Rand Paul Goes to Washington
Rand Paul added a lot of big fans Wednesday.
A day that was supposed to be just another Washington snow day brought us something we haven’t seen in a long time: an honest-to-goodness, in-keeping-with-the-Constitution, old-fashioned filibuster, all over a basic, fundamental concept central to our founding: the power of the central government is limited, and the government’s authority to exercise lethal force must be particularly and specifically limited.
Actual headline in USA Today: “Rand Paul ends epic filibuster over Brennan”
He started speaking around 11:45 a.m. Wednesday morning. He finally ceded the floor at about 12:40 a.m. local time on Thursday.
Andrew Johnson & Nathaniel Botwinick give you the highlights of Rand Paul’s crusade:
Senator Rand Paul (R., Ky.) took to the Senate floor today to filibuster President Obama’s nominee for CIA director, John Brennan, as well as to challenge the administration’s policy on drones. Paul began speaking at approximately 11:47 a.m. . . .
Paul said he would be happy to end it if he had reassurance from the Obama administration that drone-strikes would not be used on noncombatants. After Reid left the floor, senators Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania and John Cornyn of Texas joined in the effort.
Senator Marco Rubio (R., Fla.) took to the floor of the Senate this afternoon in support of Senator Paul. He thanked the senator for “defending the institution” of the Senate and its “constitutional obligation to ask relevant questions of public policy and get answers” through his filibuster.
The filibuster became a bipartisan effort when Oregon’s Democratic senator Ron Wyden joined Paul on the floor in its fourth hour. Wyden called for reining in the executive branch’s “serious, far-reaching” drone-strike program, saying that the targeted killings “should not be allowed . . . without any scrutiny.”
Three hours into Paul’s filibuster, fellow Republican senator Ted Cruz of Texas joined the Kentucky senator on the floor. Cruz praised Paul for his leadership on the issue of drones and the rights of American citizens, calling him a “modern Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” who is “surely making Jimmy Stewart smile.” Along with Cruz, senators Mike Lee of Utah and Jerry Moran of Kansas joined Paul on the floor at roughly the same time.
John Podhoretz: “Attention everybody in Washington: This is how you make yourself a star.”
Writing at Breitbart, the Ace of Spades declared it genuinely exciting:
I have the same feeling of receding cynicism I did when the Tea Party first exploded on to the scene and began doing things that just weren’t done in America anymore — taking politics seriously, taking the Founders’ legacy to us seriously, showing up at Town Halls to ask their once and future representatives some real questions, engaging, questioning, insisting, demanding.
There was a time 200 years ago when this was commonplace. Americans had just won their liberty and were enthused about it. They treated their civic duty not as a mere duty but as the highest aspiration of political man.
This filibuster excites me for the same reasons — a return to the Old Ways, the ways that actually work, the way American politics is actually supposed to be conducted, with Senators offering thoughtful defenses of their positions and, above all, insisting that this nation is We the People not We the Ministers & Lesser Bureaucratic Warlords of Whatever Current Government the Public Has Had the Folly to Install in Office.
Jon Henke: “Kinda shocking that it takes a filibuster to get back the right not to be killed by our own government without a trial.”
Dana Loesch: “The left just exposed their hypocrisy on waterboarding by supporting drone killing without due process.”
Meanwhile, Ted Cruz generated his own fireworks, getting Eric Holder to appear to concur that the drone policy, as currently stated, runs afoul of the Constitution.
On Tuesday, the Department of Justice sent shockwaves through the nation when Attorney General Eric Holder informed Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) in writing that the White House would be within its legal authority to execute an American citizen via drone on U.S. soil if that person was determined to pose a threat to national security. On Wednesday, testifying before a Senate panel, Holder was prodded repeatedly about this assertion by Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX). Holder eventually admitted that it would not be constitutional to execute an American citizen without due process.
“In your legal judgment, does the Constitution allow a U.S. citizen on U.S. soil to be killed by a drone?” Cruz asked Holder pointedly.
“For sitting in a café and having a cup of coffee?” Holder replied. Cruz clarified that his hypothetical individual subject to a drone strike did not pose an “imminent and immediate threat of death and bodily harm,” but that person is suspected to be a terrorist.
“I would not think that that would be an appropriate use of any kind of lethal force,” Holder replied.
“With all respect, Gen. Holder, my question wasn’t about appropriateness or prosecutorial discretion. It was a simple legal question,” Cruz clarified.
“This is a hypothetical, but I would not think, that in that situation, the use of a drone or lethal force would not be appropriate,” Holder replied.
“I have to tell you I find it remarkable that in that hypothetical, which is deliberately very simple, you are not able to give a simple, one-word answer: no,” Cruz added. He said he think that his scenario would constitute a “deprivation of life without due process.”
. . . When Cruz was about to abandon his line of questioning after a number of equivocations from Holder, the attorney general clarified that he was saying “no” such actions would not be constitutional.
Our Charlie Cooke: “I’m very disappointed. Rand Paul has been speaking about foundational American values for hours but he hasn’t yet mentioned contraception.”