What began as a simple, straightforward question on Wednesday concerning the White House’s secret drone program eventually turned into the boldest stance taken by any lawmaker – whether from Washington or Frankfort – in a long time.
After failing to get clear assurances from the Obama administration that it would not use drones to target Americans on U.S. soil without due process or a trial, U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, R-Kentucky, took to the floor of the Senate at 11:47 a.m. and did not yield it back until after midnight.
In doing so, he brought Obama’s nomination of John Brennan as the nation’s next CIA director to a screeching halt. C-SPAN has never been so exciting.
During his filibuster, the senator from Bowling Green said he wants to know whether Brennan and the administration thinks it has the power to use a drone in the sky to kill an accused Kentuckian sitting in a café in Paducah, attending religious services in Danville or going about daily life anywhere else across this commonwealth or country.
Judging from the positive responses Paul received from both sides of the aisle – including from leftist groups like the American Civil Liberties Union – most everyone else in the nation also would like to know the administration’s position on drones.
All told, it was a 13-hour filibuster on the 177th anniversary of the fall of the Alamo mission to the Mexican army following a 13-day siege.
Davie Crockett might not have stopped the imperialistic Gen. Santa Anna from taking the mission or their lives. But in the end, their persistent heroism resulted in Texas becoming free, independent and eventually the union’s largest state.
While Paul will not ultimately prevail in preventing Brennan’s nomination, the significance of his presentation – like the magnitude of the stand at the Alamo – will be fully realized only in the future.
His filibuster not only emboldened other senators – who lined up to help Paul keep going when his throat became parched – it sent a strong message to a dangerously imperialistic president that he is accountable to the people’s elected representatives.
Several of those elected leaders made it clear: they won’t stand idly by while his – or any – administration allows even for the possibility of using drones in the sky to kill American citizens on the ground.
“I will not sit quietly and let him shred the Constitution,” Paul said of Obama at one point.
After all, what good is the Constitution – which protects the rights of all accused criminals who are U.S. citizens – if a president can simply order military style drones to kill American citizens he deems worthy of such an attack?
What good is individual liberty without protecting the life that goes along with it?
“To be bombed in your sleep? There’s nothing American about that,” Paul said on the Senate floor. “[Obama] says trust him because he hasn’t done it yet. He says he doesn’t intend to do so, but he might. Mr. President, that’s not good enough.”
As Paul educated anyone who listened – even for a few minutes – the constitutional role of the military is to defend Americans from outside enemies. It operates under a different set of rules than your local courts or sheriff’s departments.
Those local agencies are established to enforce laws and process charges against accused American citizens in accordance with the Fifth Amendment, a right which clearly protects accused U.S. citizens by providing due process of law.
Paul happens to think that those protections, which many have sacrificed greatly to uphold and defend, are worth at least a good old-fashioned, old-style political duel in the form of a day-long filibuster … and perhaps even a future presidential campaign.
Jim Waters is president of the Bluegrass Institute, Kentucky’s free-market think tank. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org . Read previously published columns at www.freedomkentucky.org/