The Senate has the power to restrain the executive branch — and my filibuster was the beginning of the fight to restore a healthy balance of powers. The president still needs to definitively say that the United States will not kill American noncombatants. The Constitution’s Fifth Amendment applies to all Americans; there are no exceptions.
The outpouring of support for my filibuster has been overwhelming and heartening. My office has fielded thousands of calls. Millions have followed this debate on TV, Twitter and Facebook. On Thursday, the White House produced another letter explaining its position on drone strikes. But the administration took too long, and parsed too many words and phrases, to instill confidence in its willingness or ability to protect our liberty.
I hope my efforts help spur a national debate about the limits of executive power and the scope of every American’s natural right to be free. “Due process” is not just a phrase that can be ignored at the whim of the president; it is a right that belongs to every citizen in this great nation.
I believe the support I received this past week shows that Americans are looking for someone to really stand up and fight for them. And I’m prepared to do just that.
“Sen. Paul’s 13 hours on the Senate floor won’t have any practical effect on our policy and how we’re going after terrorists on a day-to-day basis,” a senior administration official told Yahoo News on condition of anonymity.
But didn’t Paul wring a letter out of Obama’s top lawyer, Attorney General Eric Holder, in which he effectively promised that Americans who aren’t lining up to take a shot at the Capitol with a grenade launcher (to paraphrase the senator) are safe?
In a word: No…
Holder didn’t use the phrase “actively attacking.” And administration officials privately agreed on Friday that “not engaged in combat” was the key phrase going forward. None of them agreed to define the expression on the record.
“This has been slowly building, and when something is slowly building like this it’s hard to tell whether what has stayed a slow burn and a simmer will never move past that — and when it will suddenly burst into public view,” said Matt Miller, a former Justice Department spokesman.
“I would say they’re somewhat like stunned bunnies at this point,” said Kenneth Anderson, a law professor at American University and a Hoover Institution fellow…
“There is a little bit of whiplash,” said Miller. “Paul’s position has been pretty clear for a long time, but when I see others joining who had never before voiced any support for a civil liberties position, it’s obviously opportunism and a chance to be on the other side from the administration. That’s what drew them to the floor and onto Twitter.”…
“I do mind our party taking a position completely different than we had with President Bush,” Graham told POLITICO. “I didn’t hear any of these people say anything during the Bush administration. Where were they? I just think it’s politics. I think it’s creating a straw man, creating a situation that doesn’t exist.”
But the real problem, as Paul made clear, isn’t the use of drones against US citizens on American soil; it is American foreign policy itself, under both this president and his predecessor.
His indictment was radical, sweeping, total, unconditional — and wildly overdrawn. Just to take one example, he said we are living in a state of perpetual and endless war, and used Iraq as an example — Iraq, from which we pulled out entirely in 2011. To listen to Paul, you’d think America was already a police state, and the planet its evil playground.
Yes, many people believe this, but that doesn’t make it true. It wasn’t true under Bush and it’s not true under Obama. Moreover, the logic of Paul’s view is that the United States is the aggressor in the war on Islamist terror rather than a bystander unwillingly drawn into a battle that has not yet been won.
Rand Paul, who turned 50 this year, is one of the most talented politicians of his generation. And one of the most dangerous.
Yet the irony here is that while Republicans are excited by Paul’s stand, any decision to change the direction of the party’s take on foreign policy would contradict their desire to improve their electability after their defeat last November.
As much as Paul’s stand inspired Republicans and even generated respect from Democrats, they need to remember that most Americans support the drone policy. They may be sick of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, but they don’t share Paul’s disinterest in fighting the “perpetual war” against Islamists because they know the threat is real. They also know that the idea that the only legitimate fighting is being conducted on battlefields between soldiers is hopelessly outmoded.
Obama won re-election in part by bragging about killing Osama bin Laden and chiding Mitt Romney for his disinterest in the hunt for the arch terrorist. Moreover, if Republicans are foolish enough to follow Paul down the road toward embracing a form of isolationism, they will be branded as the weak party on defense and concede foreign policy as an issue to the Democrats for a generation.
Those who wish to save the GOP from this fate can’t let Paul speak for the party on these issues. But if they are to do it they will have to show at least as much guts as he did this week and avoid sounding, as McCain and Graham did yesterday, like cranky old men telling the kids to get off their lawn.
The complaint against many GOP hawks is that they have been rash and too enamored of executive authority. They’ve been too Pollyannaish about the Arab Spring, say their critics. And while defense needs defending, they haven’t been very effective or creative in gaining savings that don’t impair national security. And there in his post-filibuster rant was McCain, with Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) in tow, reaffirming all those perceptions…
It is a mistake for conservative hawks is to view any limitation (constitutional, fiscal, real world) as a threat to their well-meaning effort to maintain U.S. influence in the world. In fact, it is only with respect for some limits on the executive, understanding of fiscal restraints and, most important, an appreciation for whom we are dealing with (friend or foe) that an internationalist foreign policy can be sustained.
At some point McCain begins to hurt more than help that endeavor. If you want to promote pro-life views you better not nominate Richard Mourdock, and if you want to win adherents to a responsible but robust foreign policy. . . well, let’s just say it is better to have a spokesman who doesn’t scare the living daylights out of the public.
Rand Paul is not moving public opinion on this point or even Republican opinion on this point. Rather, public and Republican opinion on this point has already moved, but is currently being falsified because no one ever wants to admit they’re wrong, and Rand Paul is offering people an opportunity to express their real opinion.
And that could wind up working out badly for the hawks, as McCain expects, because people might just be seduced into just doing a 180 on their Idealism — moving from “we will make any sacrifice to make the world safe for democracy” (a sentiment as noble as it is false) to a new completely-opposite Idealism of pacifism. But in both cases they’re as Idealistic and Noble as they can possibly be. So it’s an attractive thing.
I actually don’t believe in Paulian pacifism and do believe in the need and justification for American intervention on a limited basis and in pursuit of a limited number of objectives.
If McCain also believes that — and of course he does — he would be wise to stop making the choice between the Ron Paul doctrinal peacenikism and the McCain Interventions Incorporated model.
Because McCain will lose, and so will the concept of interventionism itself.
Two years ago in this space, I noted that the U.S. secretary of education, who doesn’t employ a single teacher, is the only education minister in the developed world with his own SWAT team: He used it to send 15 officers to kick down a door in Stockton, Calif., drag Kenneth Wright out onto the front lawn, and put him in handcuffs for six hours. Erroneously, as it turned out. But it was in connection with his estranged wife’s suspected fraudulent student-loan application, so you can’t be too careful. That the education bureaucracy of the Brokest Nation in History has its own Seal Team Six is ridiculous and offensive. Yet the citizenry don’t find it so: They accept it…
Do you remember the way it was before the war on terror? Back in the Nineties, everyone was worried about militias and survivalists, who lived in what were invariably described as “compounds,” and not in the Kennedys-at-Hyannisport sense. And every so often one of these compound-dwellers would find himself besieged by a great tide of federal alphabet soup, agents from the DEA, ATF, FBI, and maybe even RRB. There was a guy called Randy Weaver who lost his wife, son, and dog to the guns of federal agents, was charged and acquitted in the murder of a deputy marshal, and wound up getting a multi-million-dollar settlement from the Department of Justice. Before he zipped his lips on grounds of self-incrimination, the man who wounded Weaver and killed his wife, an FBI agent called Lon Horiuchi, testified that he opened fire because he thought the Weavers were about to fire on a surveillance helicopter. When you consider the resources brought to bear against a nobody like Randy Weaver for no rational purpose, is it really so “far-fetched” to foresee the Department of Justice deploying drones to the Ruby Ridges and Wacos of the 2020s?
I mention in my book that government is increasingly comfortable with a view of society as a giant “Panopticon” — the radial prison devised by Jeremy Bentham in 1785, in which the authorities can see everyone and everything. In the Droneworld we have built for the war on terror, we can’t see the forest because we’re busy tracking every spindly sapling. When the same philosophy is applied on the home front, it will not be pretty.
There has been a major, major shift here. There’s more to it than you can see inside the power structure in Washington, inside the Republican Party. And for McCain now to come call these guys kooks and wackos illustrates exactly what’s wrong.
But here’s the substance of this. There is a fear among McCain, Lindsey Graham, and others who favor an interventionist foreign policy. Think of the neocons. Think of going into Iraq and not just securing Iraq, but building a democracy. Nation building, if you will. Think of the outbreak of the Arab Spring and the people on our side who thought, “Wow, this is wonderful. This is the outbreak of American democracy,” when it wasn’t. It was the exact opposite. Rand Paul, they’re asking themselves, is he his father’s son or is he on his own here? They’re worried that he’s his father’s son. They’re worried that Rand Paul is an isolationist. They’re worried that Rand Paul’s diatribe on drones really means that Rand Paul wants to bring the military home and not use it unless we’re attacked. He doesn’t like it being used in an intervention. This is what they fear. And as he succeeds in making a connection with the American people, they are worried, the neocons are worried that they are being undermined by this.
I’ll tell you why. Rand Paul made a connection with the American people. These other people do not. He made a connection. Therefore, he has the ability to influence and motivate people. I’m telling you what their fears are. They thought that Ron Paul was absolute nutcase, wacko. That’s why they’re calling Rand Paul a wacko, ’cause that’s what they thought of Ron Paul. Libertarian, fruitcake, nutcase, isolationist, shut down the US military, speak positively about Islamists, all this kind of stuff. They are afraid that’s who Rand Paul is, and they’re afraid that what Rand Paul was doing with this filibuster was not just speaking out against the use of drones on American citizens on American soil. They’re afraid that Rand Paul is actually setting the stage for building up public support to stop the interventionist usage of American military might and foreign policy all over the world. It’s a fear that they’ve got.
Via the Daily Caller.