Rand Paul's filibuster is being met with all the enthusiasm that the Republican spin machine can throw at a thing. Paul is the latest of the greatest "American" (see only conservatives are real Americans) heroes the Republican party has summoned.
The content of his filibustering need not matter; he stood and spoke—sort of—for 13 hours. America be shamed!
Or not. Because even while he distanced himself form calling President Barack Obama "Hitler," (precisely while he let that innuendo sit), he went to the heart of his argument.
If we allow drone strikes on American citizens, what's to prevent that power from being abused?
His argument is perfect sophistry.
Part of the issue here is that it's on its face it seems quite valid. His bringing up a "future Hitler" type argument seems to suggest that, should one arise, he could use the same technology to wipe out future dissidents.
Of course one wonders, should such a person make it to the White House in future dates, would mere rule of law prevent him from killing dissidents anyway? Is he going to be on the precipice of killing millions of Jews, invading the world and so on, and then look and say, "Oh wait. Eric Holder said I can't do this!?!"
Part of Paul's sophistry here is that it doesn't make a hill of beans worth of difference what Holder thinks to "future Hitler."
For that matter it doesn't make a hill of beans what Eric Holder thinks now. He's not the one setting policy, so the whole blasted argument is moot in terms of whether Holder gets the nomination. Yes, he made the legal argument for the policy, but he's not the one who set the policy.
"But", you might contend, "the drone strike controversy is valid, and this was the best and/or only way to bring it into the public spotlight." The actual policy, regardless of whose it is, needs to be debated.
OK. Let's chase that bunny.
If we're going to talk about worst-case scenarios like Hitler, let's talk about the worst-case scenario where the President is denied the opportunity to ever, under any circumstance, be able to order a drone strike.
Since we're playing with hypotheticals, let's play with this one. Imagine a circumstance where there is an American-born terrorist. Whether they are in the mold of Timothy McVeigh or Anwar al-Aulaqi doesn't matter.
Just imagine that there is such a terrorist on American soil, and they are about to carry out an attack on some place like Los Angeles or Chicago, and that attack will kill thousands of people. The only way to stop them in time is a drone attack.
But just as the President is about to order the strike, he is told "Oh wait, it's an American Mr. President." So the attack goes on and thousands die because the use of drone strikes was ruled out, unequivocally, under any circumstance, ever. Go Rand Paul!
And let's be real here. After all this is the kind of situation Holder was talking about when he said,
The question you have posed is therefore entirely hypothetical, unlikely to occur, and one we hope no President will ever have to confront. It is possible, I suppose, to imagine an extraordinary circumstance in which it would be necessary and appropriate for the President to authorize the military to use lethal force within the territory of the United States.Which worst-case scenario is more realistic? The future-Hitler or the future-terrorist?
This is the problem with simply taking a pool out of the arsenal. The whole controversy is spinning far more out of what Holder said, intended, meant, or implied than anything of actual substance. Of course there might be an "extraordinary circumstance" where there would be a need for a drone strike. And of course, if the need arose, and the drone was the only way to keep thousands of Americans from dying they should be used.
Should there be judicial oversight? Absolutely. But to simply rule out ever, under any circumstance, being able to use a tool which could help to provide the security of the nation out of some irrational, boogey man fear of the government is silly.