Friday, March 8, 2013

March 8, 2013

Rand Paul's Republican Critics
by John Hayward
March 7, 2013

At a moment of soaring energy for the Republican Party… after a performance that drew support from not only up-and-coming young GOP stars but also Democrat Ron Wyden and no small number of liberal pundits concerned about civil liberties… with President Obama rocked back on his heels from his second messaging debacle in as many weeks, following the Sequestration Terror… can Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) expect some of his worst criticism to come from fellow Republicans?

You betcha!

First up: Senator Lindsey Graham, who appears near the end of this clip to declare, “The drone program as utilized overseas has made us safer…  This idea that we’re going to use a drone to attack American citizens in a cafe in America is ridiculous, and I think the American people need to understand the threat we face.”

The benefits of the drone program overseas are not the topic of conversation, and have absolutely nothing to do with the propriety of using such weapons against American citizens without due process.  There are lots of other weapons keeping us safe overseas that shouldn’t be dropped on American citizens without a trial, either.  It’s an almost bizarre non sequitur for Graham (and as you’ll see in a moment, John McCain) to hammer that point.  Do they worry that we’re going to hurt the drones’ feelings by questioning their cybernetic patriotism, so they have to step up and defend the service records of the robots?  Do they think it’s somehow logistically impossible to re-deploy unmanned aerial vehicles from the Middle East to the United States, or build new ones to deploy here?

As for the hypothetical Hellfire missile slamming into a Starbucks, well, sure, that sounds pretty outrageous.  So why won’t the Administration simply say that it cannot every happen, and would be illegal?  That would have saved Senator Paul a lot of trouble.

Graham also accused Paul’s supporters of political hypocrisy.  ”To my Republican colleagues, I don’t remember any of you coming down here suggesting that President Bush was going to kill anybody with a drone.”  So… that disqualifies all Republicans from ever raising the issue?  Including those who were not in Congress when George Bush was President?

Then Graham held up a sign showing the count of Americans killed by al-Qaeda versus those killed by drones, 2,958 to zero.  So if the drones kill less than 2,957 people it’s cool?  Or is he saying we shouldn’t discuss this at all, until the first coffee shop gets wiped out by a Predator?

Here’s McCain lighting into Paul in the most patronizing and insulting terms: “Calm down, Senator, Mr. Holder is right, even if he doesn’t explain the law very well.”  There’s a great sound bite coming from a Republican!  Do you suppose we should perhaps consider insisting upon having an Attorney General who can explain the law very well, Senator McCain?

I can offer Senator McCain a tip of the cap for his witticisms about Jane Fonda, but a lot of what he’s saying here is missing the point.  How did Hanoi Jane get mixed up in all this?  It’s because of a column from Kevin Williamson of National Review, which was quoted by Senator Paul during his filibuster.  Williamson was talking about the role of Anwar al-Awlaki as “first and foremost an al-Qaeda propagandist,” rather than an operational planner directly involved in designing and executing terrorist attacks:
If sympathizing with our enemies and propagandizing on their behalf is the equivalent of making war on the country, then the Johnson and Nixon administrations should have bombed every elite college campus in the country during the 1960s. And as satisfying as putting Jane Fonda on a kill list might have been, I do not think that our understanding of the law of war would encourage such a thing, even though she did give priceless aid to the Communist aggressors in Vietnam. Students in Ann Arbor, Mich., were actively and openly raising funds for the Viet Cong throughout the war. Would it have been proper to put them on kill lists? I do not think that it would. There is a difference between sympathizing with our enemies and taking up arms against the country; there is even a difference between actively aiding our enemies and taking up arms against the country, which is why we have treason trials rather than summary execution.
Or, to use another example I’ve seen kicked around the Internet: if drones had been available in the Sixties, would it have been OK to use one against Obama’s mentor, domestic terrorist Bill Ayers?  Does the answer change depending on whether the kill list would have been drawn up by the sainted JFK or the demonic Richard Nixon?

Nothing about McCain’s answer suggests he has pondered the questions Williamson asked at any great length, or done Rand Paul the courtesy of acknowledging that he wants a firm answer of “no” to the question, “Can we send a Predator to take out Jane Fonda while she’s sipping a latte in Beverly Hills, without first affording her due process?”

McCain accused Paul of stoking needless fear among the dorm-room libertarian set, a charge echoed by Rep. Mike Rogers (R-MI), who chairs the House Intelligence Committee, who said Paul’s line of questioning “provokes needless fear and detracts attention from the real threats facing the country.”
So, while the old GOP bulls were busy trying to pull defeat from the fires of victory, Rand Paul got that victory.  Just a few minutes before this post was written, CNN reported that Attorney General Holder sent a new letter to Paul in the wake of his filibuster: 
“It has come to my attention,” the letter states “That you have now asked an additional question: ‘Does the President have the authority to use a weaponized drone to kill an American not engaged in combat on American soil?’ The answer to that question is no.” 
Paul said he was satisfied with the response. 
“I’m quite happy with the answer,” the senator from Kentucky said on CNN. “I’m disappointed it took a month and a half and a root canal to get it, but we did get the answer.”

No thanks to Lindsey Graham and John McCain, who are evidently very nervous about these trips to the political dentist.

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Rand Paul Shifts Political Orbit
by Jonathon Moseley
March 8, 2013

The political world changed its orbit Wednesday as Rand Paul seized the spotlight in his March 6 filibuster. Rand Paul -- not this author's favorite before -- is probably now the 2016 front-runner for president. But the difference results from fundamental changes in substance.

How can one day be that big of a deal? Because Rand Paul demonstrated a reproducible, winning formula. It was as if Ronald Reagan were granted just one day to come back to Earth to remind the Party of Lincoln of "how it's done." Rand demonstrated a repeatable formula that all Republicans can copy. It is the template that is significant.

But was March 6 "Republicans' Last Stand" or "Rand's First Stand?" What is most optimistic as the basis for this analysis is that Republican senators started showing up. The Senate floor was more crowded at 10:00 and 11:00 PM than it was at 6:00 PM. They felt it. They saw it. They "got" it. (Excepting one superannuated senator from Arizona.) It clicked. In other words, Republicans might possibly do more of same. If Rand disappears back into the woodwork, then March 6 will have meant nothing.

Freshman Texas U.S. Senator Ted Cruz "got it." Cruz was all over it. Cruz gave voice to the moment best of all. Cruz threatened to go way over the top, reading from the movie "Patton" and Henry the Fifth's St. Crispin's Day speech on the eve of the Battle of Agincourt. Yet somehow, flirting with serious rhetorical dangers, Cruz captured the moment just right. Like a roller coaster, you gripped the car fearing Cruz was going to fly off into mid-air, yet to our great surprise Cruz hit his mark. He grasped the significance, to put it mildly. Cruz praised the raw bravery of "We few, we happy few, we band of brothers" rather than those who die a thousand deaths in the thicket of their own worried thoughts.

Rand Paul unveiled a conservative answer to the Left's Saul Alinsky tactics:
  • Rand Paul shoved Obama's agenda off the public stage. Just getting the political world talking about Republicans' message instead of Obama's means Republicans are winning and Obama is losing.
  • Rand picked his issue very carefully. He chose the hill he wanted his opponent to die on. Rand showed what happens when you wisely pick the right issue to defeat your opponent with.
  • Yet Rand's issue seamlessly fit within his larger philosophy. He didn't just take a cheap shot. Rand chose an example that proves his larger point. As a caller to the Chris Plante show on Washington's WMAL said, "the biggest minority in America is the individual." Rand's filibuster fit within Rand's overall defense of individual liberty. The specific point created an effective argument supporting his larger theme.
  • Rand advanced his strategic goal. The entire filibuster episode portrayed a radically different image of Barack Obama. Even among low information voters, Obama's public image just took a serious hit. Instead of being the cool guy who loves you, Obama is now the tyrant who reserves the right to kill you any time he feels like it. On an emotional level, Rand Paul undid in one day years of spin about Obama.
  • Rand had a sense of the role of theatrical drama. Conservatives are rightly wary of selling an invalid argument. But even to promote the truth, one must understand that humans are emotional beings. Communicating a message in a crowded, busy world requires a feel for the dramatic.
  • So Rand did this in a way difficult for the news media to ignore. In politics, if a tree falls in the forest and the news media doesn't report it, it never happened.
  • Rand then hammered the issue perfectly. Who can defend U.S. Government drones assassinating American citizens inside America if they are not engaged in any violence? The issue is a blinding searchlight leaving the critters nowhere to hide. You can't say it doesn't matter. And there's no defense.
  • Rand focused like a laser beam, anticipating the misrepresentation and caricatures he knew would be attempted. He repeatedly emphasized, probably a dozen times an hour, how modest his request was. He understood how his actions would be lied about, and cut the scoundrels off at the pass. He repeated what he wasn't demanding, what he wasn't arguing. He emphasized how he had voted for Obama's other nominees.
  • Rand wasn't careless. His argument withstood scrutiny. And it got scrutiny. Yet he had a solid argument. Democrat Senator Dick Durbin asked about killing Osama Bin Laden. But Seal Team 6 was trying to arrest Bin Laden. It was Bin Laden's violence in resisting arrest that got him killed. Rand repeatedly emphasized that inside the USA the government should arrest people and question them, not assassinate them.
  • Rand was nimble. He admitted that he hadn't planned the filibuster. But when the Obama Administration repeatedly confirmed that they believe the president has the authority to murder U.S. citizens inside the USA when they are not actively attacking anyone, Rand saw an opening and pounced. But he had the wisdom to know if it was a good opportunity or not.
  • Rand Paul had guts.
Yet the GOP will be lost if it does not learn the lesson and follow Rand Paul's brilliant "teachable moment" example. Winston Churchill quipped: "Man will occasionally stumble over the truth, but most of the time he will pick himself up and continue on." We will see how thick-headed Republicans are if they miss the point.

On the same day that Rand Paul showed us how it's done, Republicans in the U.S. House impersonated overboiled cauliflower and caved in to Obama's massive overspending. The U.S. House skipped the chance to slow out-of-control spending. The Republican House passed a Continuing Resolution at the same $3.6 trillion level -- $700 billion per year higher than Federal spending in 2008. Republicans could have passed a Continuing Resolution at a lower level, especially while objecting that the U.S. Senate has not passed any budget.

This author has often criticized Ron Paul on some issues. When Papa Paul is right, he's right, when he's not, he's not. So Senator Rand Paul really had to earn my favorable opinion. But on March 6 he surely did. Count one very impressed convert here.

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