Rand Paul (R.Kentucky), made comments on the Senate’s floor during President Obama’s confirmation vote for John Brennan, the nominee for CIA director. It started as a regular day in Congress, but Paul’s 13-hour filibuster turned it into a wild and chaotic 13-hour filibuster that lasted until noon on Thursday. This was exactly 10 years ago.
At the time, the issue was drone strikes against American citizens that were not constitutional and the Obama administration’s response. In September of the previous year, President Obama approved a drone strike against Afghanistan. It killed Anwar al-Awlaki, a Muslim terrorist (born in New Mexico), and naturalized American citizen Samir Kan. A subsequent strike in October resulted in the death of Awlaki’s 16-year old son, a Colorado resident.
Rand Paul and other Republicans began to question the constitutionality for the military being used against American citizens. It was at best a murky situation overseas. If they could justify the same actions at home under the “terrorism” label, would the Obama administration or its successors approve?
Politico at the time reported on the questionable response of Attorney General Eric Holder to these hypotheticals.
Holder did not rule out the possibility of the executive branch ordering lethal force against Americans inside the U.S. in extreme circumstances. He cited examples like the Japanese attack at Pearl Harbor and the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
Holder stated earlier that anti-aircraft missiles could have been positioned in New York and Washington the day before Sept. 11, hijackings. This would have allowed the president to destroy the aircraft at the expense of hundreds of American lives. It is a far cry from the thousands of people who died when the planes crashed into the World Trade Center.
“What would we give to have those Patriot missile batteries on Sept. 10, 2001 in New York or Washington? Holder stated that it would have resulted in the loss of a large number of American citizens, but would have saved thousands of lives.
Holder stressed that drone strikes were a hypothetical scenario. He pointed out that the United States had never conducted drone strikes on its soil and that it “has no intention to do so”.
Paul was seen as standing on his libertarian roots back then. Paul was well-known for his anti-war views and anti-intervention. Some called him an “isolationist”. He was not only principled but also quite prescient. We are now 10 years later than his filibuster. In an era where parents are considered terrorists and people are sent to prison for simply being in the vicinity of the January 6, 2021 protests, the question of how the American government should act against its citizens is a crucial one.
As the day progressed, Paul’s filibuster was becoming more inspiring. Understanding what was going on, his Republican counterparts began to take turns asking long, complicated questions in an effort to give Paul some rest. According to the Kentucky senator, he ate candy and tried to avoid drinking too much water. He was tired, sore, and weak after 13 hours. But he also had a new level in American politics.
People who hadn’t seen C-SPAN for more than one minute in their lives were riveted to the broadcast. The filibuster was a trending topic on social media, which was only beginning to monopolize American culture. Although we had seen other stories make it into pop culture, this was the first time that an event from Congress reached the public via social media and mainstream culture. Paul’s defiance was shared in many different ways, making it a household topic the day after. Even people who don’t follow politics on Facebook were seeing the story on talk and news shows. It was inevitable.
Paul was a hero to both the right and those who were anti-war. Since then, he has survived at least two terrifying physical attacks, one of which was from a neighbor and left him with severe injuries. Ron Paul’s son has learned the hard way that being a leader can make you a target for the deranged. But the moral of this story is that Rand Paul was a leader that day and America has been better off for it.
He stood up for what he believed and did not apologize. This is an uncommon quality in American politics today.
As we recall this historical trivia today – the 13-hour filibuster of the American Senate by Rand Paul – let’s also keep in mind what he did and how America will respond when a politician stands on principle. That day, no one in the Republican party thought it possible to stand up and fight. Only one of them took the initiative and others followed his lead. The potential moral boondoggle that was the droning question could have on America’s moral compass, but most Americans didn’t pay much attention until that moment. Americans were reminded of the sacredness of the Constitution and why we must uphold the rights to due process, even in the face of new threats of terrorism. Ted Cruz (Republican from Texas) stated the same at an earlier hearing that day.
“It is quite strange that the administration didn’t reply, ‘Ofcourse not, we have never had in the history of this country. We will never. “The Constitution forbids it,” stated Sen. Ted Cruz (R.Texas), who also questioned Holder at a Judiciary Committee hearing that day. It’s amazing that they considered it a difficult question.
We have become so desperate for strong leadership that we are almost obsessed with it when we do see it. This is a sign of the disease that has overtaken the body politic.
More men are more willing to speak out against the grain (and less voters punishing them for doing so), and will take risky stances when it isn’t possible. John Brennan was appointed. It was inevitable that it would happen with a Democrat majority.
We also had a 13-hour vision about what inspires good men to do something.