Friday, March 08, 2013

Rand Paul's Personal Account Of His Filibuster


Yes, this was definitely the beginning of something new. Rand Paul's 13 hour filibuster got the Obama Administration to commit to a 180 turn on their drone policy.

Pre-filibuster, Attorney General Eric Holder was playing coy and saying he thought President Obama probably did have legal authority to order a drone strike against an American citizen within our borders without due process. The next day, Holder and President Obama were forced to reverse themselves and issue a firm "no' on the matter.

The criticism of Senator Paul and those who helped him during the filibuster by the likes of GOP Senators John McCain and Lindsay Graham isn't unexpected in the least. Among other things, they were probably angry because he took the spotlight off them.

Their dinner with President Obama, in a public restaurant with a twenty car motorcade and ample media attention was supposed to be a major photo-op and news story. Here were a bunch of Republicans eating with the president, getting things done, by gosh! All's well!

And then this freshman Senator from Kentucky had to embarrass them, play hero and capture the attention of America and the media. How dare he do that!

Senator Rand Paul wrote an Op-Ed in today's Washington Post giving his account of what happened. It's definitely an illuminating read. Here's a slice:

If I had planned to speak for 13 hours when I took the Senate floor Wednesday, I would’ve worn more comfortable shoes. I started my filibuster with the words, “I rise today to begin to filibuster John Brennan’s nomination for the CIA. I will speak until I can no longer speak” — and I meant it.

I wanted to sound an alarm bell from coast to coast. I wanted everybody to know that our Constitution is precious and that no American should be killed by a drone without first being charged with a crime. As Americans, we have fought long and hard for the Bill of Rights. The idea that no person shall be held without due process, and that no person shall be held for a capital offense without being indicted, is a founding American principle and a basic right.

My official starting time was 11:47 a.m. on Wednesday, March 6, 2013.

I had a large binder of materials to help me get through my points, but although I sometimes read an op-ed or prepared remarks in between my thoughts, most of my filibuster was off the top of my head and straight from my heart. From 1 to 2 p.m., I barely looked at my notes. I wanted to make sure that I touched every point and fully explained why I was demanding more information from the White House.

Just before 3 p.m., Sens. Mike Lee (R-Utah) and Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) came to the Senate floor to help out. Under Senate rules, I could not yield the floor or my filibuster would end, and Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) could have shut me down. The only way for me to continue and allow Sens. Lee and Cruz to speak was to yield the floor for questions.

Their presence gave me strength and inspiration. Sen. Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) also arrived to help. Sen. Ron Wyden (Ore.), the only Democrat who came to my defense, explained how we have worked together to demand more information from the White House about the rules for drone strikes. At about 4:30 p.m., Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) joined. I was flagging for a while, but these senators kept me going.

Sen. Reid came to the Senate floor to ask me when I would be done so he could schedule a vote. But I wasn’t ready to yield. I felt I had a lot more explaining to do.

At about 6:30 p.m., something extraordinary happened. Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.), who has been recovering from a stroke, came to the floor to give me something. I was not allowed to drink anything but water or eat anything but the candy left in our Senate desks. But he brought me an apple and a thermos full of tea — the same sustenance Jimmy Stewart brought to the Senate floor in the movie “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.” That was a moment I will never forget. [...]

On Thursday, the Senate confirmed John Brennanas director of the CIA. But this debate isn’t over.

The Senate has the power to restrain the executive branch — and my filibuster was the beginning of the fight to restore a healthy balance of powers. The president still needs to definitively say that the United States will not kill American noncombatants. The Constitution’s Fifth Amendment applies to all Americans; there are no exceptions.

The outpouring of support for my filibuster has been overwhelming and heartening. My office has fielded thousands of calls. Millions have followed this debate on TV, Twitter and Facebook. On Thursday, the White House produced another letter explaining its position on drone strikes. But the administration took too long, and parsed too many words and phrases, to instill confidence in its willingness or ability to protect our liberty.

I hope my efforts help spur a national debate about the limits of executive power and the scope of every American’s natural right to be free. “Due process” is not just a phrase that can be ignored at the whim of the president; it is a right that belongs to every citizen in this great nation.

I believe the support I received this past week shows that Americans are looking for someone to really stand up and fight for them. And I’m prepared to do just that.

As I said, this is the beginning of something new. And it will be interesting to see where that goes.

"If there is no man, be that man." - Rabbi Hillel

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