Rand Paul Won, Now What?

The Atlantic Wire

Rand Paul declared victory Thursday when his 13-hour filibuster forced Attorney General Eric Holder to answer his question of whether the government can kill by drone an American citizen now engaged in combat on American soil. ("The answer to that question is no," Holder said.) On Fox News, Paul celebrated, literally saying, "Hurray!" John Brennan was confirmed as CIA chief. But Paul's victory is small. His question was quite narrow, a hypothetical about American droning a civilian in Starbucks. But the reason people should be nervous about drones is because of a real thing that is actually happening. Drones ease the expansion of our permanent post-9/11 war into countries that we're not officially at war with. Those countries include Somalia, Yemen, Pakistan.

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Despite his political skills, you can see Paul struggling to balance what conservative voters want with what the bigger problem with World War Drone. When Paul talked about Anwar al Awlaki, the American killed by drone in Yemen in 2011, he was careful not to sound like a sissy terrorist coddler:

Overseas, my preference with al-Awlaki would be to have a fairly expeditious trial for treason. Not one with multiple appeals. One at the highest court level and then I would do the drone strike after convicting him of treason.

Yes, that makes lots of sense. First a trial in the U.S. criminal justice system that doesn't follow the rules of the U.S. criminal justice system, and then a cool ass-kicking drone. But this is how a Republican senator from Kentucky elected in 2010 has to sell an anti-drone campaign to a guy like Rush Limbaugh. Assert your anti-terrorist bona fides, and then float the idea of drones in the hands of someone even worse than Obama: "I am worried about them doing surveillance without warrants, flying over my farm, watching where I hunt, things like that. Looking at my farmland with the EPA, there's all kinds of potential abuses, but it's not the technology."

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