Today's lecture topic was the Vesting Clause of Article II, but before I could get started, students demanded to know my "take" on the nearly 13 hour filibuster held last night by Senator Rand Paul (R-KY). Before giving them my view, I asked them their impressions, and was I pleased to hear their comments. Almost universally, students framed Senator Paul's filibuster as "Political Theater" or a "Political Stunt." Not wanting to stifle this potential teaching moment, I pushed them to reflect why the filibuster conducted in the "old style" of taking the floor and refusing to relinquish it was mere "theater" or a "stunt" and their responses were right on the mark! They asked, "why else would any Senator choose to take the floor of the Senate to make argument for nearly 13 hours in an effort to block a confirmation vote of a nominee when all he had to do under Senate Rule is to take the floor and announce his desire to filibuster?" And that was the magic moment an educator waits for. As they discussed the merits of speaking before a limited crowd on the Senate floor, they also reflected on the potential audience Senator Paul was acquiring in the general population that dislike Obama's drone policy. The look on their collective faces when I waited for them to complete their discussion and then smiled and confirmed they were absolutely correct was priceless!
And the moment when the proverbial "light bulb" comes on is tremendous, because it has become obvious that they now are confident they know more about political science than the average American! Add the fact that Attorney General Eric Holder has stated in a letter to Senator Paul that there are limitations on the use of drones to kill a U.S. citizen on U.S. soil and they were almost as proud of themselves as I was of them! The "huh?" moment arose when Sen. Paul admitted John Brennan's confirmation (which he was filibustering), was going to go through anyway...and it did. As the criticisms of Senator Paul began to roll in from fellow Republican Senators including McCain and Graham, my students felt the empowerment knowledge gives them. And as an educator, I crossed the threshold that yields the highest of rewards (everyone knows it is not for the money). Please note, an overwhelming number of my students are registered Republicans. I guess there is hope after all. I guess most Americans that understood what Sen. Paul was really up to should start to believe it is time to"send in the clowns!"