Attorney General Eric Holder said that drones could be used against American citizens on American soil. So libertarian Republican Senator Rand Paul (R-Kentucky) staged a 13-hour filibuster–a real one, in which the Senator actually occupies for the floor rather than just threatening to–in protest. Eventually, Holder said that drones would not be used against unarmed Americans, just terrorists in an emergency.
Some Republicans were annoyed with Paul’s “stunt,” as Sen. John McCain called it, and defend an aggressive use of drones. Some of them were lunching with President Obama when Paul was filibustering, sparking some observers to see a changing of the Republican guard (to borrow an Iranian phrase), with a new generation of Republicans challenging the traditional GOP practice of giving a blank check to anything military and championing instead civil liberties.
What do you think?From the Christian Science Monitor:
Sen. Rand Paul’s 12-plus hour filibuster was never going to block Senate confirmation of John Brennan to be CIA director, and indeed the full Senate voted, 63 to 34, Thursday afternoon to approve Mr. Brennan as the nation’s next spymaster.
But Senator Paul’s unusual maneuver – actually talking for hours on end, and not just threatening to filibuster – has had an immediate effect on a key issue that many lawmakers (and many voters) find troubling: the use of unmanned drone aircraft to kill suspected terrorists, including, potentially, US citizens on US soil.
Forced to respond, Attorney General Eric Holder in a three-line letter to Paul Thursday addressed what had been posed by Senate Republicans as a constitutional question: “Does the President have the authority to use a weaponized drone to kill an American not engaged in combat on American soil?”“The answer to that question is no,” Mr. Holder, wrote – at long last, in the view of his critics. In a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing Wednesday, Holder would only say that killing a hypothetical suspected American terrorist on US soil who poses no immediate threat would be “inappropriate.”
Holder’s letter satisfied Paul.
“I’m quite happy with the answer, and I’m disappointed it took a month and a half and a root canal to get it,” Paul told CNN. “But we did get the answer. And that’s what I’ve been asking all along.”
Like his father, former presidential candidate and US Rep. Ron Paul of Texas, the junior senator from Kentucky is as much libertarian as he is Republican. Where most GOP lawmakers position themselves as foreign policy and military hawks, Rand Paul strongly questions some aspects of US policy here – particularly as in this case where constitutional issues regarding judicial due process are involved.
This rankles some senior Republicans. On Thursday, Sen. John McCain (R) of Arizona described some of what Paul had said during his filibuster as “simply false.”
Quoting from a Wall Street Journal editorial, Mr. McCain said, “If Mr. Paul wants to be taken seriously, he needs to do more than pull political stunts that fire up impressionable libertarian kids in college dorms.”