A Different World

Rand Paul forced an important, overdue discussion about drones

Facebook post March 7, 2013

I'll repeat what I said yesterday:

Sen. Rand Paul's filibuster of John Brennan for the CIA post was good for the country. (And it's also good that Brennan was just confirmed.) The filibuster forced an open discussion about our use of drones, an examination of at least some of the questions that have needed raising for many years, and it was the proper use of the filibuster, which has been abused horribly for the past 4 years.

But part of the central question Paul asked, about "droning" someone in a Starbucks or restaurant on American soil, had already been answered by Attorney General Eric Holder. What Holder did today was clarify what he had already told Paul on that count.

What bothered me, though, is the incredible criticism, and even some self-righteousness, from many of the same people who deemed anyone who dared ask any questions about President George Bush's war tactics as anti-American. I found that disturbing and still do, because it shows that even on this supposedly non-partisan issue of American security, it has become hyper-partisan.

The same thing happened with the attack on our consulate in Libya, with the same people who willingly put President Bush back into office after huge mistakes that led to a decade-long war and thousands of deaths saying President Obama was suddenly unqualified because 4 Americans died in Libya.

And that's not good.

The fact is that whoever is in the White House has to make extremely difficult choices about how to balance the principles we hold dear while trying to keep us safe in this new kind of warfare. And they have more information about the real, daily threats that we face and can't afford to give hard, fast, blanket statements about what they will or won't do when in a hypothetical situation, or when an emergency that none of us can even imagine arises.

Under what circumstance will a drone strike be necessary on American soil? Right now, I can't imagine one - which is what Holder has said all along. But on Sept. 10, 2001, I could not imagine 19 men using 4 commercial airliners to kill 3,000 Americans.

I made that case when President Bush was in office, and I'm making it now with President Obama is office, and I will say it about whoever takes the oath on Jan. 20, 2017.

These are the types of questions we need to be grappling with all the time - what kind of oversight must we have over our commander-in-chief's ability to declare war in this way - no matter which party is in control of the White House. But when it becomes little more than another opportunity to score needless political points, it hurts us all.