The Washington Post says Rand Paul “held the Senate hostage” and “was rightly taken to task for gross and irresponsible mischaracterizations of the Obama administration’s policy.” Then fails to cite a single mischaracterization.
David Frum weighs in, calling Paul’s scenario “far-fetched.” Says the Frumster: “Executive assassinations, hyperinflation leading to populist dictatorships, ordinary Americans protecting themselves by launching insurgencies against the state – these are themes of Rand Paul’s politics, now endorsed by his Republican Senate colleagues. Out of what doom-haunted imagination are such dark fantasies born?” Yeah, hyperinflation is a crazy dark fantasy. And hyperinflation leading to an economic situation that creates a dictatorship? When did that ever happen?!
John McCain terms Paul one of the “wacko birds.” Get off my lawn, wacko birds!
And John Podhoretz claims that Paul’s ideas are “dangerous.”
And finally, we have our old friend Glenn Greenwald, who supports Paul but wants to call many of his supporters hypocrites:
Bush-cheerleading conservatives who “stand with Rand” = Rand-mocking progressives who pretended to care about civil liberties under Bush
— Glenn Greenwald (@ggreenwald) March 7, 2013
All of these critics and commentators miss the point. All of them.
This is not a black and white issue. When it comes to Greenwald, let’s remember that while he does have an admirable consistency on these issues, he also loves to call people hypocrites when they are not. You don’t have to have a Glenn Greenwaldesque hatred of drones in all scenarios to support Paul’s point, and you’re not a hypocrite for “standing with Rand” on this issue while failing to decry Bush’s use of drones. Speaking personally, I was a critic of Bush’s at times Kafkaesque adjudication procedures for Gitmo detainees, so I would reject the label of hypocrite, if anyone were to attempt to hang it around my neck.
As I have repeatedly made clear — and Paul made clear several times in his filibuster — the U.S. reserves the right to defend itself in a 9/11 situation, such as shooting down a Flight 93, even though it has innocent Americans on board. Drone strikes on terrorists abroad pose different questions than assassinations on American soil, where law enforcement has free rein and there are no battlefields.
The speeches of John McCain and Lindsey Graham have seemed to many of us to imply that we can target “enemy combatants” on American soil whether they pose an imminent threat or not. On one side of their mouth they decry the concept of domestic drone assassinations as “ridiculous.” Why, even to ask the question is offensive. But all they have to do in order to justify such attacks is to term the drone target as a “combatant” — a term that seems to have a flexible definition. As Allahpundit says:
Paul’s not worried about Obama targeting noncombatants; what he’s saying is that there should be special protocols when dealing with “enemy combatants” if they’re American citizens and within reach of law enforcement here in the U.S. His point about Jane Fonda being theoretically targeted is that the definition of “enemy combatant” can be murky and potentially easily abused; to this day, the hard evidence that Awlaki was more than a propagandist and actually an operational leader is classified.
Unlike John McCain’s petty and stupid reaction, Lindsey Graham had some sensible words of criticism for Paul’s larger non-interventionist views of foreign policy. I don’t “stand with Rand” on Iran. But that’s a different issue, and why Graham chose to make that point in this context is a mystery to me.
It seems that, in the warring camps, you have support for Paul from the Code Pinks and the Glenn Greenwalds (DRONES BAD!!!) and opposition from the neocon McCains, Frums, Grahams, WaPo editorial board, and the like (DRONES GOOD!!!). And what neither side can understand is that there is a broad swath of us in between those extremes, who don’t oppose the use of drones in every situation where they target terrorists overseas, but do have concerns about whether a President is going to operate within a predetermined set of legally defined strictures when he claims the right to use them against Americans on American soil.
Lindsey Graham, I don’t trust Obama on this. It’s not good enough for me that he hasn’t done it before. But then, I wouldn’t eat dinner with the guy either. So maybe you and I are just different people.
And indeed, we are. I respect the Constitution, and Graham and McCain do not. They have both been haughtily disrespectful of the Constitution — the First Amendment in particular — when it gets in the way of their pet issues. Graham is the guy who said: “Free speech is a great idea, but we’re in a war.” And McCain is the first name on “McCain/Feingold” — enough said.
Paul may be an anti-drone extremist in his heart, but in making the point he made, he made a very American point about the limits of Constitutional power — a point that resonates with a lot of us outside the Beltway. Career politicians like McCain and Graham ignore our deep respect for the Constitution at their peril.