You need look no further than the Care2 headlines about Rand Paul to determine how the majority of liberals feel about the Kentucky Senator:
- Rand Paul Urges Congress to Ignore Roe v. Wade
- Rand Paul: Medicaid Is “Intergenerational Welfare”
- Rand Paul Points Gun at Obama
- Rand Paul Demands Vote on Fetal Personhood Before Flood Relief
- Rand Paul: Preventing Black Lung Too “Burdensome” to Energy Companies
- Rand Paul: Health Care Is “Slavery”
- Victory: Rand Paul’s Assault on Clean Air Defeated
And yet he became a hero to many of us – even if just for about 13 hours – on Wednesday when he filibustered (the old-fashioned way even!) on the Senate floor to hold up John Brennan’s CIA director confirmation.
The initial reaction for many is probably, oh great, Paul’s being obnoxious again. But when you hear Paul’s explanation, you might be surprised to find yourself agreeing with some of it.
Paul’s lengthy speech was a response to Attorney General Eric Holder’s recent comments on using drones to kill U.S. citizens on American soil. Although Holder’s answer amounted to that the administration would probably not do that, Paul makes a good point when he wonders why the answer is not a flat out no. We do have a little thing called the Fifth Amendment and due process after all. The answer should never be, “We’ll probably follow the Constitution.”
But it’s hard when someone you most often find to be so wrong is suddenly right, huh? The temptation to dismiss someone you perceive to be on the other team is strong. That’s just one of the downsides of partisanship. Many will write off Paul’s actions as just another excuse to criticize the current administration – I’m certainly not prepared to deny that that’s part of his motivation – but that doesn’t negate the fact that this instance is one where criticism is warranted. Considering how quick the U.S. government is to kill terrorist suspects abroad with drones, and considering the types of people the U.S. government labels terrorist suspects domestically (hint: anyone who dissents), there is definitely cause for worry.
Unfortunately, we need Paul as a voice on this issue since another downside of partisanship is that very few Democrats are addressing the subject. The left should be just as concerned about upholding the Constitution and the spread of drone warfare, but its spokespeople have largely had very little to say on the subject since it is their guy in office. However, sometimes your hero is the villain… and sometimes your villain is the hero.
To be fair, that partisanship works both ways. Would Paul be as critical if a hypothetical Romney administration (whom he supported) made a similar statement? While Paul has a reputation for vocally opposing some of the Constitution-defying draconian laws that other conservatives favor like the NDAA’s indefinite detention of American citizens clause, it is plausible that he wouldn’t want to ruffle too many of his peers’ feathers with a full-on filibuster.
And that’s why we shouldn’t get so caught up in our own partisanship that we stop thinking and questioning. In this ongoing game of political posturing, when we choose to trust our “team” over common sense, it is the citizens that are losing… specifically, our liberties. No lefty should feel compelled to start supporting Paul in light of his other stances, but they should at least feel betrayed by their representatives for staying silent on something so important.
While Paul’s filibuster did not block Brennan’s confirmation, it did produce results. It brought unprecedented attention to the government’s drone usage, a program that former Press Secretary Robert Gibbs admits he was forbidden from acknowledging existed. Moreover, Holder finally responded to Paul’s charges with a more conclusive “no” on killing American citizens on U.S. soil with drones. That’s an important declaration and one to which we must hold this administration, as well as subsequent ones.
Of course, while Paul has led the charge on domestic drone usage, don’t expect him to take charge on our casual use of it abroad. As ThinkProgress points out, Paul doesn’t seem to have a problem with using drones to secure our borders from undocumented immigrants or blowing up potential threats in foreign countries.
We’ll just have to hope some that some other high-ranking official takes on these issues on our behalf. At this point, I’ll be happy if anyone takes a stand on drones, regardless of party affiliation.
Photo Credit: Gage Skidmore