It took a 13-hour filibuster from Kentucky Senator Rand Paul, but the Obama administration has finally conceded that, no, President Obama does not have the power to “use a weaponized drone to kill an American not engaged in combat on American soil.”
Talk about government inefficiency. The average American could have told you that in three seconds.
Sen. Paul brought the issue into the national spotlight Wednesday by filibustering John Brennan’s nomination for CIA director. Paul pledged to stop the vote until the White House answered his stunningly complicated question of whether or not the president has the constitutional authority to kill you in your sleep.
If anyone else were president, this would have been a stupid question. But the White House refused to rule out the option of using drones to attack American citizens until after Sen. Paul resurrected the ghosts of Jimmy Stewart and Patrick Henry on the floor of the Senate.
In the end, Brennan was confirmed and Obama agreed to answer Paul’s question.
Now what? A couple points need to be addressed.
First: no, President Obama would not have used his power to blow a hole through your roof or hunt down and execute Ann Coulter. But why on earth did he feel that it was an option worth defending so vigorously?
Why did other Democrats not join Sen. Paul in his stand (other than the fact that most senators probably couldn’t stand for 13 hours)? Sen. Paul had one lone Democrat, Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon, speak in support of him on the Senate floor.
It’s true that we have had terrorists who were American citizens. We have had recent attacks on our homeland. But the president already has constitutional authority under Article II to exercise military authority here at home in instances of an immediate threat. Sen. Paul was not asking Obama to relinquish this power. What was at issue was to avoid setting a dangerous precedent that would have expanded the powers of the Executive to new levels.
Second: what a brilliant political move by Sen. Paul. He took a thoroughly nonpartisan issue and exposed some hardheaded Democrats as supporters of killing Americans. Liberal groups such as the American Civil Liberties Union and Code Pink showed their support for Sen. Paul, but the face of the anti-drone movement that made the White House look so foolish is now the Republican Party (sorry, libertarian purists).
Paul also launched himself into the upper tiers of the list of 2016 Republican nominees and, more importantly, into the eyes of the public. Since Sen. Rubio shot himself in the foot with his terrible amnesty-first immigration plan, Sen. Paul has now solidified himself as someone who will successfully stand up for conservative principles on the national stage in a way other Republicans can’t and in a way his father was never able to.
Finally: Republicans can’t afford to wimp out on civil liberties once a Republican gets the White House. Many liberals have already tucked away their beliefs on the subject because the president is a Democrat (except MSNBC’s Toure who supports drone killings because he doesn’t want to be racist). Democratic Senator Chris Murphy called Paul’s filibuster “background noise” (as opposed to the sound of missiles firing, which is more soothing). And MSNBC viewers are suddenly fine with killing American citizens without due process.
Remember the good old days when the Patriot Act was the mark of a tyrant?
Thank you, Sen. Paul, for standing up for what is right, for making a 2014 Senate takeover and a 2016 Republican White House all the more likely, and for rejuvenating conservatives.
Republicans, don’t screw it up.