Wednesday, March 06, 2013

Rand Paul’s filibuster against assassination


Rand Paul conducts filibuster in opposition to John Brennan, Obama’s drone policy
By Ed O’Keefe and Aaron Blake | Washington Post | March 6, 2013 

http://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/rand-paul-conducts-filibuster-in-opposition-to-john-brennan-obamas-drone-policy/2013/03/06/1367b1b4-868c-11e2-9d71-f0feafdd1394_story.html?hpid=z3

One of the oldest and most storied traditions of the Senate made a sudden return to Capitol Hill on Wednesday when a junior senator seized control of the chamber with an hours-long ?filibuster involving rambling speeches aimed at blocking a vote on President Obama’s choice to lead the CIA.

Led by Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) with help from other junior senators, the filibuster was aimed at drawing attention to deep concern on both sides of the aisle about the administration’s use of unmanned aerial drones in its fight against terrorists and whether the government would ever use them in the United States.

Shortly before noon, Paul — the scion of a political family at the heart of the libertarian movement — came to the Senate floor and declared his opposition to the nomination of John O. Brennan, Obama’s choice to lead the spy agency, who has overseen the drone program.

“I will speak until I can no longer speak,” Paul said as he began. “I will speak as long as it takes, until the alarm is sounded from coast to coast that our Constitution is important, that your rights to trial by jury are precious, that 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.”

...Adding bipartisan credibility to the effort, Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) — the most outspoken liberal antagonist of the CIA — praised Paul for pushing Brennan to clarify whether the CIA could ever target Americans on U.S. soil.

“When I asked the president, ‘Can you kill an American on American soil?’ it should have been an easy answer. It’s an easy question. It should have been a resounding, an unequivocal, ‘No,’ ” Paul said. “The president’s response? He hasn’t killed anyone yet. We’re supposed to be comforted by that.”

“I would be here if it were a Republican president doing this,” Paul added. “Really, the great irony of this is that President Obama’s opinion on this is an extension of George Bush’s opinion.” (End quote; emphasis supplied)

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Rand Paul Does Not Go Quietly Into the Night
By Ashley Parker | New York Times | March 6, 2013

http://thecaucus.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/03/06/rand-paul-does-not-go-quietly-into-the-night/?hp

10:28 p.m. | Updated WASHINGTON — A small group of Republicans, led by Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky, stalled the Senate on Wednesday by waging a nine-hours-and-counting, old-school, speak-until-you-can-speak-no-more filibuster over the government’s use of lethal drone strikes — forcing the Senate to delay the expected confirmation of John O. Brennan to lead the Central Intelligence Agency.

Mr. Paul, who opposes Mr. Brennan’s nomination, followed through on his plan to filibuster the confirmation of President Obama’s nominee after receiving a letter this month from Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. that refused to rule out the use of drone strikes within the United States in “extraordinary circumstances” like the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

On Wednesday, Mr. Paul did exactly as promised, taking to the Senate floor shortly before noon and holding forth. Now moving toward its 10th hour, Mr. Paul and his comrades on the Senate floor show no signs of wear.

Ostensibly, Mr. Paul is objecting to the Mr. Brennan’s nomination. But in fact, Mr. Paul’s main concerns are those of civil liberties and Constitutional rights he says are under attack by the administration’s potential use of unmanned drone strikes on American citizens on United States soil. (Mr. Brennan, who as the White House counterterrorism adviser was the chief architect of the largely clandestine drone program, served as a good proxy.)

“What will be the standard for how we kill Americans in America?” Mr. Paul asked at one point. “Could political dissent be part of the standard for drone strikes?”

Referring to Jane Fonda, who went to North Vietnam during the war there to publicly denounce the United States’ presence in the country, Mr. Paul added: “I’m not a great fan of Jane Fonda. But I’m not so interested in putting her on a drone kill list.”

As Mr. Paul’s filibuster dragged on, it began to resemble a Shakespearean drama, complete with cameos from other A-list actors (a group of more than half a dozen senators who periodically joined him on the floor); a title all its own (the “filiblizzard,” a nickname courtesy of Twitter users); and some willing extras (eager Senate pages, purposefully striding across the stage to deliver Mr. Paul fresh glasses of water).

Although Mr. Paul did not yield the floor — a move that would effectively end his talkathon — he did, with some apparent relief, yield to take questions from his Republican colleagues. (Mr. Paul could not leave the floor to use the bathroom, making his filibuster at a certain point seem less a standoff between Mr. Paul and the administration than a battle between Mr. Paul and his own bladder.)

Senator Ted Cruz, Republican of Texas, began his question by making the obvious allusion, referring to Mr. Paul as a “modern-day ‘Mr. Smith Goes to Washington,’ ” joking that his effort would “surely be making Jimmy Stewart smile.”

And, perhaps befitting of another public — but hopeless — stand, Mr. Cruz took the opportunity to remind the chamber that Wednesday was the anniversary of the fall of the Alamo, noting with some pride that Mr. Paul “is originally from the great state of Texas.”

Mr. Cruz then proceeded to read from a letter by William Barrett Travis, a lieutenant colonel in the Texas Army who died at the Alamo, concluding, “Does that glorious letter give you any encouragement and sustenance on this 177th anniversary of the Alamo?”

Apparently it did. Mr. Paul soldiered ahead, before again receiving some help, from an unlikely source — Senator Ron Wyden, Democrat of Oregon.

Mr. Wyden said that while he had voted in favor of Mr. Brennan’s nomination on Tuesday at a Senate Intelligence Committee meeting and planned to vote for him again on the Senate floor, he believed that Mr. Paul “has made a number of important points” about the administration’s lethal drone program.

“I think Senator Paul and I agree that this nomination also provides a very important opportunity for the United States Senate to consider the government’s rules and policies on the targeted killings of Americans and that, of course, has been a central pillar of our nation’s counterterror strategy,” Mr. Wyden said.

He added, “The executive branch should not be allowed to conduct such a serious and far-reaching program by themselves without any scrutiny, because that’s not how American democracy works.”

Up next was Senator Marco Rubio, Republican of Florida, entering stage right, complete with a water joke — a reference to his State of the Union response, in which a video of a parched Mr. Rubio chugging water quickly went viral.

“You’ve been here for a while, so let me give you some advice,” Mr. Rubio said. “Keep some water nearby. Trust me.”

Other members who made cameos throughout the day — and night — included the Republican Senators John Barrasso of Wyoming; Saxby Chambliss of Georgia; John Cornyn of Texas; Mark Steven Kirk of Illinois; Mike Lee of Utah; and Jerry Moran of Kansas.

As the filibuster continued into the evening, Mr. Paul moved from speaking extemporaneously to relying more on two thick black binders of notes, heavily referencing and reading from articles in publications ranging from The Washington Post to The Wall Street Journal to Wired magazine.

At one point, Mr. Paul began eating “dinner” — a mystery candy bar — and continued his filibuster between mouthfuls of chocolate.

A bit later, Mr. Kirk, who walks with considerable effort after a stroke in 2012, slowly made his way onto the floor with the help of a walker. He placed a green thermos of tea and an apple on the desk of Mr. Paul, gestured to it, and saluted his colleague before talking a seat to watch some of the proceeding.

In the filibuster’s seventh hour, it looked as if a compromise might be reached. Senator Richard J. Durbin, Democrat of Illinois and the No. 2 leader in the Senate, and some of his aides came to the floor, seeming ready to help wrap things up. Mr. Paul said he would agree to stop his nonstop talking if his colleagues would unanimously consent to a nonbinding vote on a resolution saying it is unconstitutional to kill an American on United States soil — a move to which Mr. Durbin objected. Mr. Durbin offered instead to hold a hearing on drone strikes, which Mr. Paul brushed aside.

And so, on it went.

Mr. Cruz then made a brief return for a second act of sorts, to read from a list of Twitter messages about Mr. Paul’s stand that he had culled. Though electronic devices are not allowed on the Senate floor, Mr. Cruz informed his friend that Twitter was “blowing up” over the day’s events.

“I was getting kind of tired,” Mr. Paul said, thanking Mr. Cruz for “cheering me up.”Mr. Paul again said his true goal was simply to get a response from the administration saying it would not use drone strikes to take out American citizens on United States soil — and, perhaps with Twitter still in the forefront of his mind, offered Mr. Holder a variety of ways to respond.

“We’ll take a telegram,” Mr. Paul said. “We’ll take a Tweet.”

MICHAEL HOFFMAN'S AFTERWORD:

Note that New York Times blogger Ashley Parker dare not use the word “assassination.” This truthful description is policed out of the discourse, in favor of euphemisms such as “drone strikes.” The fact that “our” government assassinates its own citizens cannot be forthrightly reported in the Orwellian corporate media.
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