Sen. Rand Paul on Monday hailed a "big victory for privacy" in his fight against the National Security Agency's bulk data collection program after key provisions of the post-9/11 Patriot Act lapsed late Sunday. "Actually, I think we're winning," the Kentucky Republican said on Fox News when asked if the legislative fight was over for the moment. "The president will be rebuked and the president will no longer be able to illegally collect our records all the time, so I think it's a big victory for privacy."
Just 48 hours ago, the conservative Washington Times published a report noting that as far as Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) was concerned, the debate over the government's Patriot Act powers was going swimmingly.
It seems as if this is the prevailing attitude right now. President Obama signed the "USA Freedom Act" overnight, effectively ending this phase of the debate, while Paul and his backers seem to believe they, for lack of a better word, won.
Except that's really not what happened.
To be sure, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is left with egg on his face, losing at every step in the process. But his Kentucky brethren ended up with nothing, too.
Paul boasted to supporters over the weekend, for example, that he would single-handedly derail the Patriot Act. And while he did cause some key provisions of the law to expire, it was a short-lived victory -- the provisions only lapsed for a few days.
But the USA Freedom Act at least scales back the NSA's surveillance powers a bit, right? Yes, but let's not forget that Rand Paul opposed the USA Freedom Act throughout the process, deeming it insufficient.
What's left is a one-sided ledger:
* The legislation Rand Paul tried to defeat passed and was signed into law.
* The amendments Rand Paul tried to add to the legislation were ignored.
* President Obama, far from "rebuked," ended up with the exact policy he wanted the whole time.
* The law Rand Paul derailed for a few days has effectively been restored.
* Among his own colleagues from his own party, Rand Paul finds himself the most disliked and least respected person on Capitol Hill.
"I think we're winning"? I think you've lost.
The Republican's presidential campaign very likely turned the fight into a fundraising opportunity, so I suppose Paul doesn't come away from the process completely empty handed.
But given every other relevant detail, the Kentucky Republican came up far short, whether he's prepared to admit it or not.