Praise for Rand Paul

Matt K. Lewis Senior Contributor
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During his filibuster Wednesday night, Sen. Rand Paul name checked some well-deserving writers like Glenn Greenwald and Conor Friedersdorf — journalists who have been consistently covering Obama’s drone program.

When it comes to sounding the alarm on this, I’m not in their league. That’s not to say I’m not concerned about protecting our civil liberties. Last month, for example, I wrote a column called, “Obama, drones, and the blissful ignorance of Americans.”

My theory is that, in many ways, Obama is only giving us what we want. This is a problem — or at the very least, a tendency we ought to recognize.

Of course, there is a huge difference between killing foreign terrorists and killing U.S. citizens (such as al-Awlaki, an American citizen, and his sixteen-year-old son) abroad. What is more, there is perhaps an even larger chasm between that and choosing to use drones to kill American citizens in America — which is what Paul’s filibuster was all about.

Along those lines, this reminds me of a debate I entered into with Marc Thiessen last year, over whether or not U.S. citizens captured in America can be held as “enemy combatants.” (He says they can — I say they shouldn’t be.) Granted, holding someone as an enemy combatant isn’t the same as killing them, but the question is over whether or not American citizens deserve due process.

In my estimation, Paul and the senators who joined his filibuster, deserve much credit for bringing this issue to the forefront. Unfortunately, Sen. McCain and some others are all too willing to trust President Obama — or whoever succeeds him — to be judge, jury, and executioner.

“To infer that the president is going to kill someone like Jane Fonda or someone who disagrees with him is simply ridiculous,” said McCain.

Nobody thinks President Obama is going to kill Jane Fonda. That’s not the point. The point is that we must observe the rule of law. And the point is that if we grant the presidency carte blanche authority to drone “suspected” terrorists, with no questions asked, what’s to stop some future president from abusing the power?

I am reminded of a letter George Orwell sent after the publication of “1984.” “I do not believe that the kind of society I describe necessarily will arrive,” Orwell said, “but I believe (allowing of course for the fact that the book is a satire) that something resembling it could arrive.”

All of us who prize liberty — that includes 2nd amendment defenders, by the way — are essentially echoing Orwell. No, the day of using drones to destroy political rivals has not arrived. But we should be diligent in making sure it never does arrive.

And that’s just what Rand Paul is about.

Matt K. Lewis