Friday, March 8, 2013

Rand Paul Might Be Crazy, But You Have to Respect His 13-Hour Filibuster on U.S. Drone Policy

Less than 24 hours after U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder stated that yes, in theory, the United States government can send a drone to take out American citizens on American soil, Rand Paul did what U.S. Senators have threatened but failed to do for years: he actually stood up and filibustered on the floor of the Senate.  U.S. Senate rules allow Senators to filibuster -- that is, speak for as long as they want about whatever they want -- in order to delay the Senate from voting on whatever's on the agenda.  The only way to shut them up is if 3/5's of the Senate (60 out of the 100 senators) take a vote to end debate known as "cloture."  Now it used to be that in order to actually filibuster a measure on the floor, you had to get up off your butt and say something like how Rand Paul did on Wednesday for 13 hours (13 hours man!  Sheesh!  What can you talk about for 13 hours straight?).  But in recent years the Senate has gone soft on us.  As it turns out, the Senate amended its rules some years ago in order to allow Senators to filibuster agenda items by merely threatening to filibuster.  In other words, a Senator didn't even need to get out of their chair and say a word.  They simply had to suggest (usually on some cable TV news show) that they would filibuster a certain item that was supposed to come up for a vote and that mere threat of filibuster was good enough to punk the majority party (recently the Democrats) into dropping the agenda item altogether and moving on to other business.  Fantastic.  


But Wednesday we saw something that we haven't seen in a while. 



Sen. Rand Paul’s (R-Ky.) talking filibuster against John Brennan’s nomination as CIA director ended after nearly early 13 hours.
“I would go for another 12 hours to try to break Strom Thurmond’s record, but I’ve discovered that there are some limits to filibustering and I’m going to have to go take care of one of those in a few minutes here,” Paul said as he ended his marathon speech.
Paul began speaking just before noon Wednesday on the Senate floor in opposition to Brennan’s nomination, saying that he planned to speak “for the next few hours” in a rare talking filibuster.


Now, for those of you who don't know who Rand Paul is, he's a Tea Party Republican Senator from Kentucky who is the son of Congressman and former Republican Presidential nominee Ron Paul.  But what he is more than anything else is a libertarian.  Libertarians essentially believe in no government.  Period. This means that some of his views fall in line with progressive ideology, and some of his views fall in line with conservative ideology.  On this particular issue (drone policy) Rand Paul just so happens to see eye to eye with those in the progressive camp who feel that the United States government should actually have to follow its own rules about Due Process of Law, as those rules are plainly written out in the 5th Amendment of the Constitution, when it comes to taking the lives of American citizens on American soil.  Due Process of Law means that the government first has to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you are guilty in a court of law before it can execute you.  

This is a debate that we've certainly had on this blog before, so I won't go into great detail here on my position.  I can understand and respect the positions of my colleagues who feel that we should disregard the Constitution when it comes to ensuring the safety of the nation from potential terrorist threats, but my legal understanding of how our Constitution and government work cannot support such a position.  On this issue, I find common ground with Rand Paul's overarching point that the Executive Branch of our government (aka the Obama Administration) should not be in the business of acting as Judge, Jury, and Executioner when it comes to the right to live or have your life taken through Due Process of Law which is guaranteed to U.S. Citizens by the Constitution. Now don't get me wrong, anybody -- U.S. Citizen or Non-U.S. citizen -- can and should be taken out ASAP if they are actively carrying out a plot to attack this nation.  And when I say actively, I mean actually putting things into motion and not just saying random mean things about America on some blog somewhere.  But barring that, if you have a problem with American citizens, then arrest them, take them to court, and find them guilty if you can.  

Rand Paul may be a flawed messenger, but we should not be so quick to dismiss his message here.  This dude stood up for 13 hours straight and talked about a subject that he was passionate about which, truth be told, is a subject that we should ALL be passionate about: the government's authority to take our life in America.  Say what you will about this cat, but we need more examples of our elected leaders actually standing up for principles in our nation's capital.  I rarely agree with anything Rand Paul has to say, but I have to give respect where respect is due.

Your Thoughts?

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