Attorney General Eric Holder wrote Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., to confirm that President Obama does not have the authority to kill an American on U.S. soil in a non-combat situation, Obama’s spokesman announced today.
White House Press Secretary Jay Carney quoted from the letter that Holder sent to Paul today. “Does the president have the authority to use a weaponized drone to kill an American not engaged in combat on an American soil?” Holder wrote, per Carney. “The answer is no.”
Two quick thoughts. First, why didn’t Holder do this yesterday? He could have soothed people’s nerves and diffused Paul’s filibuster, which quickly became a rallying cry for conservatives and the GOP. The White House damaged itself enormously by letting Paul stay at that podium, not that I’m complaining.
Second, Paul may have his assurance, but his actions have become far larger than a single letter from the White House. By standing up, Paul energized a moribund GOP, fired up both conservatives and liberals, made civil liberties a front-and-center issue, and established himself as a leader in the post-Romney Republican Party.
As Noah Rothman noted this morning, Paul gave the GOP a dose of romance, a cause worth fighting for. Consequently, McCain and Graham, who blasted Paul earlier today, sounded cantankerous and off-beat, the angry neighbors who tried to break up the block party. That Paul managed to be substantive, conservative, right, and, well, cool all at the same time is a testament to his brand of politics. Small wonder that so many today are standing with Rand.
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