Thursday, March 7, 2013

In Which I Agree With Rand Paul

While I generally think his economic policies are idiotic and extremely detrimental, I have to agree with the gist of Rand Paul's filibuster last night (with some quibbles).  Here is Conor Friedersdorf breaking down some of Paul's major points:
On the purpose of his filibuster:

"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, that your rights to trial by jury are precious, that no American should be killed by a drone on American soil without first being charged with a crime, without first being found to be guilty by a court. That Americans could be killed in a cafe in San Francisco or in a restaurant in Houston or at their home in Bowling Green, Kentucky, is an abomination."

Why he worries about killing within the United States:

"When I asked the president, can you kill an American on American soil, it should have been an easy answer. It's an easy question. It should have been a resounding and unequivocal, 'no.' The president's response? He hasn't killed anyone yet. We're supposed to be comforted by that. The president says, I haven't killed anyone yet. He goes on to say, 'and I have no intention of killing Americans. But I might.'

"Is that enough?

"Are we satisfied by that?

"Are we so complacent with our rights that we would allow a president to say he might kill Americans?"
Amen.  However, I wouldn't limit the case to just American soil, and probably not even American citizens.  But the main thing that bothered me with Paul's performance was that he accepted Eric Holder's explanation without any caveats:
 Attorney General Eric Holder has written a letter to Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) saying that a drone could not be used against a noncombatant American. In response, Paul has said he the Senate should move ahead with John Brennan’s nomination as director of the CIA. The vote is being held this afternoon.
The letter followed a 13-hour filibuster of Brennan by Paul and several other senators, who objected to the possibility of domestic drone strikes on U.S. citizens.
“Does the president have the authority to use a weaponized drone to kill an American not engaged in combat on U.S. soil?” Holder’s letter reads. “The answer to that is no.”
Paul said Thursday afternoon that he’s happy with the response and that he urges the Senate to proceed to a vote on Brennan’s nomination.
“I’m quite happy with the answer,” Paul said. “Through the advise and consent process, I’ve got an important answer.”
 Wait a second.  If I've learned anything in the past two administrations, I don't trust words like "not engaged in combat on U.S. soil."  Who actually determines whether that individual is engaged in combat?  The President?  A jury of his peers?  A judge?  I don't know about you, but after finding out that John Fucking Yoo advises the President that he has the right to have a child's testicles crushed to extract information from him, and that isn't torture, I don't trust that Eric Holder's  28 or so words rule out attacks on innocent American citizens on U.S. soil.  While it is nice Rand Paul highlighted this issue, and while it is deplorable that almost no Democrats joined in, I think we need much more discussion on what extrajudicial powers are granted to the President under his authority as commander-in-chief.  I believe they are much more limited than the Bush and Obama administrations have argued.

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