Two top grossing features debuted in Washington, D.C. this week. While the biggest box office was the Frank Capra headliner starring Rand Paul as Jimmy Stewart, the Mario Puzo / Francis Ford Coppola production kept close competition with Barack Obama in the role of Marlin Brando.
For thirteen hours, the Senator from Kentucky stood in the well on the Senate floor with occasional help from supporting cast members Marco Rubio of Florida and Ted Cruz of Texas. As the filibuster drama played out at the Capitol, several limousines carried Barack Obama and twelve Republican Senators to deliberate just blocks away at the Jefferson Hotel Restaurant. The Godfather had summoned the family leaders, including Bruno Tatagglia, played by John McCain, and Lindsey Graham as Don Emilio Barzini. I am certain that there were cigars.
The unacknowledged rift between established and emerging Republican Senatorial leaders was first revealed by the separate events Wednesday evening. In response to the dinner meeting request by President Obama to discuss the sequestration matter, Senator Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) invited eleven other fellow Republican Senators; Bob Corker (Tenn.), Kelly Ayotte (N.H.), John McCain (Ariz.), Dan Coats (Ind.), Tom Coburn (Okla.), Richard Burr (N.C.), Mike Johanns (Neb.), Pat Toomey (Pa.), Ron Johnson (Wis.), John Hoeven (N.D.) and Saxby Chambliss (Ga.). The youngest of the senators present was Pat Toomey at age 51 and the senior member was John McCain at 77. The average age of the senators gathered was 61.
Back at the Capitol, the marathon speech by 50 year old Rand Paul leveraged the confirmation of President Obama’s nominee for Director of the CIA to force a reasoned exchange with the White House regarding the use ofremote piloted aircraft (drones) within the borders of the United States. Initial statements from Attorney General Eric Holder asserted that the President had the authority to kill Americans on U.S. soil. The filibuster broke that arrogance with a clarifying, albeit informally worded, letter from Holder to Paul, "It has come to my attention that you have now asked an additional question: 'Does the President have the authority to use a weaponized drone to kill an American not engaged in combat on American soil?' The answer to that question is no."
In spite of the national popularity of Rand’s undertaking, two Senators returned from the dinner with President Obama with scolding criticism. Sen Lindsay Graham called out fellow Republican Senator Rand Paul in a broadcast interview, describing the basis of the filibuster as “ridiculous.” Senior Senator John McCain repeated that term on the Senate floor Thursday morning in describing Rand Paul’s mission. At the prompting of McCain, Senator Lindsay Graham added his objections on the Senate Floor, “I find the question offensive. ... I do not believe that question deserves an answer.”
This belittling from the lions of the senate to the cubs reveals more than wisdom shared. The old management adage of “praise in public, criticize in private” was completely tossed overboard by Captain McCain (US Navy retired). A message was evidently being sent to the younger members of the Republican delegation with an open copy to President Obama. Marco Rubio is 42 years old and Ted Cruz is 43.
While the elder Republican senators were ceremoniously kissing the ring, the younger senators were living their salad days, standing up to the persistent cronyism of the Obama Administration. Somehow, over the next four years, the two postures will need to find common ground if anyone is going to be cast as Al Pacino in 2016.