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Battle Lines Drawn

Mr. Paul’s filibuster was a big deal for reasons other than the obvious.  Sure, it’s great that he forced the Attorney General to admit that what they had previously condoned was actually illegal.  It’s excellent that he got some face time for a very important issue that otherwise wouldn’t have been talked about.  I’m happy that it has garnered support from the left and the right (that’s the first bit of bipartisanship I’ve seen in ages).  Still, that’s not what is most important to me.

What has me excited is that two GOP senators, who were eating with the President at the time of the filibuster, ended up being the only people to strongly oppose Rand’s actions.  Sen. McCain and Sen. Graham were quick to support the “we are at war” mantra as their excuse to bypass the 5th Amendment.  Even Eric Holder had to eventually cave to Rand’s argument, but not so with these two.  Of course, Graham is the “Free speech is a great idea, but we’re in a war” senator.

McCain and Graham’s righteous anger that burns for terrorists blinds them to a potentially greater threat, the erosion of our first principles.  What purpose does fighting those who hate freedom serve if we sacrifice freedom to defeat them?  Rand’s point was clear to everyone spare the old guard; if we know an American is on American soil and we know where he is, why is it that we don’t apprehend him instead of kill him with a drone?  “No American should ever be killed in their house without warrant and some kind of aggressive behavior”.

Graham argues, however, that the 5th Amendment gives the President leeway in times of war to hold enemies subject to crime.  The problem is that we’re not in a real war.  President Bush may have used war-like language and rhetorically declared war on “terror”, but the actions behind this are diffuse.  How do you determine if someone is guilty of terror?  Are there different levels of terror?  What are justified national reactions to these actions of terror?  For instance, is one guilty of terror if they supply propaganda for terrorists?  If so, can we kill you in your home for this action?  Anwar al-Awlaki and his dead teenage son would like to know the answer to that question.

Do I sympathize with people like Awlaki?  Of course not!  My problem is that the actions we are taking are done so by powers that no government should have.  This is the reason that our founders established a clear way of declaring war.  These requisites aren’t easy and they can be constraining, but that’s the nature of our Constitution.  Perhaps that also explains the nature of our politicians.  They dodge the restrictions of our Constitution by redefining terms or sidestepping legal opposition.

Unfortunately Congress gave President Bush the authorization to “use all necessary and appropriate force against those nations, organizations, or persons he determines planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001, or harbored such organizations or persons, in order to prevent any future acts of international terrorism against the United States by such nations, organizations or persons.

Is this a declaration of war?  Of course not, perhaps because it is hard to declare war on a non-nation entity.  I can sympathize with politicians met with this dilemma in the aftermath of 9/11.  Still, this authorization has led to warrantless wiretaps against Americans, illegal military tribunals, and until Rand’s speech, an assumed authorization for the President to kill anyone considered a terrorist.  We’ve created a nearly unlimited enemy, and a limitless time frame that expands the war powers of the executive.  But Mr. McCain thinks this is just a political stunt that shouldn’t be given any attention.  Let the pols do what they will and trust them with this power.  I’m sorry guys, but I don’t trust you.

The silver lining to this encroachment of trust with power is that we are redrawing our political discourse.  Just when the GOP looked 6 feet under, a resurrection has emerged from those who deem liberty our greatest asset and protector.  This stark contrast between Rand and Cruz verses the antithesis duo of McCain and Graham is hopefully a sign of things to come.  Let there be a clear line of demarcation on the parchment of our Constitution.  Let the Supreme Law of the land echo in the chambers of Congress as it did Wednesday and whitewash the tainted walls.


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