resonated, given the political way in which George W. Bush was awarded those votes, and therefore the 2000 election.
There is no question that there are countless hours of wasted time — and therefore wasted taxpayer money — from elected officials. But critical allegations of “political posturing” when examining the actions of elected officials should be looked at individually. They should also be separated from party affiliations. It’s important to look beyond the person and his or her political future and examine the importance of the issues brought to light.
David Pakman, host of the internationally syndicated political talk radio and television program, “The David Pakman Show,” writes a monthly column. He can be reached at www.davidpakman.com.