Civil Liberties

In PATRIOT Act Fight, Rand Paul Is the Jon Snow of Congress

And now his watch is ended.


Rand Paul
Wikimedia Commons

Watching Sen. Rand Paul do everything he could to thwart the combined forces of big government Republicans, Democrats, and the Obama administration in their quest to violate the Constitution and maintain snooping powers over the American people vis a vis PATRIOT Act renewal, it occurred to me that Rand and his allies are the Jon Snows of Congress. The filibuster is his Valyrian steel sword.

This is a Game of Thrones analogy, and it holds up remarkably well, particularly if you consider recent episodes of the HBO show, which cover the happenings of the fourth and fifth books. (Yes, Game of Thrones is rife with political subtext, and elaborate comparisons between the War of the Five Kings and the race for the White House have been made over and over again. The analogy I'm about to make is still fresh, to my knowledge.)

In the world of Game of Thrones, Jon Snow is the newly-elected Lord Commander of the Night's Watch, an ancient order tasked with defending a gigantic wall and forestalling the invasion of evil ice demons from the north. Petty politics and doubts about the true nature of the enemy mar the effectiveness of the Watch, which is brimming with unsavory characters—many of whom are criminals. Some of them committed sex crimes. Sound familiar?

Jon Snow's problem is that he has to convince these unscrupulous devils to ignore their instincts and make common cause with the Wildlings—the native human inhabitants of the north. Remember those evil ice demons I mentioned? Well, they possess the ability to reanimate the dead and conscript them into military service. Jon Snow, to his credit, reasons that it is better to make peace with the Wildlings than to battle their zombified corpses. He's right: we know he's right. But all-too many of his brothers in the Night's Watch don't see it that way.

Many of them mock him, even though their own opinions are ludicrous. Sens. Lindsey Graham and John McCain are clearly the Janos Slynt and Alliser Thorne of the Senate; sniveling, unprincipled naysayers who challenge Jon Snow at every turn. Slynt is constantly promising that his rich friends in King's Landing will make Jon pay for crossing him—even though Flynt is a vile, despised man.

Jon is under no illusion that an alliance with the Wildlings would be anything other than strained. Nevertheless, he knows that he must try. His brothers, unfortunately, can't look past the fact that Jon is expressing leniency toward Wildlings. He even spared the Wildling King, Mance Rayder, from a much worse fate—which obviously calls to mind Paul's more measured tone toward real-world Wildling leader Edward Snowden.

Whereas Jon has Samwell Tarly, Dolorous Edd, and Grenn, Paul has Reps. Justin Amash and Thomas Massie. Indeed, in season four of the show, Grenn even singlehandedly defended the passage under the wall while Jon attended to other matters—much like Amash kept guard in Congress last weekend while everyone else was away.

When a sworn brother of the Night's Watch dies, these words are recited at his funeral: "And now his watch is ended." At midnight last night, some portions of the Patriot Act expired—Paul's relentless stand against illegal government spying was (partially and temporarily) successful. Let's hope his valor wins him more thanks than Jon Snow seems to be getting. If not from the perfumed lords and ladies, then at least among the smallfolk.