A president has to trust the common sense of the American people. On the small stuff the people, wanting to have faith in the president, will give him wide berth. (Let him flit around on Air Force One while shutting down White House tours.) On the middle stuff he can fool most of the people enough of the time. (Of course he will address spending just as soon as he gets the fat cats to pay their fair share in taxes.) But on the big stuff he can't believe that, as Jack Nicholson's Col Jessup yells in A Few Good Men, "You can't handle the truth." Rand Paul believes that we can.
The conflict between national security and individual liberty in a post-911 world is complicated. People of good will on the left and on the right will disagree on much, but the zealots of Code Pink agree with the zealots of the libertarian movement that we need to discuss the limits of government power. John McCain (R-AZ) and Lindsay Graham (R-SC) don't want the discussion; Ron Wyden (D-OR), Ted Cruz (R-TX), and Mike Lee (R-UT) do.
Unfortunately, Barack Obama is with McCain - perhaps because he is tangled up ideologically; perhaps because he enjoys having few limits on his power; perhaps because he doesn't think in terms of how the Constitution set up the government in the first place. Twelve years after the attacks in New York and Washington, we have:
- A president who led the criticism of his predecessor's use of "enhanced interrogation technques" refusing to share with the Senate Intelligence Committee the legal rationale supporting the killing of Americans;
- An administration which insists on calling the murder of 13 people at Fort Hood by Major Hassan an "act of workplace violence";
- An administration which is told that it cannot close the detention facility at Guantanamo, and doesn't seem to understand (or accept) the difference between civilian and military judicial systems;
- A security establishment which continues to blur the distinction between the role of the CIA and the role of the military in fighting foreign wars;
- A Nobel Peace Prize winning president who maintains a central personal role in deciding what targets to approve for drone strikes, without a public discussion of criteria or any judicial review;
- The establishment of a cybersecurity mission at the Pentagon with vast powers to monitor civilian travel, purchasing, reading, and assembly patterns with hardly a peep from the folks who went ballistic about Dick Cheney's purported interest in library records.
- The New York Times finally reporting on the killing of not only American-born Al Queda leader Anwar al Awlaki, but also his 16 year old son and another American whose offense was purely in the propaganda realm.
Out on the right are the conspiracy theorists who are still incited by the government's ham-handed assaults on a white separatist family at Ruby Ridge, Idaho in 1992 and the Branch Davidian compound in Waco in 1993, and the Second Amendment advocates who see a need for militias to protect ourselves from King George III. That thread is not healthy for democracy, but it is fed by Obama's leftist policies and his refusal to acknowledge any limits on government power.
Eric Holder's answer to the question before Paul's filibuster - does the president have the authority to kill Americans on American soil without due process and in the absence of an imminent threat?: "It is possible, I suppose, to imagine an extraordinary circumstance in which it would be necessary and appropriate under the Constitution and applicable laws of the United States for the President to authorize the military to use lethal force within the territory of the United States." And after the filibuster, a petulant Holder wrote "The answer to that question is no."
A small victory for liberty. Thank you Senator Paul.