Current TV's John Fugelsang and progressive talk show host Thom Hartmann discussed Rand Paul and his 13-hour-long filibuster this week, demanding an answer on whether the Obama administration believes that they can authorize drone strikes against Americans on U.S. soil. As Hartmann rightfully noted, though, that filibuster probably had a whole lot more to do with Paul and his political future than any actual concern over our use of drones:
HARTMANN: It was a discussion we have been needing to have ever since the Patriot Act was pushed through in 2002... so to the extent that we have been needing to have that discussion, I'm really pleased. On the other hand, this was Rand Paul kicking off his 2016 presidential bid.
Paul received his answer on the drone strikes and as many have noted, he actually had his answer well before he started his filibuster, but as Hartmann noted here, the question that he should have been asking and to which he did not get an answer is, "What does 'engaged in combat' mean?" when we haven't had a declaration of war since 1941. With the rules in the Patriot Act set so loosely, the executive branch has the freedom to define those terms, as Hartmann put it, pretty well any damn way they want to. With the exception of the neocons, most Americans would not believe that the Constitution grants these rights to the executive branch.
Of course, speaking of neocons, as they also discussed, that's why we saw the likes of Lindsey Graham out there berating Paul and any Republicans who did not mind that the Bush administration was using drones but are now upset that the Obama administration is using those same powers that the Congress ceded to them after 9-11.
As Fugelsang put it, it's a day in Bizarro World when liberals are finding themselves in agreement with the likes of Paul and Graham, even if it's only on a couple of issues like executive overreach and Republican hypocrisy. And I agree with them both that Paul's move this week was purely political. He's planning on picking up his dad's mantle and the fundraising that goes along with running a perpetual presidential campaign.
When we see some of these members of Congress vote against reauthorizing the Patriot Act and revoking the war powers and ending this so-called "war on terror," I'll believe any of them are actually concerned about our civil liberties being eroded.
I am happy for the country to at least be debating these issues again. It's long overdue, so we can thank Paul for that, whatever his motivations.