Political Animal


March 07, 2013 9:43 AM The Rand Paul Show

By Ed Kilgore

So there it was, more or less out of the blue: Rand Paul holding the Senate floor (with some help) for thirteen hours in opposition to John Brennan’s nomination as CIA director, more or less over the administration’s poorly articulated insistence on executive authority to kill American citizens overseas (or perhaps here at home).

As Brother Benen notes this morning, the sensation created by Paul’s “talking filibuster” comes from a variety of sources: sympathy with his substantive argument, appreciation for his direct filibustering technique, and of course, pure partisanship. This last factor is interesting given the general position of the GOP on the civil liberties of terrorism suspects:

[A]s Paul’s allies grew throughout the day, it was hard not to wonder whether at least some of his new-found friends endorsed him on the substance or whether “Stand with Rand” had become a temporary fad on the right, driven by Republicans who were simply happy to see President Obama’s national security agenda facing criticism, even if they happen to agree with President Obama’s national security agenda.
Were GOP senators like Marco Rubio and Pat Toomey rallying to Paul’s defense out of anything but opportunistic instincts? If there were an up-or-down vote on executive power and the appropriate scope of the national security state in combating terrorism, would they vote with Paul?
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Paul’s fellow Kentucky Republican, once said the Casey Anthony trial proved that terrorist suspects cannot and should not be tried in U.S. courts — and yet, there he was last night, standing with Rand, too. Is it unreasonable to wonder how much of this had to do with his re-election fears?
Adam Serwer noted that four of the senators who joined Paul yesterday “voted against a ban on indefinite detention of US citizens.” Are we to believe they’ve had a change of heart or is it more likely that they just wanted to be part of an anti-Obama demonstration that was causing a stir among conservative activists?
Put it this way: if Paul’s remarks and tactics were used by a Democrat in 2004, how many of these Republicans would be happy to call him or her a “fifth columnist”?

All good questions. Paul himself was pretty clear in accusing the Obama administration of continuing the dubious civil liberties policies of the Bush administration; perhaps some of the more out-there Republican senators joining Paul had no problem with that line of attack since they view W. as a covert socialist RINO. But it will be interesting to see if this particular coalition will hold together once the echoes of the filibuster have faded.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.


  • Pat on March 07, 2013 9:54 AM:

    Can we get out of the partisan weeds and talk about policy and governance here? I'm not afraid of Pres. Obama ordering drone strikes on American soil, but I can't say the same for future presidents. I'd really like to see a strong return to the defense of civil liberties, and a well-thought out bill that limits executive privilege in this arena.

    It would be nice if we liberal commentators took advantage of this rare opportunity for discussion, and then actually had one.

  • c u n d gulag on March 07, 2013 10:05 AM:

    I hate to agree with Rand Paul, since he's essentially a stopped clock on wars and pot, but I really hate our drone policy.

    I don't believe in a death sentences being meted out, even WITH "due process." And it doesn't matter to me whether someone is a US citizen, or not, since I am against the death penalty in any and all cases.

    Killing in actual wars is bad enough - but killing people in other countries simply because they object to our imperialistic land, government, and oil, grabs in our national interest, seems beyond excessive - and downright criminal.

    One nations terrorist is another nations freedom-fighter.

    And dropping drones on alleged and suspected "terrorists," does nothing but create more alleged "terrorists" whom we can then suspect.

  • Anonymous on March 07, 2013 10:11 AM:

    Listenting to NPR's coverage of the "omigod a real filibuster for hours!!!" I kept asking where all these brave souls were during the original PATRIOT Act and its renewal. Under that act, the President can declare anyone, including a US citizen, to be an enemy combatant. Once a person is declared an enemy combatant, he or she loses all rights.

    Nary a peep from either side of the aisle that I can recall.

    I was also stunned that Rand Paul mentioned Kent State during his talkathon. Would it indeed be terrible to order a drone strike on students protesting on a college campus? And how would that be worse than ordering National Guard troops to open fire on students protesting on a college campus?

    To me, they're one and the same.

  • Robert on March 07, 2013 10:12 AM:

    Or as some "pry from my cold dead hands" crowd around here calls them..."moving targets", Oh how little do they know....

  • Rich on March 07, 2013 10:15 AM:

    there's no "coalition" here. There are plenty of people who just pile on when it serves their purpose. Paul is an eccentric, much like his father. he's not going to be leading much of anything. As Charles Pierece noted, with both him and his father, you might start out agreeing with them, but 5 minutes later the crazy happens and that keeps people from both parties from becoming durable allies with these guys.

  • boatboy_srq on March 07, 2013 10:19 AM:

    Interesting sidebar to the Paul filibuster: his insistence that it would cease with clear language from the administration about not “killing American citizens on American soil.” Flip that a bit, and such a position from the administration would be: a) reason to calm all the 2nd-Amendment shouters, since Big Gubmint would be effectively handicapped in the Long Twilight [Zone] Struggle against Teh Tyranny; and b) a strong argument for universal health care, since denial of care is as much a killer of “American citizens on American soil” as any other factor.

  • T-Rex on March 07, 2013 10:21 AM:

    Republicans will cheer for anything if they can blame something on Obama. That was why we were treated to the amazing spectacle last summer not only of an old man scolding a chair, but of Republicans laughing and applauding his call to end the Afghan war and bring the troops home -- apparently either forgetting or pretending to forget who started and botched that war, or how they themselves would have called anyone a traitor who opposed it from 2001 until January of 2009.

  • Th on March 07, 2013 10:22 AM:

    Dick Cheney certainly thought it was ok to shoot down an American plane full of Americans with a military jet on 9/11. He even tried to claim he had authorized such a move. Can the Coast Guard fire on an American driving a boat loaded with explosives and headed for an offshore oil rig? Does it make a difference if we use a drone instead?

    How about if Texas declares independence and sends its militia to seize oil rigs in the Gulf? If the U.S. doesn't recognize Texas' independence, aren't Texans still American citizens?

    Sorry, but our federal government has claimed the right to kill Americans on American soil with the military since Washington crushed the Whiskey Rebellion. Rand Paul may have even heard of it. And, yes, it is way past time to talk about this and put processes in place.

  • Gandalf on March 07, 2013 10:33 AM:

    The argument is so ludicrous that it's hard not to laugh your ass right off. Federal agencies have the authority to kill americans on american soil and have had it and done it numerous times. The argument of these tools apparently is all about the methods used. That can be the only logic behind this display. Or just grand standing forther whackaloon base.

  • Lifelong Dem on March 07, 2013 10:41 AM:

    Not that it matters, but that "Anonymous" comment up there is mine. Forgot to put in my name and email.

  • Sgt. Gym Bunny on March 07, 2013 10:45 AM:

    So if Brennan isn't confirmed, is there another qualified appointee who has not been somehow tainted by the last ten years of questionable warfare?

    Not that we should lower are standards with regard to the defense of civil liberties, but blocking Brennan isn't going to change diddly squit in a department that has been and will continue to make questionable decisions regarding civil liberties. I gather that this is a terribly institutional problem, that will only improve when some entity decides to codify rules of engagement for drone strikes. Only that will keep Brennan in line, much more so than the opportunistic GOP senators--who we know give even less of a shit about the civil liberties than Brennan does--who are jumping on Paul's bandwagon.

  • JohnH on March 07, 2013 10:57 AM:

    Rich on March 07, 2013 10:15 AM:

    there's no "coalition" here. There are plenty of people who just pile on when it serves their purpose.

    That's exactly what this is. Low-rent gombeens like McConnell, Rubio and Toomey are just hopping on board this latest bus as a chance to grab some airtime and make trouble for the administration. Don't think for a single second that if it were the Cheney administration claiming the right to kill an American citizen and it was, say, Alan Grayson filibustering Brennan's nomination these same bunch of clowns -- along with the entire MSM -- wouldn't be clutching their pearls and hollering about "treason" and "going against the president" in a "time of war,"
    yadda, yadda, yadda.

    By all rights Rand Paul ought to be working as an assistant night manager in a Kentucky bait shop, but as others have pointed out, even a stopped clock is right twice a day, and in this instance he's got a point. But the thought that these other hucksters and third-rate used car salesmen would have us believe that they've suddenly developed a "conscience" is laughable.

  • mellowjohn on March 07, 2013 12:25 PM:

    if it were alan grayson filibustering a cheney admin's use of drones, he'd probably get zapped by a hellfire missile while he was still speaking.

  • Mimikatz on March 07, 2013 12:27 PM:

    The stupidity of this debate is staggering. Drones are used to kill people in places where we cannot otherwise reach the person. Killing some purported American traitor on American soil doesn't take a drone, just an agent or cop with a gun. Hello! Where were these people in the 60s when a few (mostly black) folks protesting against and trying to change the status quo, citizens all, were killed by authorities in the South, Chicago, Oakland and many other places?Is the discussion here really about the end or just a means that would never be used here at home? Not even at Ruby Ridge or Waco?

    This debate is just obscuring the real issues behind our involvement in Islamic countries and Whether use of drones is creating more enemies than it eliminates.

  • OKDem on March 07, 2013 2:22 PM:

    To expand on the comments of Mimikatz and others, what is the objection to drones in particular as opposed to guns or other means?

    I would contend the debate needs to divorced from the technology.

    It seems that it is that 1. the drone is remotely piloted and 2. that the weapons are indiscriminate [it is almost always a Hellfire missile].

    The first objection is less obvious when you consider that every SWAT team in the country has snipers quite capable of shots at hundreds of yards, if there is a clear target. Note the clear target. High power scope or high res video is merely a quibble.

    The second is a function of the value of the collateral damage to the government firing the weapon. To be blunt the US government does not value the lives of "possible collaborators" [which in practice is often family]or of foreign property [mud hut, hovel,etc.].

    What if the drone was the size of a pigeon and fired a poison dart and had video as good a scope at 50 yds? Is the action moral and legal then?

    What is Tim McVey or the Unibomber are holed up in a cabin in the desert behind belts of mines? Is a drone not usable on US soil in this case?

  • Neo on March 07, 2013 3:24 PM:

    Van Jones ✔ @VanJones68

    If a GOP prez implied he could kill US citizens on US soil without due process, we liberals would be marching down street #ConsistencyCounts

    Van Jones ✔ @VanJones68

    The point is not whether OBAMA would abuse that kind of authority. The NEXT prez might. So we must be vigilant now & #consistent. #NoDrones