What Rand Paul Got Right
I hope I'm not too late to the fight.
Recently, freshman Senator Rand Paul (R-Ky.) held an old-fashioned filibuster against the nomination of
In other words, if an American member of al-Qaeda is sitting at a
That response gave Paul the opening he needed for his filibuster: "When the president responds that 'I haven't killed any Americans yet at home and that I don't intend to do so, but I might,' it's incredibly alarming and really goes against his oath of office."
But here's the interesting part. A Democratic president, who made his bones as a holier-than-thou antiwar candidate, clings to his constitutional right to rain death from the sky on American citizens drinking Frappuccinos, and conservatives attack the Republican senator who complains about it.
While I agree with much of the substance of Paul's critics, I'm at a loss as to understand all the outrage over what most critics think was a waste of time.
As a constitutional matter, it's true that when America is officially at war, the president, as commander in chief, can kill the enemy where he finds them. If during World War II Nazi soldiers landed in
Holder sent Paul a second letter that said the president did not have the authority to off an American on U.S. soil who was "not engaged in combat." This mollified Paul for now, but for some it conjures the image of a loudspeaker on a drone announcing seconds before impact: "You in the Members Only jacket, this is formal notification you are an enemy combatant. Prepare to die."
That's because many Americans recoil at death-by-drone. There's something creepily dystopian about this antiseptic way of war. I doubt we'd be having the same argument about whether a National Guardsman or an FBI agent could shoot an al-Qaeda operative on sight.
But the novel nature of drones does underscore an important point: The war on terror is not World War II, and al-Qaeda isn't a uniformed enemy. And therefore it doesn't seem unreasonable to want to update our laws to take that into account. More important, in a confusing new kind of conflict, a reminder of our core principles -- our American dogma -- strikes me as a good thing.
Unfortunately, the dogma that dogma is a bad thing is an old fad in America.
I believe a fundamental, dogmatic faith in the Constitution is a good thing. A dogmatic view that the president isn't a king but a servant of the people is a good thing. A dogmatic insistence that the president give a member of
"Dogmas are not dark and mysterious,"
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What Rand Paul Got Right | Politics
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