If you’re like me and are eagerly awaiting for one party to end the unsustainable joined-at-the-hipness of our current approach to foreign policy, then today was a good day. Senator Rand Paul is – as I write this – now past the eight hour mark in his filibuster of the nomination of John Brennan to head the CIA. Why?
“I rise today to begin to filibuster John Brennan’s nomination for the C.I.A.,” Mr. Paul began. “I will speak until I can no longer speak. I will speak as long as it takes, until the alarm is sounded from coast to coast that our Constitution is important, that your rights to trial by jury are precious, that no American should be killed by a drone on American soil without first being charged with a crime, without first being found to be guilty by a court.”
It seems almost farcical that this would be needed, right? Like, if this hypothetical were on a citizenship test, anyone taking it would be like “Ha, that’s obviously false! The government can’t just kill someone for no reason!” The Attorney General would not totally agree with that sentiment, however (bold mine):
Cruz laid out a hypothetical situation: A U.S. citizen accused of terrorist activity is drinking coffee at a café. Cruz asked Holder if it would be constitutional for the United States to target and kill that citizen with a drone.
“I wouldn’t think that would be appropriate lethal force,” Holder said.
Cruz continued to press the attorney general.
“With all respect, General Holder, my question wasn’t appropriateness or prosecutorial discretion, it is a simple legal question,” Cruz continued. “Does the constitution allow a U.S citizen on U.S. soil who doesn’t pose an imminent threat to be killed by the U.S. government?”
Holder responded that the situation was hypothetical and that “you have to look at all of the facts.”
Cruz said he was looking for a one-word answer: “no.”
That answer eventually, sort of, came, but almost four minutes of hedging and equivocating. That is disgusting. The fact that the administration could not forthrightly give the answer that all of us – as members of a free society of laws – would agree is correct (i.e., “No, the Constitution does not allow that in the slightest.”) is reason enough for Sen. Paul to speak until he physically collapses if it means drawing additional attention to the most drastic of all possible government overreaches.
And not only is Paul continuing to hold the floor, but all of his remarks have been substantive. This isn’t one of those phonebook filibusters. I guess when we have intermingled foreign policy and domestic civil liberties to such a frightening and blurry degree, there’s no shortage of things to say.
This filibuster has exploded Twitter (as I type this, Ted Cruz is reading tweets in support of it on the Senate floor). It has earned the support of the ACLU. Ron Wyden, Democrat from Oregon, was one of the first people to “tap in”, so to speak, with Paul. Do you think it could be a sea-change moment for Republicans? Could it force them to some semblance of consistency on the notion of “limited government”? I don’t know, but let’s hope it’s a least a step in the right direction.