Benjamin Wittes, a national security scholar at the Brookings Institution who has written extensively about drones, said he thought Mr. Paul’s marathon was a “dumb publicity stunt.” But he said it had touched a national nerve because the technology, with its myriad implications, had already deeply penetrated the culture…

“It’s not merely the black helicopter crowd of the folks on the far right,” said Mark Potok, a senior fellow at the Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks extremist groups. “What Rand Paul had to say about drones absolutely fired up conspiracy theorists on the left as well as the right.”…

At the same time, there are people like Everett Wilkinson, a Tea Party organizer and self-proclaimed conspiracy theorist in Florida, who is hailing Mr. Paul as a “rock star for the Constitution.” On Mr. Wilkinson’s Web site,, he warns that the United States government is building “internment camps” for political dissidents. He is wary of what comes next.

“First they said we are just going to use drones to observe stuff, and then they put Hellfire missiles on them,” Mr. Wilkinson said. “How soon are we going to have drones overhead with Tasers on them?”

Last year, for the first time in decades, Republicans lost the advantage on foreign policy in a presidential campaign. Exit polls showed that voters trusted Barack Obama more than Mitt Romney to handle an international crisis (57 percent trusted Obama, 50 percent trusted Romney). And of the small number of voters who put foreign policy as their top issue, Obama won by a margin of 56 percent to 33 percent. Part of this, of course, is due to the incumbent’s advantage. But Republicans, following the setbacks in the Iraq War and Afghanistan, will have a tough job restoring their advantage on foreign policy and national security issues.

Their current actions aren’t helping. Senator Rand Paul has won accolades from many on the right for his “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” filibuster. But however impressive his stamina, we must not forget what he was protesting against–the use of drone strikes which, when directed overseas, are supported by 83 percent of Americans and when directed against American citizens overseas are supported by 65 percent

However, the administration is absolutely right to note that it has the right in extreme circumstances to use military force on American soil. If Rand Paul thinks otherwise, he should come out and explain his objections to Abraham Lincoln’s use of force to fight the Confederacy–or the use of troops to escort African-American kids to school in Little Rock in 1957.

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.

Instead, it just told some of those folks who were intrigued by Paul’s stand that the Republican Party was not interested in having their support. A Republican captivated the country by doing something other than losing a fight with Obama, and McCain and Graham tried to undo it.

If the GOP is going to make it, it will need to attract, absorb and channel the growing energy of libertarianism, not just be foils for Barack Obama and his party of yes.

I applaud Rand Paul for standing up and calling attention to an important and vexing set of questions.

Now, let me say to my conservative friends: Do not get too excited. I still believe Paul is as much a villain on civil rights as he was a hero this week on civil liberties…

[P]lease do not get me started on his votes against the Violence Against Women Act. Nor on his opposition to a woman’s right to make private medical decisions. Nor on his desire to cut Social Security and Medicare, while preserving tax loopholes for the wealthiest people ever born.

The Rand Paul for President movement is of course already under way, and I wish it weren’t. Senator Paul’s filibuster is a great demonstration of what the Senate is for: putting the brakes on things, slowing things down, forcing debate and discussion. Rand Paul is a great deal more useful to the cause of liberty as a senator of growing stature than he would be as the Howard Dean of the 2016 GOP primary. An incumbent senator enjoys a measure of political safety, and he is free to challenge orthodoxies and push envelopes, which is precisely where Senator Paul is most valuable. A presidential candidate has less room to maneuver. Unhappily, the cult of the presidency has grown so inescapable that even those who should be most immune to its allure — Constitution-minded, small-government, libertarian types — immediately dream of placing their legislative champions in the all-powerful executive. We need conservative presidents, but we also need conservative senators, representatives, judges and justices, governors, mayors, and school-board presidents. “Let Reagan be Reagan,” they once said; if you want to let Rand be Rand, the Senate probably is the best place for that.

Senators Paul and Cruz have suggested that the constitutional claim they’ve posited — viz., presidents are not empowered to kill Americans on American soil absent an imminent threat of violence — is “easy,” “clear,” and “obvious.” I respectfully disagree. It is none of those things. What is easy, clear, and obvious is that if we do not need certain troublesome authorities to fight a war successfully, Congress can withhold them…

Since 2004, courts have made themselves a part of the national-security equation to an unprecedented degree. When challenged to construe constitutional doctrines, they seek to impose logic. Senator Paul’s proposal of a Constitution-based no-lethal-force exception to the principle that an American who joins the enemy may be treated like the enemy is not logical.

To iron out the inconsistencies, the courts may well conclude that if Americans are not to be treated as enemy combatants for purposes of lethal force, they should not be treated as enemy combatants for purposes of capture, detention, interrogation, and military war-crimes trials. Furthermore, if they follow the trajectory of the Supreme Court’s 2008 Boumediene decision, courts may well conclude that any core constitutional protections extended to American citizens must also be extended to alien enemy combatants. That would be the end of the law-of-war approach to counterterrorism.

Is that Senator Paul’s objective? I do not know. Many of his libertarian supporters would welcome it. Most Americans would disagree, recognizing that the war paradigm has been instrumental in preventing a reprise of 9/11.

Paul’s political genius strikes us as very much of the short-term variety. Will it ultimately serve him well to be the spokesman for the Code Pink faction of the Republican party? How much staying power is there in a political stance that requires waxing semihysterical about the imminent threat of Obama-ordered drone strikes against Americans sitting in cafés? And as for the other Republican senators who rushed to the floor to cheer Paul on, won’t they soon be entertaining second thoughts? Is patting Rand Paul on the back for his fearmongering a plausible path to the presidency for Marco Rubio or Ted Cruz? Is embracing kookiness a winning strategy for the Republican party? We doubt it…

Lipsky himself acknowledges that “it’s hard to see where Obama has run off the constitutional rails so far in the drone warfare.” And neither Lipsky, nor others who want to give Paul the benefit of the doubt, have explained why anyone should take seriously what David Frum calls Rand Paul’s “nightmare out of a dystopian future: an evil future president shooting a missile at an American having coffee in a neighborhood café, merely on suspicion, without any due process of law.” Such an act would be illegal and unconstitutional, and if a president gave such an order, it should not and would not be obeyed. Meanwhile, there are important questions about both the efficacy and safeguards of the real, existing drone program of the U.S. government. But precisely because such issues are complicated ones and require argument, not demagoguery, Paul went out of his way not to deal with them on the Senate floor…

Which brings us back to Shakespeare. It would of course be unfair to compare Rand Paul to Macbeth—unfair both to Paul’s lawfulness and to Macbeth’s greatness (of a kind). It would be unfair to compare conservative talk radio to Lady Macbeth, just because both recklessly egg on their heroes. But it’s true that a Republican party that follows the path of Rand Paul will end up as thoroughly defeated at the ballot box as Macbeth was routed on the battlefield of Dunsinane. And as deservedly so.

Via Mediaite.

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