“Rand Paul To CIA: ‘Can You Kill With Drones In The USA?'”
I wrote yesterday, to the dismay of some whom I admire (notably, dicentra, Bill Quick, sdferr, and a few others), that Rand Paul’s “yes” vote on the Hagel nomination — coming as it did on the heels of his having excoriated the phony posturing by Senate Republican Quislings like John McCain, who refused to block the vote, knowing that the result would be a Hagel confirmation, who then put on record a “no” vote that was, in fact, more a “yes” vote than was Rand Paul’s actual yes vote, which did nothing to affect the outcome.
What it did do, I postulated, is set up a scenario in which Paul will now go after John Brennan — having shown “deference” to the President on one appointment who was going to be confirmed anyway as a way to protect himself against charges that he’s a knee-jerk opponent to any political appointee put up by Obama.
I also noted that his yes vote probably won him over some support from the Ron Paul contingent, which signaled to me that the younger Paul is almost certainly angling for a 2016 GOP presidential nomination, and that he is relying both on the conservative base and the libertarians who have proven themselves so adept at working the delegate system to help him defeat the GOP establishment challenger.
Despite his attractiveness as a candidate (bringing the still-dubious promise of winning both Florida and a greater share of the Hispanic vote) Rubio’s immigration stance and coziness with the Bushes will give many conservatives pause. And if the Rove team backs him — with, say, Chris Christie as a running mate — his stock will drop even further.
Rand Paul, I believe, knows this. And so he is betting that his willingness to go hard after Brennan will be remembered far more than his inconsequential yes vote on Hagel.
That having been said, Paul’s strategy for tackling Brennan is beginning to come to light, and it is nothing if not aggressive. As he did by forcing a vote on giving advanced weaponry to the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, Paul is intending to get Senators of both parties on record in order to disrupt business as usual in the Senate. Here, he promises more of the same. Via Zerohedge (emphasis in their text):
February 20, 2013
John O. Brennan
Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Ave., NW
Washington, DC 20500
Dear Mr. Brennan,
In consideration of your nomination to be Director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), I have repeatedly requested that you provide answers to several questions clarifying your role in the approval of lethal force against terrorism suspects, particularly those who are U.S. citizens. Your past actions in this regard, as well as your view of the limitations to which you are subject, are of critical importance in assessing your qualifications to lead the CIA. If it is not clear that you will honor the limits placed upon the Executive Branch by the Constitution, then the Senate should not confirm you to lead the CIA.
During your confirmation process in the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (SSCI), committee members have quite appropriately made requests similar to questions I raised in my previous letter to you-that you expound on your views on the limits of executive power in using lethal force against U.S. citizens, especially when operating on U.S. soil. In fact, the Chairman of the SSCI, Sen. Feinstein, specifically asked you in post-hearing questions for the record whether the Administration could carry out drone strikes inside the United States. In your response, you emphasized that the Administration “has not carried out” such strikes and “has no intention of doing so.” I do not find this response sufficient.
The question that I and many others have asked is not whether the Administration has or intends to carry out drone strikes inside the United States, but whether it believes it has the authority to do so. This is an important distinction that should not be ignored.
Just last week, President Obama also avoided this question when posed to him directly. Instead of addressing the question of whether the Administration could kill a U.S. citizen on American soil, he used a similar line that “there has never been a drone used on an American citizen on American soil.” The evasive replies to this valid question from the Administration have only confused the issue further without getting us any closer to an actual answer.
For that reason, I once again request you answer the following question: Do you believe that the President has the power to authorize lethal force, such as a drone strike, against a U.S. citizen on U.S. soil, and without trial?
I believe the only acceptable answer to this is no.
Until you directly and clearly answer, I plan to use every procedural option at my disposal to delay your confirmation and bring added scrutiny to this issue and the Administration’s policies on the use of lethal force. The American people are rightfully concerned, and they deserve a frank and open discussion on these policies.
Rand Paul, M.D.
United States Senator
Attached to Paul’s overriding question is a whole host of additional questions arising from the centerpiece of his concern: why are we approving more and more in-country drone flights, or allowing law enforcement access to military technology?
Paul, a staunch 2nd-Amendment supporter and strong federalist, will I believe build at least that part of his campaign that doesn’t speak clearly, passionately, and effectively to the fiscal irresponsibility of DC, around the idea of a federal government that has become so big and so pervasive that it can’t help but consistently trample on individual rights and blunt individual autonomy.
And as a conservative and not a GOP party apparatchik — that is, a true TEA Party candidate — he will be able to speak to the failures of both parties inside the Beltway, having become a permanent ruling elite in direct contradiction to the very ideals upon which this nation was founded.
Paul is himself a citizen legislator. The GOP ridiculously tried to paint Mitt Romney as a DC outsider when it was clear to nearly everyone he was a big government technocrat — which is precisely why he won the support of the Party establishment (though truth be told, I don’t think they much cared if he lost, because their plan was to float Jeb Bush and Chris Christie and Marco Rubio as 2016 frontrunners, knowing that after 8 years of Democrat control of the executive, the electorate would likely vote for a change).
Personally, my first choice would be someone like Scott Walker or even Sarah Palin, both who have experience as governors, but I will say this: if Paul continues to act as a thorn in the side of both progressives and the GOP establishment, I’d happily support his candidacy, if only because should he win he’d have an actual mandate to change the course of the entire nature of federal governance.
Add Ted Cruz to the ticket, and I think we’d see the strongest GOP ticket since Reagan — at least, as far as a fidelity to constitutional conservatism / classical liberalism is concerned.