Ted Rall: Rand Paul’s NSA War and The Invisible Liberals

Written by Ted Rall

Our award-winning Ted Rall dissects Kentucky Senator Rand Paul’s ultra-conservative views in light of the fact that he is among the few progressive voices against NSA e-surveillance and other foreign policy issues that matter. Where are the liberals on this? Crickets. Meanwhile, Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) is acting, he says, like the NSA’s head PR flack. What’s going on? Commentary.

aNewDomain.net — A long, long time ago — before the 1980s, even — liberals acted as a powerful force against executive overreach. Our Ted Rall remembers — and analyzes the politics of Kentucky Senator Rand Paul along the way.

Way back when, Democrats like George McGovern opposed wars of choice. And Democrats like Frank Church exposed the CIA. It later led to an executive order –by President Ronald Reagan, of all people — that banned political assassinations.

A Democratic Congress held impeachment hearings against U.S. President Richard Nixon — partly because he tapped the phones of a few hundred Americans and, in so doing, violated their privacy rights. Back then, millions of liberals marched against the Vietnam War without blinking. It didn’t matter a bit that the president at the time was a Democrat.

But look what’s going on now.

As I write, we have a so-called liberal president in the White House. Yet he and his Democratic congressional allies aren’t fighting the good fight. They’re committing the worst crimes of anyone.

And so, following what Chris Hedges called “the death of the liberal class,” when Hellfire missiles fly and where streets are bereft of protesters in the wake of rabid U.S. attacks on electronic privacy via the NSA and FBI, you’ve just got crickets. You’ve got the sound of silence.

And here’s what’s left: The most liberal politician in America is a right-winger. It’s ultra-conservative Kentucky Senator Rand Paul.

In May, Rand Paul led a 13-hour filibuster in the Senate over Obama’s drone war. Paul ended up being mainstream America’s point guard against Obama’s dystopian killer airbots.

It’s the sort of thing that would’ve had Democrats and the liberal media at large going nuts. Even if someone like LBJ were in charge at the time, they’d all be going crazy.

But not anymore.

What we have here is an out-of-control White House leaving options open to let drones blow up Americans on American soil. Notice the Democrats are nowhere to be found in protests against this program.

As liberal politicians sat on their hands, some 4,000 innocent people — innocent because no court has charged them with crimes — were assassinated under Obama’s orders. Even progressive media outlets hardly mention these horrors. When they do, they do it in tepid tones. They rarely if ever call out Obama as the blood-soaked mass murderer he is.

Is Rand Paul so far right that, like Pat Buchanan way back when, he ends up circling all the way around and back to the left?

Or are Paul’s stances just a part of a genius maverick marketing program to draw attention to himself pre-2016 elections?

You might also question whether Paul’s brand of libertarianism is genuine.

But however you slice it, Paul emerges as the most — if not the only — establishment political figure now expressing progressive commentary on some incredibly-important issues. The state-sanctioned Left has abandoned them all.

Here you’ve got Paul — a right-wing Republican, by the way, who believes Israel can do no wrong — speaking up as the establishment’s most-passionate defender of privacy rights.

He’s even sponsored a bill that would prohibit the NSA from intercepting and storing Americans’ phone records. You see, because the NSA charter limits its activities to foreign intelligence gathering, the phone tapping and other Orwellian programs revealed by Edward Snowden are illegal. The bill as proposed by Paul explictly would ban phone intercepts.

Only four senators are backing this progressive legislation. Paul is the only Republican among them. And most Democrats continue to defend Obama and his NSA, an agency whose totalitarian approach to stealing every bit of our information makes East Germany’s “Lives of Others” Stasi look like nosy neighbors.

Paul, a free-market purist, wants to overturn the vile Patriot Act and get rid of the useless TSA, too. He says “the American people shouldn’t be subjected to harassment, groping and other public humiliation simply to board an airplane.”

Paul openly denounces proposals for Congressional oversight of the NSA as not nearly  enough.

Says Paul:

‘The Constitution doesn’t allow for a single warrant to get a billion phone records …’ says the senator from Kentucky. ‘They basically, I believe, are looking at all of the cell phone calls in America every day.’ “

The most-liberal Democrats in the Senate? They’re acting as collaborators with Obama’s Gestapo.

Dick Durbin sporadically issues some pretty, progressive-esque, pro-privacy noises about reining in the NSA, yet he voted to renew the Patriot Act, which captures Americans but not terrorists. Al Franken, on the other hand, is supporting a pro-fascist security state. “I can assure you that this isn’t about spying on the American people,” Franken said.

Actually, that’s all it’s about. Moving on …

Think back to when George W. Bush was in power. “Liberal” California senators Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein railed so hard against NSA spying on Americans. They called it an impeachable offense.

But now that the president is a member of their party, Boxer is silent and Feinstein is the head-NSA-PR flack.

On a lot of issues, Rand Paul’s stances are contemptible.

My prime exhibit: Paul opposed the Civil Rights Act as a violation of “state’s rights,” the segregationalist Old South’s old clarion call.

Yet on many of the existential questions of our time — and particularly around radical policies that have transformed the United States from a democratic republic to a terrifying authoritarian state that uses brute force to subjugate a vast global empire — Rand is on the side of the angels. At least he is far more so than the self-defined progressives who claim to value civil liberties while at the same time running bumbling interference for the insular, violent and repressive Obama Administration.

Rand stood tall against Obama’s fascist National Defense Authorization Act, which allows the federal government to kidnap U.S. citizens and throw them into prison forever — without charging them with any crime whatsoever. Obama’s “signature [on the NDAA] means indefinite detention without charge or trial, as well as the illegal military commissions, will be extended,” said the ACLU’s Anthony Romero about Obama.

No wonder the Republican establishment is pissed off at Paul.

GOP columnist Charles Krauthammer ruthlessly slammed Paul as “politically radical” and “socially liberal.” There was no Krauthammer comment on whether spying on every American — or assassinating innocent civilians — is “radical.”

Chris Christie, a top 2016 presidential contender, calls Paul’s suspicion of endless wars against Middle Eastern countries “dangerous.” He doesn’t compare that danger to the dangers war poses, but no matter. We’ve got John McCain calling Rand Paul “wacko bird” for opposing drones. It takes one to know one, Sir.

If you want evidence of the crisis of the two-party system, look no further than the strange new bedfellows of the age of Obama.

Even before the Snowden leaks, 70 percent of Democrats and 77 percent of Republicans surveyed said they believed the NSA was violating their privacy. Both Democrats and Republicans who felt this way thought the NSA wasn’t justified: 51 percent and 52 percent, respectively.

Even in Congress, there is a “loose alliance of lawmakers” that now is allied against the leadership of their own parties on such issues as NSA electronic surveillance and Obama’s stance on Syria.

Though nascent, the libertarian attack against the liberal-conservative establishment is a major deal.

This tendency, as Marxists call it, can develop in one of two directions.

There might be a dramatic political realignment such as in 1932, when FDR’s New Deal began to move African-Americans and white Southerners into the Democratic camp. Or newly-exposed fissures will open, showing that the real split is between oppressed and oppressor, not between “liberal” Democrats and “conservative” Republicans. I find the latter far more likely.

For aNewDomain.net, I’m Ted Rall.

Based in Boston, Ted Rall is a nationally-syndicated columnist, editorial cartoonist and war correspondent who specializes in Afghanistan and Central Asia. The author of 17 books, most-recently published The Book of Obama: How We Went From Hope and Change to the Age of Revolt, Rall is twice the winner of the Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Award and is a Pulitzer Prize finalist. Follow him @TedRall, check out his Facebook fan page and definitely follow his Google+ stream here. Ted’s upcoming book After We Kill You, We Will Welcome You As Honored Guests: Unembedded in Afghanistan is due out in 2014.


  • Ted, as always, you are spot on with the good things that Paul has done. But his misogyny and hard right pro-life proclamations clarify that he is not truly a liberal. Credit where credit is due, He has done a few things right but thinking women are not going to vote for him, He is not on the side of unwashed masses and has no real world experience with the struggles of the poor and middle class. His education in economic principles is sorely lacking. Sorry, Ted, I give Rand Paul a thumbs down. But I do agree with many of the points that you made here in your editorial.

  • That was spot-on. Now if we could only find a Rand Paul that was pro-choice, we Libertarians would be in business.