It must be difficult to be a Republican these days. Since 2009 we’ve witnessed an ongoing strategy by party leadership of taking the exact opposite position of the White House, regardless of whether the opposite position will make Republicans seem unreasonable, self-contradictory or just plain ludicrous.
You name it: they’ve reversed themselves on the individual mandate, cap-and-trade, background checks (even the NRA used to support them), government spending and so forth. While chiseling Ronald Reagan’s ebullient noggin into the facade of the make-believe Mount Rushmore residing within the fantasy cortex of their lizard brains, they routinely demonize policies that Reagan himself once supported. No wonder so many Republican voters are out of their gourds — they’re being whipped around on a psychopolitical Tilt-A-Whirl controlled by sociopaths like Reince Priebus and Mitch McConnell.
And so it goes with Saint Rand of Paul, who, at this point, doesn’t seem to know what the hell he believes about the use of drone technology. By now I’m sure you’ve heard about what he said yesterday when he appeared on Fox Business Channel and completely reversed his position on the use of drones against American citizens on American soil.
“…I’ve never argued against any technology being used when you an imminent threat, an active crime going on. If someone comes out of a liquor store with a weapon and 50 dollars in cash, I don’t care if a drone kills him or a policeman kills him, but it’s different if they want to come fly over your hot tub, or your yard just because they want to do surveillance on everyone, and they want to watch your activities.”
So Paul explicitly endorsed the use of drones to kill American citizens who happen to be in the midst of committing a petty robbery. There’s not a lot of gray area there. He supports the use of drones in most circumstances except when law enforcement wants to “do surveillance” on citizens who are lounging in hot tubs. In other words, it’s permissible to kill a citizen without due process, but it’s not okay to use drones to perv-out on a semi-naked citizen in a Jacuzzi. Interesting. I haven’t heard from or read about anyone who supports using drones to randomly spy on innocent civilians, but okay. What are the hot tub people up to anyway? If they haven’t committed any crimes, then using a drone to spy on them is not only illegal under a broad range of statutes, but it’s also unconstitutional. However, if they have, in fact, committed a crime involving a firearm, Paul thinks it’s within the purview of law enforcement (or the government) to kill them without due process. In their hot tub.
Naturally, this new statement from Paul contradicts his previous position best summarized by the title of the legislation he co-sponsored with Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX): “A Bill to Prohibit the Use of Drones to Kill Citizens of the U.S. Within the U.S.” Perhaps Paul and Cruz should revise the title to “A Bill to Prohibit the Use of Drones to Kill Citizens of the U.S. Within the U.S. Unless Those Citizens Just Robbed A Liquor Store, Which Case Let The Hellfire Missiles Soar!”
But this shouldn’t be a shocker to anyone who wasn’t foolish enough to be swept up in Rand Paul Filibuster Fever! Catch it! It turns out, prior to- and even during his mid-March filibuster of the John Brennan confirmation, Paul actually supported the use of drones. He supported using drones as a method of border patrol; he supported the use of targeted drone strikes in Yemen and Pakistan; he supported the use of a drone in the killing of American-born enemy combatant Anwar Al-Awlaki; he even opened up a loophole for killing American citizens while they’re “eating dinner, in America” as long as there are “some rules.”
However, throughout this allegedly noble, heroic and anti-drone filibuster, Paul also said, “When I asked the president, can you kill an American on American soil, it should have been an easy answer… It should have been a resounding and unequivocal ‘no.'” Weird, since we know from his filibuster transcript and his remarks yesterday that Paul himself would respond “yes” to that question. Come to think of it, unlike his demand for an “unequivocal” response, Rand Paul would likely equivocate all over the place, given his, shall we say, fluid position on the issue.
Of course, I’m being generous by describing his position as “fluid.” He’s either very confused and befuddled on drones, or he’s a crazy-like-a-fox careerist who doesn’t mind saying anything to grab a headline. Everyone who climbed aboard the #StandWithRand hashtag rocketship to awesomeness failed to realize either diagnosis and immediately jumped to the conclusion that he’s an anti-drone superhero — full stop.
To wit, writers and activists ranging from Glenn Greenwald to Marcy Wheeler to Jeremy Scahill thought they had an ally on the drone issue on the Republican side of the aisle, and so they desperately scrambled to stand with him in his allegedly anti-drone filibuster, once again illustrating the weird leftist compulsion to make nice with political enemies only to be sucker punched later (see also the unlikely alliance between Jane Hamsher and Grover Norquist against Obamacare). Suffice to say, it turns out Paul is not a superhero of filibustery civil liberties in spite of his canonization by neoliberals and smug libertarian hipster-contrarians in their united crusade against all things Obama. He’s also not, as some writers observed, scrambling “the left/right paradigm.” He’s more or less a doctrinaire far-right conservative, just like his Dad, with one or two hippie-stoner-inspired exceptions to attract his Dad’s off-the-grid supporters and his hypercaffeinated internet money-bombing ReLOVElution foot soldiers. While I’m here, it’s also worth mentioning that he’s really good at tricking people who ought to know better into overlooking his racist, nullification wingnuttery on federalism, states’ rights and the Civil Rights Act.
One thing’s for sure: he’s absolutely to the right of President Obama on drones, among many other things, and, at least for now, he supports a broader, less restrained view of drone policy. Sorry, hipsters, that’s a fact. Neither the president nor Eric Holder has ever supported using drones to kill Americans on American soil — especially citizens who’ve simply horked a bottle of Ripple.
Worse, he’s currently taking advantage of the increased visibility and cred he received from otherwise well-respected #StandWithRand fanboys as a means of pushing for the increased deployment of drones, just as he parlayed his anti-drone filibuster to attack the gun control bill in the Senate. I assure you, following his filibuster stunt, the news media is paying closer attention to what he says. The #StandWithRand people have been double-crossed even though they should’ve seen it coming from a mile away. And as soon as the administration began to pursue a traditional law enforcement and legal approach in prosecuting Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, Rand Paul and the rest of the Republican Party took the opposite position, calling for an expansion of the war on terrorism and an increased deployment of weaponized drones.
They’ll keep playing this opposite-day strategy for as long as Democrats control the White House but, hopefully, this will be the last time certain liberals fall for Rand Paul’s opportunistic trickery.
UPDATE: Rand Paul has reversed his position yet again.
“My comments [on Tuesday] left the mistaken impression that my position on drones had changed. Let me be clear: it has not. Armed drones should not be used in normal crime situations. They only may only be considered in extraordinary, lethal situations where there is an ongoing, imminent threat. I described that scenario previously during my Senate filibuster. Additionally, surveillance drones should only be used with warrants and specific targets.”