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By Mr. Curmudgeon:
“All politics is local,” goes the often-heard bromide. And nothing quite hits home like the Obama administration’s claimed authority to end American lives with a simple Presidential order. It is that supposed power that had Kentucky’s Sen. Rand Paul talking … and talking. “It [the U.S. government] simply doesn’t have that right,” said Paul during his Senate filibuster, which lasted nearly 13-hours. The filibuster’s stated purpose was to block President Obama’s appointment of John Brennan to head the Central Intelligence Agency. But Paul used his opposition to the Brennan nomination to protest the Administration’s contention that it can end American lives without due process. “No president has the right to say he is judge, jury and executioner,” said Paul.
At issue was a letter penned by Attorney General Eric Holder to Sen. Paul dated March 4. Expanding on a Justice Department legal analysis saying the President or members of his Administration had legal authority to order the death of Americans abroad who are suspected to have terrorist affiliations, Holder suggested such actions are legal on American soil as well. “It is possible, I suppose,” wrote Holder, “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.”
Holder’s jaw-dropping statement gained Paul friends in the unlikeliest of places. Amy Davidson at the liberal New Yorker magazine wrote, “The worst single phrase in that passage is ‘I suppose,’ with its note of dismissiveness, of lax reasoning, of disinterest in civil-liberties debates—as if ‘Constitutional Complications’ was just the name of a board game for eccentrics. Treating this as a silly question now only leaves it open for later. This is a letter one can too easily imagine being quoted by another Administration years or decades from now, maybe as an act of bad will or maybe just in a frantic moment.”
The Daily Show’s John Stewart said Paul was “using the filibuster the way it’s meant to be used,” while Oregon’s Democratic Sen. Jeff Merkley Tweeted, “Good for Sen. Paul – a talking filibuster to fight for an important ideal – unlike [Mitch] McConnell’s partisan silent filibusters designed to paralyze.”
After almost 13 hours, Paul offered his final words: “I thank you very much for the forbearance, and I yield the floor.” Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.), a Paul and Tea Party ally, took to the podium and read a passage from Shakespeare’s play Henry V, which expresses the determination and solidarity of the Tea Party in fighting the growth of Washington’s unlawful power, “…We few, we happy few, we band of brothers …”
That sentiment, and the support given Paul’s principled protest against unrestrained government power, proves the Tea Party’s battle to preserve individual liberty crosses party lines, unburdened by pointless ideological divisions.
A 2010 New York Sun profile of Paul noted, “Dr. Paul comprehends that the Bill of Rights is largely a prohibition on the government. When one listens to him talk, one gets the sense that he comprehends that the Founders of America feared that the biggest threat to our rights was from our own government … By our lights the blitheness with which so many are prepared to breeze past the plain language of the Constitution, and past such bedrock as the idea of enumerated powers, is breathtaking. That Rand Paul has the grit to challenge all this is, we’d like to think, connected to his popularity.”
It is a small step for a government that threatens the economic future of Americans through its reckless spending – all outside the scope of its enumerated, constitutional authority – to assume it can also sweep aside, with deadly effect, its burden to prove accusations made against American citizens, on American soil, “beyond a reasonable doubt.”
Past Supreme Courts allowed the expansion of government power under a broad interpretation of the Constitution’s General Welfare Clause. Attorney General Eric Holder believes President Obama may kill Americans without benefit of trial should he deem it in the interest of the state’s general welfare.
Politics aside, it is to the general welfare of all Americans, no matter their ideological leanings, to join with the Tea Party in restoring constitutional restraint on government. Only then will America be, as George Washington once said, a land where every American “shall sit in safety under his own vine and fig tree and there shall be none to make him afraid.”