Not too long ago Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) won many constitutional conservative fans when he chose to take a hard stand against President Obama and Eric Holder’s interpretation of the Constitution and their war powers by demanding that they clarify when and how the government can use drones. Particularly, Senator Paul’s line of questioning focused on how the government might use (and has used) drones against American citizens thought to be terrorists. The standards the administration clung to at the time were sadly bare of constitutional research, and it seemed as though the administration felt they had almost limitless power to kill Americans with drones, if they felt the need warranted their use.
Thanks to Senator Paul’s long-winded opposition to John Brennan’s nomination as CIA Director, the nation learned that Eric Holder and the Department of Justice had given President Obama the impression that he could kill Americans without due process. Thanks to that same long-winded speech (some 13 hours long), the public mood shifted, forcing the Obama administration to clarify when and how they could use drones against American citizens.
Since then Senator Paul (with a few other Congressmen) has become the face of opposition to the use of drones, though that characterization may have been a bit unfair. See, Senator Paul isn’t opposed to drones per se; he’s opposed to their illegal use against American citizens. That differentiation became important this past week when we all learned of the Obama administration’s assassination of two American Al Qaeda operatives that also happened to kill innocent victims who’d been held hostage and were being used as human shields.
After the announcement of the botched attack on the Al Qaeda compound, Senator Paul remained fairly quiet about the attack. Then on Monday’s episode of Fox & Friends on the Fox News channel, he seemed to defend the President’s use of drone strikes.
“I do think that there is a valuable use for drones and as much as I’m seen as an opponent of drones, in military and warfare, they do have some value. I think this is a difficult situation. You have hostages being held; some of them are American. You have people holding hostages; some of them are American. I’ve been an opponent of using drones about people not in combat. However if you are holding hostages, you kind of are involved in combat. So I look at it the way it is in the United States. If there’s a kidnapping in New York, the police don’t have to have a warrant to go in… I tend to not want to blame the president for the loss of life here. I think he was trying to do the right thing.”
In the hours immediately after this segment aired the Internet and cable news blew up with stories of Rand Paul defending the President’s use of drones. It seems that many in the media (and even some of Paul’s GOP opponents) see these recent statements as Senator Paul “backtracking” on drone policy.
Senator Lindsey “Let’s Kill ‘em All” Graham (R-SC) took to Twitter to act like a tool.
.@RandPaul glad to see your new position on drones/targeting Americans who join al-Qaeda & affiliated groups. They do so at their own peril.
— Lindsey Graham (@GrahamBlog) April 27, 2015
While the main stream media and Lindsey Graham see some kind of change in Paul’s stance on drones – I don’t agree. When Rand Paul filibustered John Brennan’s nomination way back when, it was because Eric Holder wouldn’t acknowledge the limits of federal power to kill American citizens. Holder would not even release a statement saying that the government could not kill Americans, on American soil if they could be arrested instead. There is a considerable difference between that and the President using a drone to kill al Qaeda operatives who also happen to be holding hostages (at least one of which was an American himself).
Don’t buy they hype. Senator Paul’s opposition to Obama’s use of drones is an important stand based on a proper understanding of constitutional limits and checks and balances. His position is no different today than it was a year ago… even if war hawks like Lindsey Graham and Obama apologists like NBC want you to think it is.
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