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Darrell Huckaby: The actors change, but the show goes on in Washington

Darrell Huckaby

Darrell Huckaby

Just when you thought politics couldn't be fun anymore, Kentucky's Rand Paul stands up and puts on a show in the Senate that rivaled Strom Thurmond at his best. If not Strom, then at least Jimmy Stewart.

Strom Thurmond, in case you are not familiar, was the segregationist senator from South Carolina who holds the record for that august body's longest filibuster -- which means he got the floor in the Senate and talked and talked and talked and refused to yield, in an effort to block a vote against civil rights legislation.

A lot of people who would publically condemn Thurmond's actions today, if asked, were squarely on his side when it happened.

Jimmy Stewart was a movie star who carried out his own filibuster in Frank Capra's classic, "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington." He was an idealistic young man who was chosen by his state's governor to serve out a vacant term in the U.S. Senate. The thinking was that Stewart's character would be a simple pawn in the hands of the political machine that ran his state.

He was not, and he took control of the Senate floor and refused to relinquish it to avoid a corrupt vote on an environmental issue of some sort.

Wednesday, Paul decided to stage his own filibuster to call attention to the inconsistencies in the Obama administration's policies. El Presbo is talking one way and spending another, and Paul called him on it with a 13-hour-long narration that covered all sorts of issues -- and sometimes no issue at all. But it was fun to watch and today -- after a good night's sleep, one would hope -- Rand Paul is getting more attention than he has in a long, long time.

His monologue was designed to delay a final vote on the confirmation of John Brennan as director of the CIA, and to offer concern about the chief executive's views on the use of drones in the war on terror.

I heard Paul say that he had thought about talking for another 12 hours and breaking Strom Thurmond's record, but that he had "come to realize that there were some limits to filibustering and I have to go take care of one in just a few minutes." I think that was code for "I gotta go pee."

He finished with the ninth-longest filibuster on record.

Even his staunchest political opponents, Harry Reid, expressed admiration for Paul's efforts. "To filibuster," Reid said, "you need to have strong beliefs and a strong bladder, and it is obvious that Rand Paul has both."

So there you go.

In the end it is doubtful that Paul's efforts had any effect on Brennan's confirmation. But at least Paul's long day made people step back and take a second look at what is going on in our government -- and what is going on is not very much.

I mean, really, y'all. Is this the best our country can do? Are these the best people we can find to make decisions that will affect our republic for years and years to come? I don't care if you are red or blue or green. I don't care if you are a liberal or conservative or moderate. I don't care if you are a Democrat or a Republican or a moderate. You should be outraged by what is going on in Washington, D.C., these days.

Shoot fire. The last time Congress passed a full-blown budget Newt Gingrich was married to his second wife and Lewinski was a name, not a noun. The country has rarely been as divided as it is now and our elected officials keep buying votes with entitlements that make more and more people each year dependent on the federal government for their collective livelihoods. We are taking responsibility away from the people and continue to grow the government at unprecedented levels.

The same time the sequestration began we gave $250 million to Egypt to buy weapons while cutting our own defense budget. That don't make a lick of sense.

And what has Congress accomplished during all of these trials and tribulations? Very little. I guess $174,000 a year doesn't buy what it used to.

As far back as the early 1970s, former Georgia Gov. Lester Maddox realized that the citizens of this great nation were sleeping while the country was being led down a path to eventual ineffectiveness, if not ruin. Always the marketer, Lester began selling red, white and blue alarm clocks with the words "Wake up America" emblazoned on the face -- just above a caricature of the governor, himself, riding a bicycle -- backward, of course.

We need to put out another supply of those timepieces -- and to pay attention to them. This is the only country most of us have. We'd better wake up and smell the coffee and decide to take it back from the do-nothing politicians on Capitol Hill before it's too late -- if it isn't already.

If not an alarm clock, perhaps Rand Paul's filibuster can at least serve the purpose of a rooster crowing. I hope dawn is around the corner, because this nation's future is pretty dark right now.

Darrell Huckaby is a local educator and author. Email him at dhuck008@gmail.com. For past columns, visit www.rockdalecitizen.com or www.newtoncitizen.com.