Let’s Not Tie Any President’s Hands

National Journal

IN THE NEWS: Brennan confirmed after Rand Paul drops objection … Senate committee approves gun bill … Obama continues meal-time charm offensive with Paul Ryan … OFA won’t take corporate cash ... Meteorological mea culpa on Snowquester 

THE TAKE

Let’s Not Tie Any President’s Hands

Pretend for a moment that you are president of the United States, responsible for the safety of the entire nation. Do you really want to rule out any means of preventing terrorist attacks?

Rand Paul’s drone filibuster, while admirable as an expression of principle, took place in a theoretical world of civil liberties. Presidents operate in the real world of Americans under continuing threat – just ask President Obama or George W. Bush – and their top priority is to avoid terrorist killings on their watch.

For as much heat as Obama is taking for his administration’s view that in an extraordinary circumstance, a drone could be used against an American inside the United States, imagine what would happen if he didn’t have the tool he needed to avert a nightmarish attack involving an American member of al-Qaida.

Sure, let’s put in place a legal and legislative framework. But hard as it is for partisans to trust chief executives of the opposite party, let’s not tie our presidents’ hands.

Jill Lawrence
@jilldlawrence

TOP NEWS

BRENNAN CONFIRMED AFTER RAND PAUL DROPS OBJECTION. John Brennan, President Obama’s nominee for CIA Director, was confirmed Thursday in the Senate by a 63-34 vote, following a contentious nomination process over the use of drones and a talking filibuster by Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky. Among those voting against were Paul, as well as Sens. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., and Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga. Voting for were John McCain, R-Ariz., Tom Coburn, R-Okla., Marco Rubio, R-Fla., and Ron Wyden, D-Ore. Read more

ADMINISTRATION: U.S. WON’T USE DRONES ON NONCOMBATANT AMERICANS. The Obama administration said Thursday that the U.S. “would not use drone strikes on American citizens on U.S. soil,” according to press secretary Jay Carney, The Washington Post reports. The response came after Rand Paul’s filibuster over the drone question. Attorney General Eric Holder has written to Paul informing him of the opinion. “Does the president have the authority to use a weaponized drone to kill an American not engaged in combat on U.S. soil?” the letter reads. “The answer to that is no.” Paul said Thursday that he’s “quite happy” with the administration’s answer. Read more

McCAIN, GRAHAM BLAST PAUL'S FILIBUSTER. Sens. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., criticized Paul for his filibuster, The Washington Post reports. The two foreign policy hawks denounced his effort on the Senate floor, saying they support the president's right to use deadly force, including drones, on U.S. soil if there aren't other options available. Graham called Paul's effort "ill-informed," and brought a chart comparing the number of Americans killed on U.S. soil by al-Qaeda (2,958) to the number killed by drones (0). Read more

  • The Washington Post rounds up the seven best moments from Paul’s filibuster—from Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., dropping a Jay-Z reference, to Paul saying “Barack Obama of 2007 would be right down here with me.” See them all

OBAMA INVITES PAUL RYAN TO LUNCH. In the latest in a series of moves designed to bring Republicans around to a grand bargain on deficit reduction, Obama invited Rep. Paul Ryan, former Republican vice presidential candidate, for lunch at the White House Thursday, The Washington Post reported. Joining him was Rep. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., who serves as the ranking member of the Budget Committee, which Ryan chairs. Van Hollen said Obama had a “constructive discussion” with the two. "The idea for the chat-and-chew came during an extended phone conversation between Obama and Ryan earlier this week," Politico reported. Read more

  • The lunch comes on the heels of another meet-and-eat with 12  Republicans senators Wednesday night. Sens. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Tom Coburn, R-Okla., flashed a thumbs-up after dinner with Obama Wednesday night, perhaps because Obama paid the check. Read more

SENATE COMMITTEE APPROVES GUN-TRAFFICKING BILL. The Senate Judiciary Committee approved a bill Thursday that would make gun trafficking a federal crime, the Associated Press reports. The votes were the first taken in Congress since the shootings at a Connecticut elementary school in December. Just one Republican on the panel, Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, voted for the legislation. The committee is also marking up bills banning assault weapons and high capacity magazines, and requiring background checks for nearly all gun purchases. Read more

  • A new Quinnipiac University poll showed 88 percent of American voters supported background checks for all gun buyers. Fifty-four percent support an assault-weapons ban.

CLINTON WOULD WIN IF 2016 WERE TODAY. A new poll showed that Hillary Rodham Clinton would defeat three potential Republican candidates if the 2016 presidential election were held today. The Quinnipiac University poll posed a hypothetical election between three Democrats and three Republicans, including Vice President Joe Biden, Gov. Andrew Cuomo, D-N.Y., Gov. Chris Christie, R-N.J., Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., and Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis. Clinton easily bests the Republicans, beating Christie 45-37 percent, Rubio 50-34 percent, and Ryan 50-38 percent. Christie, however, tops both Biden and Cuomo in potential matches. Read more

OBAMA GROUP WON'T TAKE CORPORATE CASH. The advocacy group Organizing for Action announced today it won't accept corporate money, Roll Call reports. The group, made up of former Obama campaign officials, also announced it would more fully disclose its donors. “We believe in being open and transparent. That’s why every donor who gives $250 or more to this organization will be disclosed on the website with the exact amount they give on a quarterly basis," OFA’s national chairman, Jim Messina, wrote in a CNN.com op-ed. Critics had claimed the group gave donors and bundlers special access to the president. Read more

NORTH KOREA THREATENS PREEMPTIVE NUCLEAR STRIKE ON U.S. For the first time, North Korea threatened to launch a preemptive nuclear strike against the United States and South Korea, The New York Times reports. The warning came just as the United Nations issued tough new sanctions to punish North Korea for its latest nuclear test, the Associated Press reports. Read more

  • The U.S. responded to the threat, saying it will take the necessary steps to defend itself and its allies from a North Korean strike, the Associated Press reports. Glyn Davies, the top envoy for North Korea, testified before a Senate foreign relations panel Thursday and called on the North not to miscalculate. Read more

A FORECASTER’S MEA CULPA. The Washington Post’s widely read Capital Weather Gang blog dissects its wildly wrong forecast of Wednesday’s piddling storm. Read more

TOMORROW

IMPROVEMENT EXPECTED IN JOBS NUMBERS. The Labor Department will release its closely watched February employment survey Friday, and most expect good news after the payroll processor ADP said Wednesday that the private sector had added 198,000 jobs last month. Unemployment is expected to dip slightly, from 7.9 percent to 7.8 percent. Read more

QUOTABLE

"I would go another 12 hours, but I've discovered there are some limits to filibustering, and I have to take care of one those in just a few minutes here." -- Paul, yielding the floor to Sen. Dick Durbin just before 1 a.m. Thursday (Roll Call).

BEDTIME READING

SHOULD EVERY POLITICIAN HAVE TO PASS THE ‘SIM CITY’ TEST? SimCity, the 24-year-old urban planning computer game franchise, has always transcended typical video game frivolity. Yes, aliens can randomly attack your city, but the game did inspire “many a dilettante’s interest in urban policy,” Adam Sneed writes in Slate. Indeed, former presidential candidate Herman Cain might have even borrowed his “9-9-9” tax plan from the game. The new SimCity will be released next week, and it comes at a perfect time, as an urban renaissance is under way and most of the world’s population now lives in cities. So it’s worth asking, what can we learn from the new, data-rich SimCity about the future of urban planning? Read more

OVERLOOKED

WEDNESDAY’S OTHER FILIBUSTER. For all the attention, and considerable praise, lavished on Sen. Rand Paul for his old-school, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington-style filibuster, a far more quiet and commonplace filibuster was also filed Wednesday with less fanfare. The Republicans—for the second time in three years—blocked Caitlin Halligan, Obama’s pick for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. That filibuster went largely unnoticed. Read more

TOP TWEETS

@frankthorpNBC: Pelosi on if she watched filibuster last night: "There are certain things that fall into the category of life is too short."
@ajjaffe: I can't wait for the filibusters of the future when humans have evolved beyond urination.
@StephenAtHome: An unmanned drone was spotted over Brooklyn. Apparently, it couldn't afford to fly over Manhattan.
@chucktodd: Yesterday, Washington was oddly at its best. Worked way it is supposed to work. Talking across aisle. Obstruction that sparks real debate.
@StephenAtHome: The record Dow numbers show once again that a rising tide lifts all boats of people who can afford boats.

 

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