Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Talking about People's Rights

By Gary Berg-Cross

The Rand Paul (PR) filibuster was music to some people’s ears, but for many reasons not everyone had that reaction. To some, like The New American the nearly 13-hour filibuster on the Senate floor was a politically organizing milestone and conservative rallying point:

 “a stroke of political genius that still has not yet been fully appreciated….Those who compose the base of the GOP lost much of their morale during George W. Bush’s second term. When the Democrats took back the Congress in 2006 and Barack Obama won the presidency two years later, it all but vanished. Spirits began to stir once more during the midterm elections of 2010, it is true, but since then, they’ve again been reduced to dust and ashes. Anyone who doubts this need only consider that some four million self-identified Republicans refused to vote for Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan back in November.”

Certainly it had political implications. Mitch McConnell, for example, is fundraising off of the Rand Paul filibuster. The National Republican Senatorial Committee launched a #StandWithRand fundraiser for senators who “remained committed to upholding the values and the mandates of the Constitution.” McConnell himself has asked supporters to sign a petition declaring:

 “I stand WITH Rand Paul and Mitch McConnell. They are shining examples of Republican leadership.” 

With comments like this one knows that more than drone policy was on the agenda.  And Paul, PR as one might call him,  doesn’t always make sense as he speaks. At times he can bend and distort quotes from non-libertarians. One famous example is his earlier claim that Elena Kagan had claimed that the government could require citizens to eat broccoli.  Shades of Supreme Courts activists!  The actual record shows clearly that she didn't say this.

So PR’s demagogue potential is there even if he may be on the side of the angels in the drone-war debate.

PR himself followed up his standing words (“I rise today to begin to filibuster John Brennan’s nomination for the CIA. I will speak until I can no longer speak”) with slightly different words in an OpEd in the Post “My filibuster was just the beginning.” Here we may be seeing part that slippery, muddled slope as sound argument gets overtaken by talking points. Part of the article described his ordeal, part listed House conservatives who appearing in the back of the chamber to show their support as part of what Paul perhaps hopes in a more general movement than issues raised by drone attacks. On that issue many of us might agree with him broadly that we need more transparency into and more meaningful oversight of drone strikes.  But what rallied Paul and some conservatives was the issue that these might be against U.S. citizens and even within United States borders. In his filibuster Paul noted: “no American should be killed by a drone on American soil without first being charged with a crime, without first being found to be guilty by a court.”

 In the OpEd Paul said. “I hope my efforts help spur a national debate about the limits of executive power and the scope of every American’s natural right to be free.”

I was struck as were some others with his focus on American citizen rights. What about non-citizen rights as humans?  Where’s the humanity?  Is libertarian philosophy American-centric?

WP Opinions had a series of letter under the title Use of drones requires more than a filibuster. Some of them such as the David A. Drachsler, ACLU board member, who noted more general rights provided for by the Constitution.

‘The Fifth and 14th amendments prohibit the federal and state governments from depriving “any person” of “life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.”

OK, so we should protect foreign tourists, resident aliens, green-card-holding workers or undocumented persons. 

Randy Scope, of Silver Spring, cited the Living Under Drones” report by scholars at Stanford University and New York University. This adds even a larger scope of concern about the drone-enabled killing and wounding of children in Pakistan and elsewhere.  Where’ the compassion?

Bruce P. Heppen, of Potomac, had perhaps the strongest response to Paul’s OpEd:

“I cannot decide which is sadder, that Sen. Rand Paul thinks he has advanced the debate on the use of drones or that The Post chose to run his vapid commentary. “


Stand with Rand:

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