Rand Paul filibustered the nomination of John Brennan to CIA Director for over twelve hours yesterday, demanding clear answers about the federal government’s authority to target US citizens for drone strikes without a trial. It was an exciting performance that blurred the tired left/right political lines as Paul won rare praise from both Heritage and the ACLU, from both Rachel Maddow and Sarah Palin.
For the record, while I think our overseas drone strikes are unethical and counterproductive, I think malicious use of drones to assassinate non-“imminent” US citizens on US soil is completely hypothetical, and not something the Obama administration ever wants to use, just like I don’t think Obama really wants to “take all our guns away.” But, on principle, I still think the President shouldn’t have powers that he just promises not to use; that’s the fundamental reason behind our notion of a Constitution, of limited government, of being a nation ruled by laws and not by men. Even democratically-elected leaders can abuse their powers; just look at Hugo Chavez, who in many ways was the socialist that many American conservatives still think Obama actually is.
So I think this is an excellent discussion to be having, and I’m ecstatic that in a few months we have gone from hearing no questions about drone policy in the entire election campaign to leaked memos, Congressional hearings, and now 12-hour filibusters that make national news! Whatever your opinion of Paul’s particular arguments, I think this was a much-needed pro-civil-liberties event that was led by Paul and supported almost entirely by fellow Republican Senators (with the admirable exception of Ron Wyden, D-OR).
Of course, the political affiliation of last night’s speakers caused no shortage of irony: