A year ago, as the presidential race was taking shape, The Washington Post’s pollster asked voters whether they favored the use of drones to kill terrorists or terror suspects if they were “American citizens living in other countries.” The net rating at the time was positive: 65 percent for, 26 percent against.
Today, after a month of Rand Paul-driven discussion of drone warfare, Gallup asks basically the same question: Should the U.S. “use drones to launch airstrikes in other countries against U.S. citizens living abroad who are suspected terrorists?” The new numbers: 41 percent for, 52 percent against.
The lede of the poll is even kinder to Paul, finding as high as 79 percent opposition to targeted killing in the United States. But that’s a new question. On the old question, we’ve seen a real queasy swing of public opinion.
Posts Tagged ‘rand paul’
Establishment hacks are lining up to sneer at Rand Paul’s filibuster as accomplishing nothing (see for instance, here and here in The Economist). “The U.S. government is not going to use drone strikes against American citizens on American soil,” so the line goes. “So what’s the point?”
It’s hard to know what to make of lines like that. Are the writers feigning stupidity, or are they really stupid?
A majority of Americans currently support the drone strikes the U.S. government is conducting in Pakistan and Yemen, far away from any actual battlefields or imminent threats. They’re wrong to do so. But how do you show them that they’re wrong? You show them the logical endpoint of their principle: If the U.S. government is authorized to assassinate alleged enemies in neutral countries away from any battlefield or imminent threat, then what is to stop it from assassinating alleged enemies within the U.S.?
The assertion that the U.S. government would never do this because it has better alternatives is beside the point, even if true. Our constitution isn’t designed around the principle that politicians will always do the right thing. The point of Rand Paul’s filibuster was to establish that it would be unlawful, not just impractical, for the U.S. government to target its own citizens on its own soil in the absence of an actual attack. And if that would be unlawful, then so is what the U.S. government is actually doing. The Obama Administration saw this threat clearly and for that reason refused to concede Paul’s point. Even the letter they ultimately issued doesn’t clearly concede the legal issue.
Paul himself says his filibuster was just the beginning. Let’s hope so.
I’ve been seeing all kinds of abuse being hurled at Rand Paul for his endorsement of Mitt Romney in this year’s presidential election. He doesn’t deserve any of it. Let’s recapitulate some facts for the benefit of blinkered Ron Paul devotees abusing Rand:
- Ron Paul can’t win the GOP nomination. I don’t care what Alex Jones told you. Get over it.
- Someone named either Barack Obama or Mitt Romney will win the election. I don’t care who does; I’ll be voting for Gary Johnson. Regardless, Rand’s endorsement won’t make a bit of difference. He did something nice for the people (Republicans) he will have to work with and get to support him for the next several years. It was purely symbolic.
- Let’s recall what Rand has done in the Senate:
- Singlehandedly killed a terrible amendment to the indefinite-detention provision that would otherwise have passed on a voice vote;
- Held up the Iran sanctions bill until an amendment was included to specify that it does not authorize force against Iran (remember how Bush abused that UN resolution to declare war on Iraq illegally?);
- Has gone on a crusade to abolish the TSA;
- Has won grudging admiration from his colleagues for his ability to use Senate rules and personal relationships to advance his agenda.
The man has our back in the Senate. I don’t agree with him on everything, but he’s a damn sight better than anyone else in that cesspool. I could now go on a rant about how libertarians continue to lose the fight for liberty with a weakness for prioritizing symbolism over substance, but I think I’ve made my point.
1. In the below video, Senator Rand Paul criticizes John Pistole and his TSA for their ham-fisted and invasive pat-downs, especially on children.
Senator Paul makes several good points. What struck me in particular, however, is one part of Mr. Pistole’s response. He said that pat-downs on children and seniors are driven—and, apparently, justified—by bona fide intelligence: he knows of a case in which a child under twelve was used as a suicide bomber, and another in which a 65-year-old couple were suicide bombers as well.
Isn’t this exactly the kind of invidious stereotyping and discrimination that prevents the TSA from targeting Muslim males for enhanced scrutiny? The argument given against targeting Muslim males is that not all Muslim males are terrorists. It does not follow from the fact that some tiny proportion of them is that therefore they are all suspespects, so targeting all of them for enhanced scrutiny is prejudice.
Yet here is a case in which Mr. Pistole apparently thinks that because a single child was allegedly once used as an attempted suicide bomber, therefore all children are equally suspicious and must be subjected to enhanced scrutiny. Moreover, because two seniors allegedly attempted to become suicide bombers, therefore all seniors are equally suspicious and the TSA is justified in patting them down too.
Well, Mr. Pistole, which is it? Is assuming that a trait that belongs to some members of a group therefore belongs to all members of the group morally acceptable, or not?
2. In other TSA news, my nomination for American Hero of the Week: Andrea Fornella Abbott of Clarkesville, Tennessee. According to this report, while traveling through the Memphis airport, Ms. Abbott would not allow the TSA goons to molest—er, enhancedly pat down—her daughter. When she refused, they reminded her that they, not she, will be the ones who will decide what is “inappropriate touching,” thank you very much, and she may now just be quiet and stand over there while they have their way with her daughter.
Apparently Ms. Abbott refused, vociferiously. Upon reconsideration, the TSA agents recognized that she was not under suspicion of any crime, that they had no evidence of criminal behavior on her or her daughter’s part, that in a free society people have a right to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures that shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized, and that it is just plain sick to grope minors anyway, so they relented and let her go on her way.
Uh, no. They arrested her on the charge of “disorderly conduct” and put her in jail. For defending her fundamental liberty, for defending the bodily integrity of her daughter, even in the face of arrest, and for giving the rest of us passive and docile ennablers a reminder of what is at stake and an example to follow, I salute Ms. Abbott.
I think the Rand Paul/Civil Rights Act episode might be the real beginning of the end. Here is why.
The only real opposition to the growth of the federal government in the last quarter-century has been the recent Tea Party movement. It may be too late to make any real difference, but it was a slender hope, a spark of life, a sign that perhaps there was still some fight left in the spirit of American liberty and independence. Then its numbers got bigger, its rallies got bigger, and, in a spectacular victory, it got one of its people—Rand Paul—the Republican nomination for senate. Wow!
The mainstream media, and the people defending and even desiring the expansion of the federal government, have correctly viewed the Tea Party movement as a threat, and they have worked hard to suppress it. One main strategy has been to dismiss them on the grounds that they are all really just special-pleading racists. Deep down, their real objection was to President Obama’s race or to the fact that people of color are now rising up and threatening their privilege. The media have tried very hard to find evidence of this racism, but, despite some initially promising attempts, they had had only limited success. But they still knew somehow that all those arguments about constitutionality and liberty were really rationalizations masking the true, ugly motives underneath.
And then . . . Rand Paul said that he wasn’t too sure about that 1964 Civil Rights Act. Maybe it violated business owners’ private property rights and thus constituted an unjust governmental incursion, he suggested. Ahh, just exactly what was wanted: proof—absolute, uncontrovertible, indisputable proof—that (a) he is a racist and therefore can be dismissed; that (b) therefore the movement supporting him is racist and can be similarly dismissed; and that (c) therefore everything he and his movement supported arose out of racism and can also be dismissed. Just to be sure, before pronouncing the final verdict, media members asked some prominent “libertarians” whether they too were against the Civil Rights Act. And they all duly said no, no, of course not: Paul is “wrong,” he’s “brain-dead,” etc.
Well, that’s that, isn’t it? The whole Tea Party movement can now finally be safely disregarded as a racist rabble, unworthy of serious consideration. And all those people who have been arguing in support of the “free market,” “limited government,” “constitutional limits,” “individual liberty”? Well, they must be racists too, and we now know for sure those phrases are really just code words for racism.
Therefore, all the opposition to increasing federal debt, to increasing federal centralization, to government takeover of various industries, to increasing federal management and nudging of the markets by enlightened and benevolent philosopher-kings is just so much racist special-pleading. We are now safe to proceed apace, psychologically secure and confident in the purity of our motives and no longer needing to feel any guilt for not paying attention to those people “on the right.”
One might have thought that the Rand Paul affair is, in the grand scheme of things, just a small blip. How many politicians, after all, have said things that got them into hot water, even sometimes ending their political careers? But I fear this one is different because the stakes are so much higher. Although many of us prefer not to think about it, Europe is right on the precipice of a fiscal collapse, and the United States is hurtling in exactly the same direction. If the Tea Party movement—and all those who, though not exactly members, were cheering them along—are discredited and defeated, then there is no real opposition, no real brakes on our accelerating progress toward what now seems might be an inevitable end.
Perhaps my pessimism is getting the best of me; time will tell. But if one thinks that Europe does not have the will to solve its debt crisis, and if one thinks that the only way the United States will be able to weather that coming global fiscal storm is if we were to get our own house in order first, then Americans would need to make difficult and painful political and economic decisions very quickly. Perhaps the Rand Paul Affair will pass, without the significance I suggest here; indeed, I hope I am wrong. But if it does turn out to have simultaneously crippled those who are pushing for those difficult fiscal decisions and comforted those opposing them, then it may become a pivotal event sealing our fate.
I like James Taranto’s take on Rand Paul’s view of the 1964 Civil Rights Act:
Far from being evasive, Paul has shown himself to be both candid and principled to a fault.
We do mean to a fault. In this matter, Paul seems to us to be overly ideological and insufficiently mindful of the contingencies of history. Although we are in accord with his general view that government involvement in private business should be kept to a minimum, in our view the Civil Rights Act’s restrictions on private discrimination were necessary in order to break down a culture of inequality that was only partly a matter of oppressive state laws. On the other hand, he seeks merely to be one vote of 100 in the Senate. An ideologically hardheaded libertarian in the Senate surely would do the country more good than harm.
As a matter of pure theory, it is wrong to use violence to force anyone to associate with anyone else. But in the context of U.S. history, it seems to me that a forceful, governmental response to ingrained discrimination was necessary.
In politics, it’s rare that one gets to say “I told you so” quite this quickly. So forgive my being a little smug after yesterday’s post about how the left is underestimating Rand Paul, when a Rasmussen poll has come out today showing Paul up 25 points over his general election opponent.
Rand Paul’s victory in the Kentucky Senate primary has befuddled and deranged much of the left. Matt Yglesias calls Paul a “lunatic,” while the Daily Caller reports on Democratic attempts to portray him as “out-of-touch, elitist, and selfish.” Ed Kilgore says Paul’s “radicalism,” identified by his association with the Tea Party and calls for “massive budget cuts,” is “politically perilous.” (What this misses is that ordinary voters don’t see the Tea Party as being a partisan Republican or far-right phenomenon, and Paul’s trumpeting of that connection is unlikely to hurt him among swing voters. Furthermore, polls show strong evidence that voters want large cuts to government spending, if necessary to close the deficit. There’s nothing in the rulebook that says Paul has to specify what he wants to cut.)
The trouble is that Paul is not a carbon-copy right-winger, and he left himself enough room, if not to move to the center in the traditional sense, at least to distance himself strongly from Bush-era Republicanism. Given that swing voters are not all that politically knowledgeable, for the most part, and interpret ideological cues rather straightforwardly, Paul should be able to create constructive ambiguity about his position on the left-right ideological spectrum.
Over at fivethirtyeight, Ed Kilgore pooh-poohs the notion that Rand Paul’s expected victory in today’s Republican U.S. Senate primary in Kentucky represents an anti-incumbent, insurgent mood among voters:
Kentucky has a closed primary system with a very early cutoff date for registration changes, so independents are quite literally not going to be a factor in Paul’s win or in the Democratic results, for that matter. Furthermore, there’s no incumbent in the race, and the actual incumbent, Jim Bunning, has endorsed Paul. . . Paul’s status as the candidate of “movement conservative” Republicans rather than tea-party independents or self-conscious libertarians, is buttressed by the endorsements he received from Sarah Palin, Jim DeMint and (in a reversal of an earlier Grayson endorsement) James Dobson.
What this analysis ignores is two facts. First, the polls show Paul with a lead outside the margin of error against both Democratic candidates, so his popularity is not just evidence of partisan polarization. Second, the endorsements from establishment figures have come very late in the game, after Paul had already built up his polling lead. Going back to December, Paul’s lead over Grayson has always been in the double digits.
It’s true that Paul has won over movement conservatives, including Internet activists like RedState.com, but his message has been about as libertarian as any Kentucky politician could ever afford to be: opposing the stimulus, opposing TARP, opposing Obamacare, and supporting reductions in spending to eliminate the deficit, while making noises about “strong national defense,” saying the Iraq War was a mistake, and arguing for a “more local approach to drugs.”
The fact that Paul’s message is popular does not mean that it’s not anti-establishment.