Rand Paul reveals the wisdom of…George W. Bush

Rand Paul spent nearly 13 hours engaged in a pre-1970s filibuster of the nomination of John Brennan to become CIA Director. His reason was the lack of clarity from the Obama Administration regarding the authority to conduct lethal drone attacks on American citizens on U.S. soil. By the time he finished, he was a Twitter sensation, a hero to civil libertarians, and (most importantly) successful in convincing his fellow Kentuckian (Minority Leader Mitch McConnell) to oppose cloture (making it at least somewhat more likely that Brennan’s nomination won’t come to a vote until Paul’s concerns are addressed). Meanwhile, according to AP via US News and World Report, they may have been addressed already: “The White House says President Barack Obama does not have the authority to use a drone to kill a U.S. citizen on American soil if the citizen is not engaged in combat.”

What struck me in all of this, however, was an irony most have missed in this discussion: Obama’s “War President” predecessor would have been able to alleviate Paul’s concerns in a matter of minutes, and with far greater standing.

Near the end of Andrew Johnson’s live blog post on the filibuster, the reason becomes clear:

Minutes earlier, Paul worried that we’re “going to have the standard that we’re going to kill noncombatants in America,” and asked the president to be clear if that’s his intention for the drone-strike program. He criticized the president for dancing around the issue by pointing to the military’s responsibility to repel invasions, when Paul has said his focus is on noncombatants and not those who have taken up arms.

It was the term “noncombatants” that struck me. President George W. Bush repeatedly made clear that, in his mind, he could do anything he wanted against enemy combatants, but noncombatants were another story. This was in following with traditional executive power during war for centuries (lest we forget, Abraham Lincoln – who killed more American citizens than any American president before or since – never put out a hit on Clement Vallindingham). More to the point, enemy combatants were defined by law, under the Military Commissions Act of 2006. Since Bush signed it himself in October of that year, he was clearly OK with the Act’s definition.

Yet when the Obama Administration came in, it chose not to use the term “enemy combatant” anymore. Instead, it created its own definition for those it could detain (and later, kill without bothering to detain). Now, in practical terms (and in 2009), that seemed a distinction without a difference. Now, however, we see that the Administration’s preference to demilitarize what was once called the War on Terror as much as possible shorned the president’s policies from wartime powers or the aforementioned Act of Congress. Thus, whereas Bush’s authority to kill (including killing American citizens) was limited explicitly by the Military Commissions Act, Obama’s is limited only implicitly by the Constitution (which is far more flexible to the executive branch than many realize) and by his own words.

So, as we consider the very serious question of whom the president can and will kill, let us at least give some respect to the fact that George W. Bush – who believed himself at war – recognized the rules of war, rules whose surprising restrictions may not be noticed until an executive not interested in being at war effectively liberates himself from those rules.

@deejaymcguire | facebook.com/people/Dj-McGuire | DJ’s posts

  • MD Russ

    What an embarrassment to conservatives Rand Paul’s silliness was. The paranoia of the Paulistinians and their cousins in the Tea Party is equaled only by their bombastic rhetoric about the Constitution. The President of the United States must unequivocally state that he will not use drones to kill Americans citizens on American soil who are not combatants against the United States. Really? How about next if we demand that the President state unequivocally that he doesn’t torture little puppies for entertainment or that he doesn’t feast on aborted fetuses?

    The Republican Party is being branded by the crazies in their ranks who are not really Republicans. How ironic it is when the Libertarians and the Tea Partiers call real Republicans “RINOs.” They are the RINOs. Anyone who loses a Republican primary and then runs as a Libertarian (Ron Paul) or as a Constitution Party candidate (Virgil Goode) is a Republican In Name Only. And if the Republican Party wishes to remain a mainstream political party, then they need to eject the loons and the pretenders. There is a significant difference between having a big tent and running an insane asylum.

    • The term RINO has lost meaning and should be retired.

      • MD Russ

        Oh. You mean now that the term RINO is being ricocheted back on the Libertarians and Tea Partiers it has lost its meaning and should be retired? How about BSCWR? Bat Shit Crazy Wannabe Republicans?

        • Nope, that’s not what I mean.

        • Why do you care so deeply about what it means to be a Republican when you aren’t one?

          • MD Russ

            Because if the Republicans ran off the conspiracy theory whack job reactionaries like you, then I might become a Republican again.

          • LOL, it’s not like we liberty folks have been calling the shots in this party. The GOP gave you all the weaselly quisling you demand in a candidate time and time and time again and you still weren’t a Republican. What an insincere faker you are.

    • Thus saith the individual who isn’t even a Republican in name.

      • MD Russ

        How’s the DHS coming along with their tank gunnery training? Are they using the same secret bases where they keep the black helicopters with the UN insignia?

        • You react to the tiniest drop of truth like a vampire to garlic-seasoned holy water.

    • J. Christopher Stearns

      @MD Russ – Can I stay in the party…? 🙁

      • MD Russ


        If you do, then I won’t be rejoining. And that decision is up to neither you nor me.

        • I think at this point it’s fairly conclusive that: a) You are not a Republican; b) you never were a Republican; c) you never will be a Republican; d) you have no intention of ever being a Republican at any point in the future; and e) your sole function here on this blog is sabotage.

          • MD Russ

            Still demonstrating your reading impairment problems, Alexis? As I have written several times on this blog, I was a Reagan Democrat who became a Republican. I became an Independent when the party began to embrace the crazies on the extreme right, like you. And I am far from being alone in that regard. If the GOP continues to nominate and endorse demagogues and conspiracy theorists like Rand Paul, then they will soon fade away. The goal of the liberty platform people is to wrest control of the Republican Party so that you can claim major party status. Guess what? If you ever achieve that goal you will discover that you are still a fringe movement because all the real Republicans will have left. You want to capture the Republican Party, but you are going to have to destroy first to do so.

          • Oh, if only we’d all behave as MD Russ demands, then he would grace us by rejoining the Republican Party!

            I’ve got a better idea. Howabout you STFU and let Republicans decide what the Republican Party is, and take your malicious troublemaking back to whatever foul-smelling latrine you got it from.

            People who have real interest in the well-being of the Republican Party join it and try to reform it. People who have real interest in seeing the Republican Party continue to fail do exactly what you do on this blog.

            Go vote for your Democrats, because that’s the kind of abusive, repulsive, and tyrannical master you deserve.

          • MD Russ

            Now that was logical and unemotional. Just what I expected from a tin foil hat Paulistinian.

          • I’m sorry, I can’t hear you over the sound of me casting a ballot in a race that you are all worked up over but can’t vote in for no reason other than that you don’t walk your talk.

          • MD Russ

            I got to you, Alexis; you lose. You are hereby sentenced to three weeks of anger management counseling.

          • No really, you didn’t. You’re neither intelligent nor witty enough to have any effect on me.

            You’re just a loser who doesn’t matter at all. I do not spare your pride because you have no reason to have any; there’s nothing to be proud of in being a stupid, bloodthirsty, malicious and full-of-shit piece of scum who has never had a thought run through his head that wasn’t drummed into it by propaganda.

            I’m sure I’m only putting voice here to what everyone else has been thinking for a long time but is too polite to say. I’m only polite to people who deserve it, a group which you have decisively demonstrated you are not a worthy member.

          • MD Russ

            I’m going to guess that this means that I am not on your Christmas card list, Rosie.


    • 3 American citizens, including a 16 year old child have been assassinated without trial overseas. Maybe we should have asked ahead of time if the president could
      do that too. Then of course we have the National Defense Authorization
      Act that enables the president, on his own accord, the ability to send
      federal agents to arrest and indefinitely detain United States citizens without due process. Maybe we should have asked about that one in advance too.

      What’s truly unnerving is your LACK of “bombastic rhetoric about the Constitution”. Remember this:
      We believe… That all individuals are entitled to equal rights, justice, and
      opportunities and should assume their responsibilities as citizens in a
      free society… That the Federal Government must preserve individual liberty by observing Constitutional limitations…


      • MD Russ

        American citizens who were actively involved in illegal combatant status against the United States hiding in an al-Quada sanctuary on the Arabian peninsula. Cry me a river. It is a shame that we didn’t have drones during the Viet Nam War when Hanoi Jane Fonda was visiting North VN anti-aircraft sites and wished that American airplanes would fly over head so that she could shoot them down.

        That is a far cry from Paul, Junior’s ridiculous suggestion that the President would use drones to kill Americans on American soil who were not illegal combatants waging war on the United States.

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