Sen. Rand Paul has ended his day-long filibuster against President Obama’s claim to be able to kill any U.S. citizen on his own authority without criminal charge or conviction. What was most striking about this principled stand is the virtual total absence of Democrats in speaking out against Obama. Just this week, Attorney General Eric Holder admitted that this policy could include killing citizens on U.S. soil with drones. Yet, the Democrats worked to stop not the kill list policy but Paul’s filibuster. Obama apologists have attacked Rand for some of his other positions to avoid dealing with the fact that Obama is claiming the powers of an Imperial President. I do not agree with Paul on many things, but I commend him for this stand and condemn those who remained silent, again, in the face of this authoritarian policy of Obama.
The filibuster was to block the nomination of John Brennan who has been opposed by most civil libertarians due to his connection to the torture program and other abuses. His more senior colleagues, like John McCain, told him to “calm down” — telling advice from our political leaders that authoritarian power is nothing to get upset about if it does not affect you. Lindsey Graham stated that against up against the unilateral killing of citizens “ridiculous” and just not how things are done in Washington.
Rand fell short of the record of former Sen. Strom Thurmond of South Carolina who filibustered for 24 hours and 18 minutes against the Civil Rights Act of 1957.
He shared some time with other Republican senators. However, after five hours, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid tried to limit the remaining time.
The lack of opposition to Obama’s kill list policy is a national disgrace. It shows the triumph of a cult of personality within the Democratic ranks where both members and voters have chosen Obama over long-standing values of civil liberties that once defined their party.
167 thoughts on “Rand Paul Takes Stand Against Obama’s Kill List Policy . . . Virtually Alone”
Last Wednesday, Sen. Rand Paul launched an epic 13-hour filibuster to hold up the confirmation of Obama’s CIA director nominee, John Brennan. The reason for the filibuster was to protest the administration’s apparent belief that the President can authorize lethal force against U.S citizens on U.S. soil without due process. Rand attacked this notion on Constitutional grounds.
According to Obama’s Attorney General, Eric Holder, “It is possible, I suppose, to imagine an extraordinary circumstance in which it would be necessary and appropriate under the Constitution and applicable laws of the United States for the president to authorize the military to use lethal force within the territory of the United States.”
Rand did not stop with the single issue of the drone strikes. He underpinned his filibuster with a pro-freedom worldview. At one point, he even called for a re-evaluation of the modern statist consensus against the 1905 Lochner vs. New York Supreme Court case. In that case, the Court overthrew state laws which abrogate private contracts by regulating conditions of employment, such as hours worked or minimum wage. Rand supports the Lochner judgment.
As his filibuster went on, some of his colleagues were inspired (or felt it politically necessary) to support him. Sens. Mike Lee, Ted Cruz, Pat Toomey, and even Ron Wyden (a Democrat) followed. Senators Marco Rubio and Mitch McConnell eventually joined as well.
The surface result of the filibuster was a flat if terse admission by the Obama administration that the President does not indeed have such authority. The more meaningful result of the filibuster was that it probably served as the concrete historic event around which the realignment of the Republican Party away from the neocons and toward its pro-liberty elements has begun.
It would be an understatement to say that the filibuster galvanized members of the right and drew qualified but sincere praise and respect from the left. The Twittersphere exploded with a #StandWithRand hashtag. The spontaneous outpouring of support for Rand across virtually the entire range of the right-wing blogosphere and editorial sites was enormous. All the major conservative talk radio hosts, magazines, and pundits gushed with enthusiasm over Rand’s principled stand. Conservatives were thrilled that for the first time since the election, the GOP delivered a serious blow to the credibility of the President.
“Paul offered those [young] voters something with his filibuster this week, and made the president look like the grumpy old man. The look on Sen. Dick Durbin’s face at the end of Paul’s oration said it all. Democrats, who pride themselves on being the party of civil liberties, had been embarrassed on the subject by the GOP,” remarks Fox News contributor Chris Stirewalt.
Everyone from Obama loyalists to the Tea Party Patriots rallied around Rand for what he did. It was almost unanimous. Almost.
Normally, neocons do not bother to acknowledge or address the small victories by the pro-freedom factions. After the filibuster, they were unhinged. The public spectacles started with attacks on Rand by neocon-aligned politicians Sen. John McCain and Sen. Lindsey Graham. Under the pretext that the basic circumstances described by Rand were unrealistic and distracted attention away from serious concrete policy issues, they made a series of blundering denunciations. HotAir.com had the best rundown of these spectacles.
In what blogger Allahpundit called “one of the more memorably tone-deaf performances in modern political history,” McCain started the attacks by quoting from a disapproving, neocon-influenced Wall Street Journal: “If Mr. Paul wants to be taken seriously, he needs to do more than pull political stunts that fire up impressionable libertarian kids in their college dorms.”
Graham piggybacked him by saying that Rand’s concern was “ridiculous” and that it was “paranoia between libertarians and the hard left that is unjustified.”
McCain continued the insults by telling the Huffington Post around that time that “it’s always the wacko birds on right and left that get the media megaphone.”
To buttress their case, the duo also leveled accusations of hypocrisy. On the floor after the filibuster, Graham balked, “I don’t remember you [Republicans] coming down here saying President Bush was going to kill anyone with a drone.” “I do not believe that [Paul’s question] is a question that deserves an answer.”
McCain groused to leftist TV commentator Piers Morgan that he used to be called a maverick, but now he is suddenly “an angry old man.” (McCain was called a maverick by the left-leaning press, not the right).
What makes these events even more dramatic is that while Rand was foregoing bathroom breaks and meals to propound the cause of liberty for 13 hours, McCain, Graham, and their establishment colleagues were at a cordial dinner with President Obama. This was widely noticed. This editorial comment by the NY Post was typical of the response: “Paul and his ilk have their finger on the pulse of the party’s future, while McCain & Co. have a precipitous grip on its pacemaker.”
Stirewalt ended his column by saying, “It was stunningly bad politics. McCain and Graham may pride themselves on being tough-minded realists when it comes to the war on militant Islamists, but to sneer at “libertarian kids” and mock Paul after his principled stand won’t get them anywhere in their goals of keeping the U.S. on a war footing…A Republican captivated the country by doing something other than losing a fight with Obama, and McCain and Graham tried to undo it.”
McCain and Graham are not ideological innovators. Neocon intellectuals produce the ideas that they then accept second-hand. As predicted, the leader of the neocons was not pleased.
He called Rand’s filibuster “pseudo-constitutionalist paranoia,” attributed the motive to evasion of more “complicated” issues involved in drone policy, and dismissed the Senator as a flash in the pan. In an interview, he called Rand’s position “kind of crazy,” while also showing superficial respect for his political “entrepreneurial” skills.
This is typical of neocons. They do not like hard principles acting as limits on what the state can do. Rather, they want politicians to delve pragmatically (“prudently”) into minutiae in a friendly but competitive back-and-forth within the context of a Heraclitean reality. They believe that history unfolds (and should unfold) in incremental developments. The role of wise leaders and their intellectuals is to guide that process.
If you ask where the rights of the individual fit into this process, the answer is that it doesn’t. There are no individual rights, only the “forms and limits” of the Constitution, but these things are up for interpretation by the wise.
Rand’s diverting some attention away from the complications of drone policy is hardly a reason to come undone. The real hostility to Rand’s filibuster is philosophical in nature. The neocons loathe absolutist methodology. Rand just made that methodology more popular while making the neocon method look small and petty. Neocons have worked hard to de-principle Republican thinking and fragment their vision into an endless stream of case-by-case positions. Rand just drew a connection between drone strikes on citizens, Constitutional due process, and Lochner.
On a concrete level, what has the neocons so upset is the very real possibility that their traditional stronghold supporters on the right – mainstream conservatives, Jews, and defense hawks – are irreversibly abandoning them in favor of that opposite worldview. If that happens, neocons will lose their influence and become permanently politically impotent. No longer will they guide the Republican Party and its long-term direction. They will watch all their life’s work rolled back by the pro-freedom hordes who don’t know their place in the natural order—and don’t care to hear it.
Interestingly, Rush Limbaugh made a rare mention of the neocons in his Friday show. He initially talked about the momentous consequences of the filibuster on the dynamic in Washington: “There is — I can’t tell you because I would be betraying confidences — but I’m telling you the power structure there has been totally turned upside down, in the Senate and in Washington. Even members of the Drive-By Media are talking about how they sense something major has changed here.” He then said that the neocons are “paranoid” that Rand secretly has his father’s foreign policy views and that he is winning over the nation. Neocon Watch believes that that is just a cover argument aimed at the literati. Neocons oppose Rand because they know that they cannot co-opt him. They have already tried.
Regardless, while the conventional wisdom is that the Rand-neocon struggle will determine the future of Republican foreign policy, the results of the struggle will likely be more fundamental. The open and ecstatic embrace of Rand Paul as a mainstream Republican means that Republicans consider a pro-freedom worldview to be mainstream. The entire Republican platform will be affected, not just the foreign policy. In fact, the effects on foreign policy from this shift will probably not be as pronounced, and here is why.
The post-modern libertarian position, which is anti-military and America-blaming in nature, is not intellectually or morally tenable. Rand seems to have distanced himself from it substantially (he prioritizes ending foreign aid to Islamist nations over ending aid to Israel, stated that an attack on Israel should be treated as an attack on America, and voted for sanctions on Iran). It now has no influential proponent on the national stage.
Secondly, the choice of neoconservatism vs. libertarian anti-Americanism is a false dilemma, and conservatives have increasingly rejected the neocon position in recent years as well. There is more and more talk about defending “America’s interests” while repudiating the folly of nation-building. The ultimate winners of this debate are likely to be Objectivists, who reject the altruist-collectivist self-sacrificing demanded by the neocons and the nihilistic self-sacrificing demanded by the libertarians to argue for a robust military capability which strictly serves the defense of American rights.
While Republicans are sorting out their foreign policy, the dramatic results of this shift will be seen at first in domestic policy as Republicans gravitate toward a more pro-economic freedom agenda. With 2014 off-year elections just around the corner, it only makes sense for them to play to that electoral strength.
There are already indications that this has occurred. Notably, Paul Ryan was pulled to the right on his new budget proposal by the Tea Party, which has always insisted on balancing the budget in 10 years. (Paul Ryan’s last proposal did not balance the budget until the year 2038).
Importantly, there is new chatter about alignment within the House GOP, i.e., the leadership is now working with its no-longer-marginal Tea Party elements to produce and vote on legislation. House Speaker John Boehner has also indicated that going forward, he will start respecting the Hastert Rule, which says that a leader will only bring forth a vote on legislation if he has the majority of his own party’s support. This means that if enough Republicans refuse to support a bill, Boehner will no longer circumvent them and align with Democrats to get it passed.
Keep watching for a continuance of these trends and a shift away from the neocons.
The more I read about this Paul…. The more I’m liking him…
Report: Club For Growth Eyes Rand Paul For 20
Sahil Kapur 9:39 AM EDT, Monday March 11, 2013
Conservative writer John Fund reports in National Review that the well funded right-wing group Club For Growth is eying Rand Paul for a presidential run in 2016.
But at the annual Club for Growth meeting here in Palm Beach, it wasn’t kids in the audience who greeted Paul as a hero, giving him a standing ovation both before and after his talk last Friday. …
Some Club members are already in Paul’s corner for 2016. “He has broadened his appeal to include three issues that 75 percent of the American people agree with,” says George Yeager, an investment counselor from New York. “He wants a balanced-budget amendment, term limits, and a questioning of mindless nation-building overseas.”
Jim DeMint, the former South Carolina senator who is now president of the Heritage Foundation, told Club members that he “couldn’t think of a more dramatic contrast between some senators having dinner with President Obama on the same night last week that Rand Paul and his allies were making their courageous stand.”
Paul asked whether “the President has the power to use lethal force, such as a drone strike, against a U.S. citizen on U.S. soil, and without trial.”
Holder responded first that the U.S. has not conducted drone strikes in the U.S. and has no intention of doing so and, further, the President rejects the use of military force where law enforcement authorities in the country provide the best means of incapacitating a terrorist threat. He next noted that Paul’s question thus is “entirely hypothetical [and] unlikely to occur” and responded: “It is possible, I suppose, to imagine an extraordinary circumstance in which it would be necessary and appropriate under the Constitution and applicable laws of the [U.S] for the President to authorize the military to use lethal force within the territory of the [U.S.]”
Duh! The Civil War is a case in point.
Yet Paul grandstands, during which he concedes Holder’s point and suggests that is not the question he had in mind: “Nobody questions if planes are flying towards the Twin Towers whether they can be repulsed by the military. Nobody questions whether a terrorist with a rocket launcher or a grenade launcher is attacking us, whether they can be repelled.”
Holder then responded: “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.”
Again, duh! And, so it seems, Paul and Holder agree–on both his general and specific questions.
Yet Paul grandstands–to what end, other than grandstanding for his own political sake, is not clear. In that, given the tenor of this post and some of the comments, he appears to have been quite successful. Bully show!
“Lincoln was dealing with treason. But not after the fact treason actors who were locked up.”
Lincoln COMMITTED Treason!
Section 3 article 3 of the Constitution states:
“Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying War against them, or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort. No Person shall be convicted of Treason unless on the Testimony of two Witnesses to the same overt Act, or on Confession in open Court.”
@Houston Tax Lawyer:
“Why doesn’t Senator Paul introduce legislation to prohibit that which offends him and raise the issue in a proper context rather than gumming up the works on something that is a distinct issue — ”
Because Harry Reid is the Senate Leader who chooses which legislation gets to be debated. He has shut out nearly all opportunities for Senators to offer amendments through unprecedented abuse of a process called “filling the tree” and then he goes on TV and tells everyone how obstructionist the Republicans are. That maybe so, but he’s lying to voters faces and treating the public we are all are stupid.
Another issue is that Paul isn’t in one of the committees responsible for oversight, so he’s also putting pressure on the senators or house members who have abdicated their responsibilities or have become door-keeping sycophants like DiFi.
I agree totally that the Obama administration has gutted our rights. One question is why? Doesn’t the U.S. has more enemies now than it did in 2007 and has lost its image as leader of the free world. Even if more Americans had lost their lives to terrorist attacks it would have been better than losing our rights. The number of people who died in the World Trade Center attacks were a drop in the bucket compared to the number of people who died to secure the rights that we have now lost because of Obama’s policies. I say this as a long standing Democrat.
FWIW, Jill and I don’t always agree…. But in this instance she is dead on….
Yep. I rather liked raff’s straight forward suggestion of revoking and/or modifying the AUMF (and repealing the Patriot Act). Baby steps, but I’d really be thrilled if Congress stepped up to the plate and reigned in the Executive starting with the AUMF. -Gene H.
Law-abiding Americans are being targeted for harassment, and much worse, on U.S. soil without due process of law. I agree with rafflaw and others who point to the need to look at the AUMF and Patriot Act, in an attempt to try to get to the bottom of what’s taking place in communities all across this county.
“American neighborhoods are increasingly being policed by cops armed with the weapons and tactics of war. Federal funding in the billions of dollars has allowed state and local police departments to gain access to weapons and tactics created for overseas combat theaters – and yet very little is known about exactly how many police departments have military weapons and training, how militarized the police have become, and how extensively federal money is incentivizing this trend. It’s time to understand the true scope of the militarization of policing in America and the impact it is having in our neighborhoods. On March 6th, ACLU affiliates in 23 states filed over 255 public records requests with law enforcement agencies and National Guard offices to determine the extent to which federal funding and support has fueled the militarization of state and local police departments. Stay tuned as this project develops.
Consider …. ten chilling stories. If the anecdotal evidence is any indication, use of military machinery such as tanks and grenades, as well as counter-terrorism tactics, encourage overly aggressive policing – too often with devastating consequences:” refer to above link
As am I, AY.
I am in total agreement with your point if view on this…
So long as its there guy some are ok with it and turn a blind eye to the arrogance within…. It appears that in reality Obama is just furthering and extensively enhancing the illegal procedures commenced by Bush….
Oh the gnashing of teeth over waterboarding by the Democrats. Now they defend the destruction of the Bill of Rights. When did this happen?
We have only the forms of Democracy. St. Brennan is one of the people actually running the show in USGinc. Obama and minions are functionaries, nothing more. That said, the cult of personality is a disaster. We have no hope of stopping the deep state with Democrats so delusional about Obama.
If you want to get to the deep state actors you have to be able to be honest with yourself and others about what is happening. That is, elected officials are breaking the law and engaged in massive wrongdoing. A united citizenry, calling for justice might get somewhere in stopping this.
To keep ignoring or excusing “your” side is both dishonorable and cowardly. The lives of so many depend on citizens who are able to speak truthfully on behalf of justice. The following is by Amy Goodman:
“America is shamed that only Rand Paul is talking about drone executions
Where are the civil libertarians in the president’s party that we must rely on a Tea Party Republican to champion this issue?”
The cover-up of the Bush-era lawbreaking has to stop. -NY Times
Mr. Brennan’s Excuse
Published: March 7, 2013
John Brennan, the newly confirmed chief of the Central Intelligence Agency, has been at the agency for most of 25 years. He had two counterterrorism jobs during the administration of George W. Bush. In one, he compiled intelligence reports from 20 agencies (including the C.I.A.) for Mr. Bush’s morning briefing. He was President Obama’s national security adviser in his first term and an architect of the Obama administration’s targeted killings policy.
Yet, at his Senate confirmation hearing in February, he appeared to be one of the few people (apart from maybe Dick Cheney and some other die-hard right-wingers) who thinks there is some doubt still about whether the Bush administration tortured prisoners, hid its actions from Congress and misled everyone about whether coerced testimony provided valuable intelligence.
Mr. Brennan told the Senate Intelligence Committee that he was surprised by the findings of a 6,000-page Senate report on detention and interrogation. Scott Shane reported in The Times on Thursday that the report concludes that the interrogation of Al Qaeda detainees involving torture and abuse “was ill-conceived, sloppily managed and far less useful in obtaining intelligence than its supporters have claimed.”
Mr. Brennan’s response, after having one of the top C.I.A. jobs during the period when the torture agenda was at its apex (when Khalid Shaikh Mohammed was subjected to waterboarding 183 times), was: “I don’t know what the facts are or what the truth is. So I really need to look at that carefully and see what C.I.A.’s response is.”
In the past, Mr. Brennan said he had no role in running the torture program and expressed disapproval — in private to people he has not named. As for what went wrong, if “there were systemic failures, where there was mismanagement or inaccurate information,” he said, “I would need to get my arms around that, and that would be one of my highest priorities if I were to go to the agency.”
It’s a little hard to be reassured because getting to the bottom of the Bush-era lawbreaking, mismanagement and incompetence in the interrogation and detention programs has not been a high priority for President Obama. In fact, it’s been no priority at all. From the day he took office in 2009, the president refused to spend any time looking at the gigantic blunders and abuses of power under his predecessor because he didn’t want a small thing like that to interfere with his other political priorities.
As a result, many, many of the details of the creation and execution of the torture of prisoners at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, and in C.I.A. black sites remain unknown to most members of Congress and to the public. Not only did Mr. Obama refuse to open any investigation, but his administration even gave a pass to the C.I.A. officials who destroyed videotapes of sanctioned torture.
The Senate’s report may be the last hope for Americans to know the truth about what Mr. Bush and Mr. Cheney authorized in the name of protecting our country — decisions that caused enormous damage to its reputation worldwide. But it remains classified, and Mr. Brennan has not said whether he would support releasing a redacted version to the public. That is the only acceptable course. The cover-up of the Bush-era lawbreaking has to stop.
“Trust us! Never mind that it’s prime facie unconstitutional!”
I didn’t buy it when Bush or Obama said it either.
Rand Paul is about Rand Paul. This is more about garnering attention for himself, and less about raising questions that need answering.
Anyone following Paul’s actions the last few years is not going to take anything he does seriously. After all, he was one of the people behind the “EPA is using drones against farmers!” hysteria. And he’s not particularly good at correcting what he says when errors are pointed out, either.
Consider the question he’s asking: will the government initiate a droned attack against a citizen on US soil. Why not ask if SWAT members will shoot a citizen on US soil? Or if a FBI sniper won’t shoot a citizen on US soil?
These are nothing more than means of delivering a fatal attack against an individual or group of individuals. The use of drones is little different than using a long-distance shooter: it’s a way of removing a threat without harm to the police/FBI/government agent. Yet I don’t see anyone up in arms about SWAT or FBI sharpshooters.
The targeted drone strikes are used in other countries because we don’t easily have access to the individuals, or having direct access could endanger military members. Agree or not, this is the reasoning behind targeted drone strikes in Pakistan and elsewhere.
The same issues and challenges do not apply in this country. In this country, police and other government agents are able to act without worrying about whether the citizens will rise up against them, or if they have permission from the ruling class. The police are typically a mile or two away—not thousands.
Still, if we are invaded by a foreign power (ala Pearl Harbor) or terrorists are attacking buildings (ala 9/11), I would hope the government uses any and all means to fight the attack—the same as they do now, with SWAT and snipers. If they do so, I would hope there is no harm to innocents, but that can’t always be guaranteed. After all, citizens have been accidentally shot by regular police using regular guns, as happened last year in front of the Empire State Building.
And bluntly, where’s our common sense? Does it make sense to you that the government would use a drone to target a person calmly drinking coffee at a cafe?
This makes as much sense as the FBI sending a sniper out to shoot the person, or SWAT coming in and blasting away.
Thanks for restoring sanity to this topic. While I can see some problems with drones overseas, and Prof Turley is right in worrying about an overuse of this policy, in the main, we have to go on the good sense of the POTUS and the military on this one. That is not a happy situation for many lawyers, but it is the best we can do.
Thank you Prof. Turley. I quote you often in my own blog. I feel that I’m in good company when you print honest and courageous articles such as this.
Prof Turley, you are correct. There is a “cult of personality” around Pres. Obama, particularly in the news media, within which he can do no wrong. It is a shame that so many Democrat lawmakers have joined this “cult” in not questioning the President’s decisions. I get terribly frustrated with the so-called “Progressives” and their selective enforcement of the nation’s laws as well as an odd view of what constitutes civil rights. It seems many are blinded by ideology in the same way as old-line Communists were. For an inside look at the latter, I recommend an old (1950) book by Wolfgang Leonhardt, “Child of the Revolution.” Leonhardt never renounced Marxism, but quit East Germany for Tito’s Yugoslavia when the scales finally fell from his eyes.
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