Rand Paul goes to Washington

Senator Rand Paul in 2011
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Senator Rand Paul did something the Senate rarely sees: actually talked at length about a matter of fundamental principle. He ended his filibuster of the confirmation of John Brennan as Director of Central Intelligence at 12:40 a.m. Today. But its effects will linger.

The Rand Paul filibuster begins

At 11:45 a.m. March 7, 2013, Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) stood for recognition, according to Jim Michaels at USA Today. Then he began:

I rise today to begin to filibuster John Brennan’s nomination for the CIA. I will speak until I can no longer speak. I will speak as long as it takes, until the alarm is sounded from coast to coast that our Constitution is important.

And what threatens the Constitution? Drone warfare, and the hint that the Barack Obama administration might wage it against American citizens on American soil.

James Stewart would understand what Rand Paul did and why.

Col. James Stewart USAAF. Photo: United States Air Force

Actor (later Brigadier General) James Stewart, in Mister Smith Goes to Washington, portrayed a Senator who made a desperate filibuster to stop the Senate from expelling him. He summed up the rules of the Senate this way:

If I yield only for a question or a point of order or personal privilege, I can hold this floor almost until doomsday!

A Senator must also stand up the whole time.

Rand Paul had help. Fifteen Senators “spelled” him by:

  • Asking him to yield for a question, and
  • Asking long-winded questions that supported his main point.

Different Senators even brought him food and drink. One, Ted Cruz (R-TX), read aloud several “tweets” from Twitter, carrying the hashtag #StandWithPaul.

Rand Paul held the floor for 12 hours and 52 minutes. Catalina Camia, also of USA Today, clocks that as the ninth longest filibuster in the history of the Senate.

Rand Paul took to the floor after he asked Attorney General Eric Holder in writing to clarify American policy on drone warfare. Paul wanted to know: would an American citizen, on American soil, be a target of a drone strike? And Holder hemmed and hawed.

Rand Paul dwelt on the case of Actress Jane Fonda. He recalled the footage of her sitting in the gunner’s seat of a North Vietnamese antiaircraft gun. That footage played on all three American TV networks at the time. It also made her box-office poison for a few years.

I am not a fan of Jane Fonda. But I’m not in a hurry to put her on a drone kill list, either!

He was making the same point CNAV recently made. Totalitarians usually aim first at those members of their societies that have the least sympathy from the people. Sometimes they aim first at those who incur the people’s wrath. The Rev. Martin Neimoller once showed that totalitarians never stop there.

How the Senate took it

Senator Rand Paul in 2011

Senator Rand Paul (R-KY). Photo: United States Senate

Aside from the fifteen Senators who “spelled” Rand Paul, the rest of the Senate seemed to love it. Even Senator Harry Reid (D-NV) had a few good words, according to Ms. Camia:

One thing I learned from my own experience with talking filibusters: To succeed, you need strong convictions but also a strong bladder. Senator Paul has both.

But Senators John McCain (R-AZ) and Lindsay Graham (R-SC) did not agree. Mike McAuliff at The Huffington Post quoted some of McCain’s remarks.

I watched some of that, quote, debate, unquote, yesterday. I saw colleagues who know better come to the floor and voice some of this same concern, which is totally unfounded. I must say that the use of Jane Fonda’s name does evoke certain memories with me, and I must say that she is not my favorite American. But I also believe that, as odious as it was, Ms. Fonda acted within her constitutional rights, and to somehow say that someone who disagrees with American policy – and even may demonstrate against it – is somehow a member of an organization which makes that individual an enemy combatant is simply false. It is simply false.

McCain even accused Rand Paul of “doing a disservice to the American people” by lending credence to such an idea.

The Wall Street Journal also thundered against Rand Paul. Luke Johnson of The Huffington Post summed it up. (The WSJ reserves this content to paying subscribers.)

Calm down, Senator. Mr. Holder is right, even if he doesn’t explain the law very well. The U.S. government cannot randomly target American citizens on U.S. soil or anywhere else. What it can do under the laws of war is target an “enemy combatant” anywhere at anytime, including on U.S. soil. This includes a U.S. citizen who is also an enemy combatant.

Answer me this, ye worthies at the WSJ. Who decides that someone is an enemy combatant? The US Constitution does define treason as “levying war against” one’s country. But even accused traitors deserve a trial, and the Constitution says that, too.

Rand Paul’s objection was never to random killings of US citizens, but to arbitrary killings. No one suggests or suggested (yet!) that Barack Obama, or anyone else, will sit before a monitor, laughing like a maniac, and point to this person, or that person, on the screen, and say, “Kill him.” Nor that any drone will fire a missile without a target set, to hit whatever gets in its way. Now that would be a random killing. But people do have good reason to fear that this President will decide, on his own, to kill someone. The fancy Latin word for this is proscription. William Shakespeare (Julius Caesar IV.i. 1-6) showed beautifully how this works (Clip One, Go!):

MARK ANTONY: These many, then, shall die. Their names are prick’d.

GAIUS OCTAVIUS: Your brother, too, must die. Consent you, Lepidus?

MARCUS AEMILIUS LEPIDUS: I do consent –

OCTAVIUS: Prick him down, Antony.

LEPIDUS: Upon condition Publius shall not live,

Who is your sister’s son, Mark Antony.

ANTONY: He shall not live. Look, with a spot I damn him.

We do not proscribe our fellow citizens! Not in this Constitutional republic. Not yet.

The Heritage Foundation understands this issue. They condemned the idea of using killer drones in US airspace. And last night they supported the Rand Paul filibuster. They also praised Rand Paul and his fellow Senators “for defending the Constitution and standing up for due process.”

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Terry A. Hurlbut has been a student of politics, philosophy, and science for more than 35 years. He is a graduate of Yale College and has served as a physician-level laboratory administrator in a 250-bed community hospital. He also is a serious student of the Bible, is conversant in its two primary original languages, and has followed the creation-science movement closely since 1993.

16 Responses to Rand Paul goes to Washington

  1. DinsdaleP says:

    No one with any sense of seriousness is contemplating that the President would use a drone, like the “Mirror-universe” Captain Kirk, to take out people considered “enemies” without due process. Paul was basically grandstanding, and looking to add some exposure to his resume with an eye towards 2016.

    The President, as Commander in Chief, has an obligation to act in the defense of the nation even if that means ordering an American citizen to be killed if that person is involved in an attack. That is what Holder was referring to, not the right to assassinate.

    Every man and woman serving in the US military takes this oath:

    “I, (NAME), do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and that I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice. So help me God.”

    Notice that it says “against all enemies, foreign and domestic”. This was the basis for Dick Cheney ordering Flight 93 to be shot down on 9/11 – not as an arbitrary killing of Americans without due process, but to stop an attack against the people.

    The point should be obvious, and Holder clarified it in a letter to Senator Paul today. If Obama or any President tried to have a citizen assassinated, then the full weight of the law should come down on them, but this is about whether a President has the latitude to order the use of deadly force to stop an attack against Americans on U.S. soil, even if the attack is being done by other (traitorous) Americans. Whether the weapon used is a gun carried by a soldier, a fighter jet, or a drone, the answer is yes.

    • Terry A. Hurlbut says:

      “No one [seriously contemplates] that the President would use a drone, like [William Shatner as future Emperor Tiberius in ‘Mirror, Mirror’], to take out people considered ‘enemies’ without due process.”

      Correction: no one wants to think that’s in the offing.

      Or maybe some people don’t want to admit that Barack Hussein Obama would do that if sufficiently enraged.

      Well, guess what? Eugene Robinson does seriously contemplate the very thing you laugh at. “The Attorney General…leaves the door ajar,” he wrote for publication fourteen hours ago at time of posting. And don’t tell me this is a figment of my imagination – because I’ve got the link.

  2. DinsdaleP says:

    “Well, guess what? Eugene Robinson does seriously contemplate the very thing you laugh at.”

    There are also people who seriously contemplate that a young Obama was part of a secret government project teleporting people to Mars, and i can provide links for that as well. If you want to present conjecture as fact go ahead, but anyone who can think for themselves will see it for what it is.

    I’ll tell you what, Terry. If Obama has a citizen killed on American soil in the coffee-shop type of scenario Rand Paul talked about, or even if he fails to hand over the presidency to a lawfully elected successor in January 2017, I’ll agree to stand in Times Square from 9-5 on the date the inauguration was to take place, wearing a dunce cap and a sandwich board sign that says “I was wrong about Obama” in big letters on both sides. I’m a man of my word, and will not shame those who feel as I do by not honoring this.

    Would you, in turn, be willing to wear the same cap and sign on the same terms if Obama doesn’t kill any citizens like that, and exits the presidency normally in January 2017?

    • Terry A. Hurlbut says:

      I’ll settle for just this: that on the day Obama does the things that Eugene Robinson (and I’m surprised you disrespect him the way you did) was afraid of, you’ll likely be seeking to come under the protection of the same freedom-fighter militias you also decry. Until then, read the link – and the next article I am about to publish.

  3. […] are still talking about the Rand Paul filibuster. That, of course, is what he wanted. But he has drawn praise from […]

  4. DinsdaleP says:

    No personal disrespect of Mr. Robinson is intended- I’m just making the point that wild conjecture and facts backed up by hard evidence are different, even if they are treated the same on this site.

    I’m surprised in return that you’re unwilling to take me up on my offer. The Founding Fathers were willing to back up their convictions by risking their lives, and yet it appears that you’re unwilling to join me in risking nothing but a day’s embarrassment in standing behind our stated convictions.

    • Terry A. Hurlbut says:

      “No personal disrespect of Mr. Robinson is intended.” And yet you mentioned him in the same breath as those who invent theories that defy any reasonable concept of physics or information science (“tele-transportation”), and imply that he is just as guilty of flights of fancy. This, although he is one of your fellow liberals. You did not even follow the link, did you?

  5. DinsdaleP says:

    I followed the link, and my comment was appropriate because Obama ordering drone-based preemptive assassinations of domestic terror suspects is reckless conjecture. People hyping paranoid anti-government theories come from all sides of the political spectrum.

    So is my offer to you accepted or declined? A simple, straightforward yes/no answer would be appreciated.

    • Terry A. Hurlbut says:

      I decline. Mainly because your offer does not allow for fraud, or time for discovery of same.

      And if you now are going to charge Eugene Robinson with “reckless conjecture,” just because he embarrasses “your” (de facto) President, then I’ll let my readers determine where your head and heart really are.

  6. DinsdaleP says:

    Interesting. Let’s set aside the drone aspect and focus on a basic point. You and your co-contributors have made the case that Obama is planning to stay in power past January 2017 and becoming an emperor/dictator/whatever. People on CNAV have even gone so far asvto regard him as “an” anti-Christ, or even “the” anti-Christ.

    I think that this is paranoid nonsense, and that he’s just a normal man whose policies you can’t stand, who will leave office as expected at the end of this term.

    I have enough conviction in what I believe to back it up in person. If he games the system and is still president/dictator/emperor in February 2017, I’ll spend a day that month in Times Square wearing the dunce cap and sign.

    You and your co-contributors on CNAV talk a great game, and have no problem with dishing out some incredibly heated rhetoric about what you are certain is in the works. Are you willing to stand by your convictions, and agree to wear the cap and sign if you turn out to be wrong?

    This isn’t about fraud, trickery or entrapment. It’s simply a way of gauging how much certainty you have in what you say.

    I’ve put mine on the line for every reader here. Whether you or your colleagues do the same is up to you, of course.

    • Terry A. Hurlbut says:

      Stop right there. A “normal man”? Men better trained in clinical psychiatry than myself have worked him up from his attitudes and behaviors. He is the paranoiac, not any of us. A paranoiac with an emphasis on megalomania and narcissism. Now maybe the grueling process of becoming President requires one to be a megalomaniac. But Barack Hussein Obama has carried this process further than has any President in history. With the possible exception of Richard Milhaus Nixon.

      The fraud would not be on your part. It would be on Obama’s part. Haven’t you ever heard of the word figurehead?

  7. DinsdaleP says:

    Well, that’s a convenient escape clause.

    If a Democrat wins in 2016, then Obama’s still running the nation as a puppet-master behind a figurehead stooge. Heck, this would even apply if Christie won, given your recent pieces about him.

    If a Republican wins, then I guess it’s just a delay of the inevitable while Obama continues his planning for the next four years.

    There’s really not much point in trying to refute conspiracy theorists, because you’ll always able to concoct an even more elaborate backstory that only makes sense when you connect the dots the way you want to see them connected.

    I thought of a metaphor for all of this last night. All of us look at the same stars on a clear night, but the patterns we make of them are the sole product of our imagination, and if we all agree that we see “a big dipper” in a certain place, it’s not because there’s anything special to that arrangement – just a convention among like-minded people to see it that way. Certain constellations start to take on a specific meaning, and the next thing you know, people assume things about you and your motivations “because you’re a Taurus”, as if the pattern of stars on the day you were born explains the motive behind every decision over a long life.

    Facts are like stars – they exist independently, and when you see the patterns between them there can be added insight. However, you see the patterns you want to see, and just like astrology, you slap labels on your ideological opponents (“socialist”, “liberal”, “RINO”, etc.) the way people slap a zodiac sign on someone (“Taurus”), and then run every action or statement through that filter instead of assessing them objectively.

    That’s why you won’t take me up on my offer, and I won’t waste time repeating it. You and your colleagues are so fixated on telling each other that “we’re right and everyone not with us is wrong” that you’ve lost he ability to admit that you could be wrong about important things. If reality turns out different than your fear-mongering scenarios, then you just add a layer of conspiracy to it in order to restore your echo chamber to a state of “being right”.

    Of course, I’m sure you’ll say I’m wrong about this and follow up with an explanation of why, but I guess I’m just being stubborn because both my parents are Tauruses. :-)

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