With all due respect to Ross Kaminsky and other conservatives who enthusiastically supported Senator Rand Paul’s filibuster, I am compelled to offer my dissent. I simply cannot stand with Rand.
Before I launch my critique, however, I will give Paul full marks for political theater. A couple of weeks back I argued that Republicans needed to engage in more political theater by walking out on President Obama during his State of the Union Address. So I don’t fault Paul for taking the stage. Rather I take issue with how he used it.
First of all, Paul’s filibuster was ostensibly against President Obama’s nomination of John Brennan as CIA Director. But Paul’s quarrel was against Attorney General Eric Holder, not Brennan. At the end of the day, nothing Paul said in 13 hours is going to stop the Senate from confirming Brennan.
Now Matt Purple makes a valid point when he says that Holder probably could have stopped Paul’s filibuster if he had come out and said that President Obama is not authorized to drop drones on American citizens going about their business on American soil.
But let’s be honest for a minute. Did Paul honestly think for even a second that Eric Holder actually believed President Obama thought he had the authority to wantonly drop drones in the middle of Kentucky? If he did then he’s even kookier than his Dad. But methinks the younger Paul does not honestly believe President Obama plans to drop drones on U.S. citizens on a whim. He’s much savvier than that.
Clearly this is a prelude to a presidential bid. That all started in earnest with his vigorous questioning of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Benghazi in January (“If I had been President at the time, I would have relieved you of your post.”). While Paul might not believe that Obama is going to randomly drop a drone, he knows there is a portion of the population that believes he would and Paul is tapping into that segment of the electorate which comprises Americans of both right-wing and left-wing persuasion. The point here is there a lot of hysterical paranoia out there and Paul gives such paranoia legitimacy by, well, “droning” on and on about something that will never happen under any circumstances.
Of course, I am not saying everyone who stood with Rand is paranoid. Far from it. Clearly, a lot of reasonable people came on board. Indeed, I can understand why Ross dug his heels in further after both John McCain and Lindsey Graham took to the floor to denounce Paul’s filibuster. Indeed, I’ve been annoyed with McCain in particular for basically giving Democrats the political room necessary to support Chuck Hagel. If McCain and Graham don’t like something then it must therefore be good.
But what Ross doesn’t mention is that McCain was quoting a Wall Street Journal editorial which correctly said that the President only has the authority to utilize such force against American citizens if they are enemy combatants. Indeed, Ross lost no sleep when American born al Qaeda leader Anwar al-Awlaki was killed by a drone in September 2011 and neither did I.
What really turned me off more than anything else was Paul’s invocation of Hitler while trying to say he wasn’t comparing President Obama or anyone else to the Fuhrer:
The point isn’t that anybody in our country is Hitler. I’m not accusing anybody of being that evil. I think it’s an overplayed and misused analogy. But what I am saying is that in a democracy, you could someday elect someone who is very evil. That’s why we don’t give power to the government. And it’s not an accusation of this president or anybody in this body. It’s a point to be made that occasionally even a democracy gets it wrong.
I like how Paul says the Hitler analogy is overplayed and misused and then proceeds to overplay and misuse the analogy. If Paul believes that President Obama nor any member of the U.S. Senate is capable of that sort of evil then why bring up Hitler at all? I’ll tell you why. Because he knows there are people out there who do think this way and he is inciting and mobilizing them for his own political gain. Rand Paul is a demagogue in the making and for that reason I will not stand with him.