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Sens. Rand Paul, Ted Cruz, Mike Lee, and Jerry Moran filibuster on March 6, 2013.
You can't blame Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) for trying to convert his filibuster into a fundraising opportunity, but as David Corn flags, Paul's new fundraising pitch is based on a false accounting of what happened. The key portion of his letter to "Dear Patriot" begins:
I had been trying for more than a week to get a straight answer on whether or not the Obama administration believed it had the authority to use drones to target and kill American citizens on American soil – without due process.

And after receiving a letter from Attorney General Eric Holder claiming they DO have that authority, I could no longer sit silently at my desk in the U.S. Senate.

So I stood for thirteen-straight hours to send a message to the Obama administration, I will do everything in my power to fight their attempts to ignore the Constitution!

The letter in which Paul asked his question is here and Holder's response is here. Holder did effectively say yes, but only in the context of preventing an imminent attack such as the bombing of Pearl Harbor or 9/11.

But while Rand Paul claims in his letter to have been horrified by that answer, yesterday on Fox News, Paul actually took Holder's position. "I've never argued that the president doesn't have the right to make immediate decisions to protect our country from attack when it's an imminent attack like that [that being 9/11], F-16s were scrambling, I have no opposition to that." That's exactly Holder's position, but despite agreeing with it on Fox, in his fundraising letter, Paul said he could "no longer sit silently" after hearing it.

To be fair to Paul, the mere fact that a fundraising letter misrepresented the reason for his filibuster doesn't necessarily mean the filibuster was pointless self-aggrandizement. But as I argue below the fold, I do believe that by deciding to focus his filibuster on the question of whether the president has the right to order a death robot strike against a noncombatant citizen on U.S. soil turned it into a political circus instead of a serious effort to address questions about domestic drone usage.

Unlike in his letter, Paul told Fox viewers that while he agreed with the answer Holder had given him, he had launched his filibuster because Holder was refusing to answer the question that he was asking. "Attorney General Holder answered a question we weren't asking," Paul said. "We're talking about targeted strikes against individuals. We're talking about John Smith who's eating in a cafe in Seattle who also happens to be emailing a cousin of his who lives in the Middle East."

It would be very disturbing indeed if the administration were unwilling to say it didn't have the authority to kill people in coffee shops. But that's not the question that Paul originally posed: "Do you believe that the President has the power to authorize lethal force, such as a drone strike, against a U.S. citizen on U.S. soil, and without trial?"

Despite Paul's claim to the contrary, nothing in that question limits its scope to noncombatants. But, as it turns out, shortly before Paul began his filibuster, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) had asked Holder the question Paul claimed to be interested in, and after a painful back and forth, Holder said he believed it would be unconstitutional for the president to order a lethal attack on a noncombatant on U.S. soil.

Initially, Holder said he believed such an attack would be "inappropriate," but when pressed by Cruz to specifically take a position on constitutionality, he said that he believed it would not be constitutional. Cruz—speaking before Paul launched his filibuster—highlighted Holder's answer:

“After much gymnastics, I am glad to hear that it is the opinion of the Department of Justice that it would be unconstitutional to kill a US citizen on US soil if that individual did not post an imminent threat,” Cruz said. “That statement has not been easily forthcoming.”
But even though Paul agreed with Holder's answer to the question he originally asked, and even though Holder had already answered the question that he hadn't asked, Paul took to the Senate floor to demand the answer that had already been given all over again. Nonetheless, in his fundraising letter, Paul declared victory:
Just hours ago, I received a letter from Attorney General Holder declaring the President DOES NOT have the authority to use drones to kill Americans on U.S. soil.
Indeed he did receive a letter, but what it said was more nuanced than that.
It has come to my attention that you have now asked an additional question: "Does the President have the authority to use a weaponized drone to kill an American not engaged in combat on American soil?" The answer to that question is no.
Obviously, the four key words there are "not engaged in combat." Take those four words out, and Holder's answer turns into a limited yes, a position that Rand Paul agrees with and claims to have "never argued" against.

At least so far, Rand Paul has managed to turn his filibuster into quite the success, but by focusing it so narrowly on a question that had already been answered—and by agreeing with the the administration's position on the question that he claimed to have been initially troubled by—Paul's filibuster seems to have been more about advancing his political career than actually addressing any of the serious questions about drone policy.

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Comment Preferences

  •  CALLED IT! Just like I stated in my diary (9+ / 0-)

    Funny Stuff at http://www.funnyordie.com/oresmas

    by poopdogcomedy on Fri Mar 08, 2013 at 05:04:25 PM PST

  •  almost like he didn't mean any of it (6+ / 0-)

    and that it was a pure PR stunt.

    who'd have thunk it?

    •  Many of us were screaming this on Wedneday (11+ / 0-)

      But many kossacks were wooed. Now many should have egg on their faces, cuz the guy is NOt even against drones.

      "What the cynics fail to understand is that the ground has shifted beneath them." -- Pres. Obama (1/20/2009)

      by zizi on Fri Mar 08, 2013 at 05:41:48 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Amateur hour at the White House with Axelrod gone (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Moravan, Jeff Y

        This is Obama's fault. To allow Rand Paul (of all people) to outflank him was lazy and stupid.

        The administration should not have even dignified Rand Paul's letter/question with a response. It was then and remains now a ludicrous question: "will Obama promise not to kill Americans on Main Street?" If he sent asked "will Obama promise not to ban immunizations and vaccinations?" or "will Obama promise not to shut down every movie theater in the country" would they have had Holder respond too?

        I would have sent Paul's letter back with a sticky note attached reading "Are you serious? Grow up kid" written on it, which is the equivalent of the look Hillary gave him during his last bit of grandstanding:

        hillary vs rand paul

        That's how you respond to nonsense. He failed then because Hillary didn't even give him the time of day, which is exactly what the White House didn't do the minute they let Holder answer him.

        The question was bait and the Obama Administration took it. Five years I in, I don't know why they're still trying to negotiate with terrorists or reason crackpot Ayn Randian psuedo-libertarian Teabagger conspiracy theorists.

      •  i'm not either to tell you the truth (0+ / 0-)

        dones are tools. its how they are used that is at issue.

        and I have been here long enough to remember that a lot of people on DKOS had a problem with W NOT using them before 9/11 despite the urging of Richard Clarke and the outgoing Clinton people. it was one of the things about W that made it so clear he was ignoring terrorism before 9/11, and was intent on using it for other ends after.

        people here forget what a tight rope Obama is walking on national security. after all we have seen since he took office, is there any doubt that the GOP would have impeached him if we got hit again on his watch and it came out that he was not aggressively hitting terror targets (with drones or other means). and people like Rand Paul would have been leading the  charge. yes its an issue that should be discussed, but Obama, HRC, Rand Paul, and Bernie Sanders would all be doing the exact same thing if they were Commander in Chief.

        what is really telling now is that the GOP's desire to oppose anything Obama does has come so far that they are now trying to attack him for being too aggressive on Foreign Policy. that alone should be enough to tell us they don't mean a word of what they say. i don't know why we'd buy into their BS.

    •  THIS (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Moravan

      Rand Paul is a phony.  His isolationism is extreme and is bullshit.  How dare he question Obama.

      Only Democrats should be allowed to be pro-peace.

    •  Some of us thunked it (0+ / 0-)
  •  Mitch McConnell used another version of this... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Egalitare

    ... during his leg of the filibuster. He said that Eric Holder refused to answer whether or not it was an "appropriate" exercise of Presidential authority to kill a noncombatant. In fact, that is the very phrase that Holder repeated several times - that it was not appropriate - during his back and forth with Calgary Cruz.

    No, you can't fix stupid. You OUTNUMBER stupid. -Wildthumb, 1/10/2013

    by newinfluence on Fri Mar 08, 2013 at 05:09:35 PM PST

  •  How dare you tear down... (7+ / 0-)

    our fresh, new Great American Hero!

    Why, he's just the super-bestest thing ever!

    How about I believe in the unlucky ones?

    by BenderRodriguez on Fri Mar 08, 2013 at 05:09:50 PM PST

  •  Sour grapes (4+ / 0-)

    Rand was right. Doesn't matter how big an asshole he was, is and will be.

    •  Rand is Right, tea party Right. By the way (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Triscula, zizi, Moravan

      Ted Cruz got Holder's "No" answer even before he joined fellow tea party buddy Rand for some phony filibusting.... But I will say, Rush agrees, Rand is Right.

        •  Well, unfortunately, I don't have to rationalize, (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Triscula

          especially after hearing Rush Limbaugh praise Rand Paul and his performance, that's a stamp of approval that's hard to get from Rush unless you're a hardcore tea critter.

          •  And John Yoo praised Obama's drone policy (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            apotropaic, quagmiremonkey

            What does it take to get a stamp of approval from John Yoo?

            “In the beginning there was nothing, which exploded.” Terry Pratchett

            by 420 forever on Fri Mar 08, 2013 at 05:41:22 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  I have never engaged in this (3+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              420 forever, quagmiremonkey, Jo Bob

              On daily kos. I've always decided that letting the obmama can do no wrong crowd preach was better than fighting them. But this particular instance is beyond the pale.

            •  Yeah, but see, John Yoo really dislikes Obama. I (0+ / 0-)

              imagine Rand Paul will be on Ted Nugent party list for the weekend, as Paul is known to covort with crazy anti-Obama militia groups. That talk about Obama droning people while they're having their onion rings at cafes is straight out of the anti-Obama militia song book.

              •  Who cares abou Yoo's personal feelings (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                quagmiremonkey

                toward Obama? This is about policy, not a popularity contest.

                “In the beginning there was nothing, which exploded.” Terry Pratchett

                by 420 forever on Fri Mar 08, 2013 at 05:50:38 PM PST

                [ Parent ]

                •  Well, it appears your referring to John Yoo, who (0+ / 0-)

                  is a blast from the past, seem to indicate you care about his feelings. My point is clear. As a Democrat, it is quite stunning to see individuals here praising an individual like Rand Paul.

                  When I mentioned Rush Limbaugh, it was to point out how well Paul's Stunt went over with the anti-Obama tea party crowd. John Yoo though? How far back is that? The Bush administration? Like Lawrence O'Donnell said last night, Rand Paul rather damaged your issues against the President than helped it.

                  •  Noone is praising Paul or Rush (4+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:
                    420 forever, quagmiremonkey, cap76, Jo Bob

                    We are agreeing with the point they are making. You're letting politics completely take over here. Take a pepsi challenge on the issue, will you take Holder's or Rand's drink when you don't know who said what.

                    I've been on DailyKos since 2003. I don't do this lightly. We ARE really, really wrong to not back ANYONE who calls the president, whoever it is, wrong on drones and civil liberties.

                    •  That's not true, Paul is so celebrated by (2+ / 0-)
                      Recommended by:
                      Triscula, Moravan

                      tea partiers and some Democrats after his charade he is even fund raising off it. And this is politics, the fact that Paul is campaigning after holding a filibuster to force the administration to answer a question the administration had already answered will tell you that it is politics.

                      "We ARE really, really wrong to not back ANYONE who calls the president, whoever it is, wrong on drones and civil liberties."

                      You make an interesting point here, but let me say that I don't think we should listen to just anyone simply because they agree with our side of the issue.

                      I'll close by just saying this, after hearing some of Paul's ramblings over the years on issues concerning a woman's right to choose and the voting rights act, and his crazy assertions and falsehoods concerning what the President will do to Americans while they are dining through the use of drones....I am not exactly prepared to accept his advocacy on anything.

                      I have no doubt he’ll be staging a political run for the presidency out of this

          •  Good point! (4+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            420 forever, quagmiremonkey, cap76, Jo Bob

            You're actually engaging in the opposite of rationalizing. Your enemy, Rush, is right, Rand was making a valid point, motivations be damned, so the rationalizer would say, "Good point Rand and Rush". The irrational groupthinker would say, "fuck that shit". You're just wrong dude, Holder blinked. The fucked this up bigtime.

  •  Hey, everybody, we have Open Mic on Wednesdays, (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    NedSparks, basket

    and Thursday is Karaoke Night, "House" Music all weekend, and our Trivia Challenge on Sunday. See ya soon at The Senate!

    Honesty is not a policy. It's a character trait.

    by Says Who on Fri Mar 08, 2013 at 05:12:05 PM PST

  •  Paul Singlehandedly Made Democrats The (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    progressivevoice, zizi

    national security party.  Paul has shown himself to be against the drone program where a majority of Americans agree with.  Paul also has McCain going on Fox News calling the tea bagger party the party of isolationist.  Paul may win the repug nomination for president, but because of his filibustering of the drone program he will never be president.  Neither will Rubio, Curz or Thune who filibustered with him.

    "Don't Let Them Catch You With Your Eyes Closed"

    by rssrai on Fri Mar 08, 2013 at 05:22:47 PM PST

    •  Oh Christ! (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      quagmiremonkey

      I hope not.  Then we'd have the Plutocratic Party and the Totalitarian Party.

      Targeted assassination by the CIA of Americans in America by any means at any time as long as the Administration labels him/her an enemy combatant and imminent threat.  Of course, they won't use drones here.  Here, they'll use poison-tipped canes an such.

      And all the evidence will be secret, so no accountability.

      One small step by Holder, one giant leap toward totalitarianism.

      Even Democrats can be asses. Look at Rahm Emanuel.

      by Helpless on Fri Mar 08, 2013 at 06:02:30 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  I hope he raises a boatload of cash (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    annieli

    All the more effort the Establishment Wing of the GOP will have to expend to try to contain their rabid rabble.

    When you are right you cannot be too radical; when you are wrong, you cannot be too conservative. --Martin Luther King Jr.

    by Egalitare on Fri Mar 08, 2013 at 05:26:22 PM PST

  •  ...he pulled a like perormance of idiocy in his (0+ / 0-)

    question to Secretary of State Clinton about arms to Turkey which was it seems from a radical conservative blogger...it seems that we must begin to refer to Republicans as radical Republican or just a Republican which is what we must now do to those worshippers of the Muslim religion with radical or devout Muslim...geeze right here in Washington D.C. the love of humans for money has turned our representatives on and against its citizenry!

  •  Democrats should recognize they've been (0+ / 0-)

    schooled by a tea partier and move on with life. Whining about it just makes it even worse.

    “In the beginning there was nothing, which exploded.” Terry Pratchett

    by 420 forever on Fri Mar 08, 2013 at 05:35:31 PM PST

  •  Not surprising at all... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Triscula

    ...especially coming from the man who was unable to obtain certification by the American Board of Ophthalmology so he started his own personal board (with offices in a P.O. box) which, surprise, granted him certification, and now has the audacity to claim that he's a "board certified" ophthalmologist. http://www.salon.com/...

    I'm too [insert adjective of choice, e.g., sane] to vote Republican.

    by Linus Too on Fri Mar 08, 2013 at 06:10:13 PM PST

  •  Rand is a bozo, but this is the one issue he is (0+ / 0-)

    basically right on.  Holder's reply defined a circumstance which lethal force could be used - it did not establish that as a minimum standard, nor did it address the contra case.  Considering that the Administration does not cite the AUMF primarily for their power - they cite Article II, the innate power of the job (basically, what Yoo said) - this deserves scrutiny.

    What Paul did do - both by who stood with him, and by what the Democrats did - revealed (inadvertently) how shallow and utterly without principle the partisanship in Washington really is.

  •  Cuz without lying, it wouldn't be Rand. n/t (0+ / 0-)

    The GOP can't win on ideas. They can only win by lying, cheating, and stealing. So they do.

    by psnyder on Fri Mar 08, 2013 at 06:50:16 PM PST

  •  Great. We get to hear ALL the guests both (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    BenderRodriguez

    right and left crow what a hero Rand Paul is on the morning TV talk shows.  The new Jimmy Stewart. Quintessentially American. Let's see: what other monsters can we turn loose and feed?

    "They come, they come To build a wall between us We know they won't win."--Crowded House, "Don't Dream It's Over."

    by Wildthumb on Fri Mar 08, 2013 at 07:29:53 PM PST

  •  Now, despite all the agita over them, if you (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    edrie

    Take the word "drone" out of the question, or filibuster as it were, Rand Paul just spent 13 hours questioning, followed by unlimited crowing about asking, if the Executive Branch knows when it is entitled to use deadly force in pursuit of its Constitutionally created powers to wage war and enforce the laws Congress enacts. ...Think about it.

  •  yup. exactly what some of us were saying - (0+ / 0-)

    let the 2016 games begin!

    EdriesShop Is it kind? is it true? is it necessary?

    by edrie on Fri Mar 08, 2013 at 11:56:46 PM PST

  •  Let the rabble be stirred by (0+ / 0-)

    audaciousness, and let the junior senator from Kentucky ascend the wave!

    Let the rabble be exalted in said audaciousness!

    Let the rabble exclaim, "Behold, the son is more audacious than even the father!  And he has kinkier hair!"

  •  Drone-Phobia, The Great Drone Scare (0+ / 0-)

    OMFG!!!! A DRONE!!! UNMANNED ROBOT KILLER!!!! Well except that it is controlled from the ground and has a command and control structure.
    Whats the difference between a helicopter and a drone except that the helicopter has humans sitting in it?
    The same people freaking out over "drones over america" aren't the least bit concerned about police helicopters. What's the difference.
    And IMHO I'd rather have a piece of machinery put in harms way than soldiers. Who would be happy if a few soldiers got killed trying to arrest al-Awlaki or any of the other terrorists? Stand up please.

  •  I haven't viewed the Senator's (0+ / 0-)

    oration, low bandwidth, more pressing personal matters and a low tolerance for bullshit.
     But, a couple of points:
    The misnamed Patriot Act, NDAA and Citizens Benighted.

    Why hasn't there been a Democrat or better, all the Democrats talking to tedium about loss of due process, opaque government, legal bribery, judicial murder and presumption of guilt?

    No one knows the law, no one can know the law. If all the laws were printed 10pt. It wouldn't fit in a gymnasium.

    the doctrine that all men are equal applies only upwards, not downwards. Bertrand Russel

    by Wood Gas on Sat Mar 09, 2013 at 09:20:05 AM PST

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