Poll: 41% of Dems think president should have power to kill suspected American terrorist on American soil

“On his own.” To be clear, they think he should have the power to do this “on his own.” This is what years of screeching during the Bush era about “the unitary executive” has come to.

I feel like I should issue a correction here. Back when Rand Paul was stumping against John Brennan on grounds that he wouldn’t give a straight answer about whether the White House can order a U.S. citizen killed on U.S. soil, I argued that Brennan’s silence wasn’t a big deal because the public simply wouldn’t stand for drone attacks here and O would surely realize that. Correction: A big chunk of the public, nearly a majority, would stand for it just fine.


In an era of fierce bipartisan disagreement, those numbers are amazingly consistent. According to the DOJ’s “white paper” on targeting U.S. citizens, drone attacks are permissible only if capturing the target isn’t “feasible.” I’d argue that if you’re on U.S. soil, you’re within reach of American law enforcement and therefore, by definition, capture is feasible. (The DOJ and The One himself have been conspicuously quiet about that.) Judging from these numbers, though, a huge chunk of the public is a lot more lax about defining feasibility than I’d be. Serious question: Do the people who answered “yes” here think capturing Chris Dorner was “infeasible” because he was holed up in a cabin with a gun? Or have they dispensed with infeasibility as a requirement entirely and are drawing the line on domestic drone strikes simply at whether the target is suspected of being a member of Al Qaeda?

But wait. Let’s refine that last question a bit. What if, instead of asking if the United States should be able to target U.S. citizens here at home — which implies multiple agencies looking at the evidence and coordinating on a strike — we specify that the decision’s coming from the president exclusively? Suddenly, the numbers aren’t so consistent:


Behold the power of partisanship, and ask yourself what those numbers would have looked like if they had tweaked the question to name Obama. Some liberals have admitted that they’re okay with O’s drone program because they trust him personally to administer it judiciously. Rephrase this question so that it’s about him specifically and maybe you get to 50 percent among Dems.

By the way, in the most common drone-strike scenario — a suspected terrorist being targeted on foreign soil with no issue related to citizenship — fully 74 percent approve of the policy including 69 percent of self-identified liberals. Looks like Pelosi was right. For all the media heavy-breathing about drone warfare, it does seem to be popular.