Share This Page

Paul's 'coast-to-coast' alarm

| Friday, March 15, 2013, 8:57 p.m.

Republican Rand Paul took to the floor of the U.S. Senate to filibuster John Brennan's nomination to become head of the CIA.

“I will speak as long as it takes,” the junior senator from Kentucky said, “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.”

I imagine many Americans following news of the filibuster, which lasted nearly 13 hours, were finding out for the first time that lawmakers such as Paul, Republican Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas and a handful of others are gravely concerned about a possible threat from the executive branch against these unalienable rights. This makes the filibuster a success. As Paul said, sounding the alarm from “coast to coast” was exactly his aim.

Was this unusual event the filibuster heard 'round the world? At least the country has been alerted to the fact that the Obama administration — in the persons of the president, the attorney general and the CIA director-designate — has been alarmingly vague and/or downright unresponsive to repeated, specific questions from Paul and Cruz. The two senators want to know whether the administration believes the Constitution permits the president to order drone strikes against noncombatant American citizens on American soil, thus depriving them of their Fifth Amendment guarantee of due process and, of course, their lives.

And so it should concern the rest of us — and not just the Arab-American citizen Rand Paul invoked in hour one, who, for communicating via email with a terrorist-relative in the Middle East, Paul believes, could potentially become a drone target of the Obama administration.

Meanwhile, there is something else to consider. So long as the Obama administration continues to demonize its political opponents as potential domestic terrorists, as Paul says, the outlandishness of a domestic drone strike is further worn down, conditioned into weary complacency or even mob consensus. We've seen such transformations many times before in modern — and not always totalitarian — societies.

All the more reason for the president to alleviate such fears with his affirmation that killing noncombatant Americans in America is unconstitutional. But I don't think he's going to do it.

One of the stranger results of the popular Paul filibuster was the instant coalescence of an ad hoc “Calm down, Rand” (read: shut up) effort.

Maybe they think deep inside that if drone wars were deemed unconstitutional in any way — or, worse, ineffective — the hollow offensives the U.S. continues to support would eventually collapse, giving rise to panicky paralysis. In such an event, the absurdity of picking off terrorist leaders worldwide as a national strategy to fight “terror” might emerge with distressing clarity, while the Islamic law and money that have almost wholly engulfed Western institutions might become frighteningly apparent.

Maybe that's why it seems as if blind trust in presidential discretion now trumps the bounds of the Constitution. But I hope not.

Diana West blogs at dianawest.net and can be contacted via dianawest@verizon.net.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.