‘The Moral High Ground’: Rand Paul Delivers Epic Senate Filibuster Against Obama’s Drone Policy
It’s a sad day in America when a Tea Party Republican is the most progressive congressional voice defending our civil liberties.
But all political prejudice aside, a Tea Party Republican has pretty much been the only voice consistently fighting an executive branch that is increasingly trampling on the constitutional rights, which are supposedly sacrosanct and inviolable.
That voice belongs to Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, and I take back what I said about it being a “sad day.” It was anything but that on the Senate floor on Wednesday as Paul held up the nomination of John Brennan as CIA director for nearly 13 hours with a legendary old-school filibuster that ranks among the longest in history.
At issue were unmanned aerial drones– specifically, the Obama administrations shocking assertion that the president has the power to order the assassination of an American citizen on US soil, without charge or trial, if he decides that American poses a threat to national security. In a letter to Sen. Paul, Attorney General Eric Holder insisted that such blatantly unconstitutional murders would only occur in “an extraordinary circumstance,” but Paul was having none of it. He threatened to filibuster Brennan’s nomination if the administration refused to reject the unconstitutional use of domestic drone strikes against Americans, and that’s exactly what he did on Wednesday until nature called him away from the Senate floor.
Here are some highlights from his legendary day:
– “I rise today to begin to filibuster John Brennan’s nomination for the CIA,” Paul declared at the start of his epic stall. “I will speak until I can no longer speak, 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 guilty by a court.”
– “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 an unequivocal ‘no.’ The president’s response? He hasn’t killed anyone yet. We’re supposed to be comforted by that… He goes on to say, ‘… and I have no intention of killing Americans, but I might.'”
– “The Fifth Amendment says that no person shall be held to answer for a capital offense or otherwise infamous crime unless on presentment or indictment of a grand jury… The Fifth Amendment… should protect you from a president that might kill you with a drone. We were granted due process.”
– “I can’t understand the president’s unwillingness to say he’s not going to kill noncombatants… I’m not talking about someone with a… grenade launcher on their shoulder. Anyone committing lethal force can be repelled with lethal force. No one argues that point. I’m talking about whether you can kill noncombatants, because many of the people being killed overseas are noncombatants… we’re talking about people eating in a cafe, at home, in a restaurant.”
– “Alarm bells should go off when people tell you that the battlefield’s in America. Why? Because when the battlefield’s in America, we don’t have due process… Another way to put it is to call it martial law… They are telling you that the Bill of Rights don’t apply… We can’t have war that is part of our daily life in our country, that we’re going to say that from now on in our country, you don’t really have the protections of the Bill of Rights.”
– “Barack Obama of 2007 would be right down here with me arguing against this drone strike program if he were in the Senate. It amazes and disappoints me how much he has actually changed from what he once stood for.”
Eventually, nature forced Paul to end his historic filibuster. He went out with a joke: “I discovered that there are some limits to filibustering and I’m going to have to go and take care of one of those in a few minutes,” he said.
In addition to Sen. Paul, 13 Republicans joined in the filibuster. They were: Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, Mike Lee, Pat Toomey, John Thune, John Barrasso, Tim Scott, John Cornyn, Jerry Moran, Ron Johnson, Jeff Flake, Mitch McConnell and Saxby Chambliss. Only one Democrat– Oregon’s Ron Wyden– spoke out as part of Paul’s stall effort.
Where was all the progressive outrage at an administration that has already established its right to indefinitely detain Americans without charge or trial, to spy on phone calls and electronic communications involving Americans and to criminally prosecute protesters exercising their First Amendment rights? Where was Bernie Sanders, for goodness sake?
As I’ve long argued, there isn’t much difference between Democrats and Republicans when it comes to so many matters of grave importance to our nation. Sadly, in this case, Republicans seem more concerned with protecting our constitutional right to not be murdered by our own government without due process of law than their so-called ‘progressive’ colleagues.