An actual old-fashioned filibuster brings drones to the forefront

Published on NewsOK Modified: March 8, 2013 at 10:59 am •  Published: March 8, 2013
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The following editorial appeared in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch on Friday, March 8:

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The 13-hour filibuster in the U.S. Senate carried on between noon Wednesday and early Thursday morning by Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., has so many fascinating angles to it, it’s hard to know where to start.

There’s the fact that it was one of the few actual standing filibusters these days, and one of the longest in history. Mr. Paul openly stated his reasons for blocking a vote and talked as long as he could in service of his mission.

There’s the fact that while Mr. Paul was wrongly standing in the way of President Barack Obama’s choice to lead the CIA, John Brennan, the reason he chose — seeking more information about the president’s rationale for using drones on American citizens — was a worthy one.

There’s the fact that when it comes to that issue — an American’s constitutional right to due process, as guaranteed in the Fifth and 14th amendments — those on the left and right of the political spectrum are in agreement. Mr. Paul, who is more libertarian than he is Republican (by today’s standards anyway), is far to the right on most issues. But here’s New Yorker writer Ryan Lizza, a favorite among liberals, following the filibuster last night on Twitter: “Shameful that no Dems but (Oregon’s Ron) Wyden have joined this. I mean some things are just not partisan.”

Case in point: We have been trying to draw attention to the drone issue since October 2011, when we wrote: “But the Constitution grants rights to U.S. citizens, no matter how hateful and loathsome their beliefs, that it doesn’t afford to citizens of other nations. It makes no exception for citizens who take up arms against their country. Traitors can be hanged, but not summarily.”

There’s the fact that after the filibuster failed, as it inevitably had to, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., went to the Senate floor to harangue his colleague and anybody who supported him, saying: “I don’t think what happened yesterday is helpful to the American people.” Presumably Mr. McCain believes his increasingly frequent, but shorter, harangues are helpful.

With all due respect to the one-time maverick, he’s just dead wrong. Mr. Paul’s filibuster was helpful for two reasons.

The most important one is that Americans, some of them anyway, turned their attention away from all the sequester spin cycle long enough to discover that Attorney General Eric Holder wrote a letter Monday suggesting that, hypothetically, if the president knew that another Sept. 11 or Pearl Harbor was about to be carried out by an American on U.S. soil, that he might have the constitutional authority to shoot a Hellfire missile into that American’s car for the purpose of saving thousands of lives.