Senator Rand Paul ended his 13-hour “talking filibuster” of Obama CIA director nominee John Brennan at approximately 12:40 ET Thursday morning. Hoping to press the Obama administration and its Justice Department into a public written statement reversing course on the legality and constitutionality of “drone strikes on Americans on American soil”; Paul vowed to “speak until I can no longer speak.” Luckily, a few of his Senate colleagues joined the endeavor and managed to give the Junior Senator from Kentucky a few moments to catch is breath. In total, seven Republicans and one Democrat (Ron Wyden of Oregon) played a role in the filibuster – the first of the “old school” talking variety since 2010.
The federal government has not conducted such operations and doesn’t plan to, Attorney General Eric Holder told Paul in a March 4 letter. But, Holder added, it was possible President Obama could be forced by an “extraordinary circumstance” to kill citizens inside the United States, and he cited the Pearl Harbor and 9/11 attacks as examples.
During his filibuster, Paul said the fuzziness of such language created a slippery slope that could lead to the targeting of citizens who merely have different opinions about policies than the president.
“You can’t be judge, jury and executioner all in one,” Paul said.
Noticeably absent / silent were twelve Republican senators – a few of which rarely miss an opportunity to make a few headlines. They were busy having dinner with President Obama at the Jefferson Hotel. (Senator Lindsey Graham, Senator Bob Corker, Senator Kelly Ayotte, Senator John McCain, Senator Dan Coats, Senator Tom Coburn, Senator Richard Burr, Senator Mike Johanns, Senator Pat Toomey, Senator Ron Johnson, Senator John Hoeven, and Senator Saxby Chambliss) Word is the Executive Branch picked up the tab – good thing they cancelled all those White House tours.
Also missing from the night’s events was an official response from the White House. Maybe Thursday? Good money says POTUS defers to his Press Secretary on this one. Responding without action cedes the issue to Paul and could potentially anger (albeit silently) much of the ideological Left. Responding and reversing course would hand a victory to Paul that could make him a serious thorn in the president’s side and would significantly elevate the up-and-coming Republican’s national standing, overnight. I’m thinking silence.
Thursday will no doubt be a day full of spin, speculation, and second guessing. Who took part? Why did he/she join in? What happens next? Who was merely trying to steal a bit of Paul’s spotlight? Which Republican senators were at dinner with the president while Paul was filibustering? What was the real motivation behind the epic filibuster? Where does the administration go from here? How do liberals square not taking part? Did Republicans just steal the Left’s thunder on this issue? Is up now down; and down now up?
As I said yesterday, think about it this way. If you George W. Bush for Barack Obama, and the administration’s drone strike policy stays the same, the Left would be ready to impeach him. But because the Great and Powerful O is the mastermind behind the curtain pulling the strings, or pressing the trigger as the case may be, all is silent on the Lefty front.
Rand Paul just put an end to that.
Side Note: As I watched this discussion, I couldn’t help but think of an age-old question and reflect on how 9/11 has truly changed our view of all things related to “national security.” Remember the days when a History teacher would ask a hypothetical like “If you were president… and you knew dropping a nuclear bomb on a ‘foreign’ city would save thousands to millions of American lives, would you do it?” Because of 9/11, the hypothetical has changed.
“If you were president… and you had reason to believe killing an American with a drone strike may prevent steps being taken toward that person (or people close to him) committing a terrorist attack on US soil, would you do it?”
How bout this one? “If you were president and you knew violating Due Process and disregarding the Rule of Law could prevent a potential terrorist attack, would you do it?”
If you’re like me, you hate hypotheticals and probably find yourself wishing we still lived in a world where enemies squared off with one another from thousands of miles away. Unfortunately, we do not.
I share that little side note there not to make your head hurt but to illustrate why I wouldn’t get too carried away thinking Rand Paul just landed one on the president’s chin. While Paul should be commended for standing on principle and standing up for Due Process and the Rule of Law, much of the Right believes the president should be vested with the power and authority to take decisive action in these and similar kinds of circumstances; and much of the Left will never admit they actually agree with him. And that doesn’t even begin to speak to the mainstream media.
Understanding that the president is not going to reverse course on his administration’s drone policy, the real accomplishment of the night has to be reminding the American People what open and transparent debate actually looks like. Think of how much more productive, and entertaining, our Legislative Branch would be if both Houses were forced to conduct the People’s Business out in the open on the floor of the Senate and the House of Representatives. But closed-door meetings of the minds and private deal-making rule the day in Washington; and demonstrates like this filibuster are nothing more than one-offs.
The sad and unfortunate reality is a simple one. Rand Paul captured the attention of politically-inclined Americans for one night by shining a bright light on the Obama administration’s casual dismissal of Due Process and the Rule of Law. But tomorrow, another manufactured crisis will surely steal the headlines granting the president, the Left, and every other hypocritical politician and talking head cover so they don’t have to truly examine the issue. For a night, we had a glimpse of what open debate truly looks like. Tomorrow, we go back to hearing stories about “big deals” and “grand bargains” debated behind closed doors and over dinners.
“No American should be killed by a drone on American soil without first being charged with a crime, without first being found guilty of a crime by a court…” – Rand Paul (March 6, 2013)