Rand Paul’s filibuster — is it grandstanding or something worse?

I agree with John’s analysis of Rand Paul’s filibuster of John Brennan’s nomination. Paul purports to be filibustering in response to Eric Holder’s statements about the circumstances under which the U.S. might launch a drone attack against citizens here at home, and the constitutionality of such attacks. But, as John showed, Holder’s position in his response on this issue, as set forth in a letter to Paul, is correct.

Moreover, in his testimony today, Holder agreed with Ted Cruz that drone attacks on U.S. citizens here at home are unconstitutional unless the citizen in question poses an imminent danger. To be sure, Cruz had to drag the answer out of Holder, but there it is. Does Paul agree with Cruz and Holder? Or does he believe that it would be unconstitutional to take out a citizen in the U.S. who was about to engage in terrorism?

Perhaps Paul answered this question at some point during his filibuster. But whatever the answer, his filibuster is misguided. If Paul agrees with Holder and Cruz, then why is he filibustering Brennan? If he disagrees, then he is unserious about the threat posed by terrorism.

I suspect, as Jonathan Tobin does, that Paul’s real beef is with U.S. anti-terrorism policy in general and the use of drones overseas in particular. I fear that, like his father, Paul’s underlying objection is to what he has called the “perpetual war” against Islamist terrorists.

Being more politically astute then Ron Paul, the junior Senator from Kentucky has manufactured an issue out of domestic use of drones — a non-occurrence so far. He understands that many conservatives will be inclined to rally around him on this (non)issue, in part because their imagination will run wild and in part out of knee-jerk opposition to President Obama and Eric Holder.

Conservatives who are serious about national security and fighting terrorism should resist the temptation.

STEVE adds: I agree with our Paul that Rand Paul is playing at a dubious game here, but I would add that he has done something significant along the way: he rehabilitated the filibuster, which has been under assault for some time now by the “reformers.”  And he did it the old-fashioned way–by standing on the floor of the Senate holding forth about a matter of principle, rather than the faux-filibusters of recent years where people hold up appointments or legislation by a paper “filibuster” that nonetheless allows the Senate to proceed with other business.  Though it may not have been Rand Paul’s motive, he may have just laid down a roadblock against the reformers who want to make the Senate into a purely majoritarian institution.  The fact that some on the left sympathize with Rand Paul’s cause here will further flummox the reformers.

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