As you no doubt already know, Kentucky’s junior Senator, Rand Paul, on Wednesday filibustered John O. Brennan’s nomination to be CIA Director for thirteen hours (with help, in part, from his Senate colleagues).
He commenced his marathon like so:
Madam President, I rise today to begin to filibuster John Brennan’s nomination for the CIA. I will speak until I can no longer speak. I will speak as long as it takes until the alarm is sounded from coast to coast that our Constitution is important, that your rights to trial by jury are precious, that no American should be killed by a drone on American soil without first being charged with a crime, without first being found to be guilty by a court. That Americans could be killed in a cafe in San Francisco or in a restaurant in Houston or at their home in Bowling Green, KY, is an abomination. It is something that should not and cannot be tolerated in our country.
I do not rise to oppose John Brennan’s nomination simply for the person. I rise today for the principle. The principle is one that, as Americans, we have fought too long and hard for to give up on, to give up on the Bill of Rights, to give up on the fifth amendment protection that says no person shall be held without due process, that no person shall be held for a capital offense without being indicted. This is a precious American tradition and something we should not give up on easily.
They say Lewis Carroll is fiction; Alice never fell down a rabbit hole, and the White Queen’s caustic judgments are not really a threat to your security. Or has America the beautiful become Alice’s Wonderland?
“No, no!” said the Queen. “Sentence first–verdict afterwards.”
“Stuff and nonsense!” Alice said loudly. “The idea of having the sentence first.”
“Hold your tongue!” said the Queen, turning purple.
“I won’t!” said Alice.
["Release the drones,''] said the Queen, as she shouted at the top of her voice.
Lewis Carroll is fiction, right? When I asked the President: Can you kill an American on American soil, it should have been an easy answer. It is an easy question. It should have been a resounding and unequivocal no. The President’s response: He hasn’t killed anyone yet.
We are supposed to be comforted by that. The President says: I haven’t killed anyone yet. ….. He goes on to say: and I have no intention of killing Americans, but I might.
Is that enough? Are we satisfied by that? Are we so complacent with our rights that we would allow a President to say he might kill Americans, but he will judge the circumstances, he will be the sole arbiter, he will be the sole decider, he will be the executioner in chief if he sees fit?
Some will say he would never do this. Many people give the President consideration. They say he is a good man. I am not arguing he is not. What I am arguing is that the law is there, set in place for the day when angels don’t rule government. Madison said that the restraint on government was because government will not always be run by angels. This has nothing, absolutely nothing, to do with whether the President is a Democrat or a Republican. Were this a Republican President, I would be here saying exactly the same thing: No one person, no one politician should be allowed to judge the guilt–to charge an individual, to judge the guilt of an individual, and to execute an individual. It goes against everything we fundamentally believe in our country. This is not even new to our country. There is 800 years of English law that we founded our tradition on. We founded it upon the Magna Carta from 1215. We founded it upon Morgan of Glamorgan from 725 A.D. We founded it upon the Greeks and Romans who had juries. It is not enough to charge someone to say that they are guilty.
Some might come to this floor and they might say: What if we are being attacked on 9/11? What if there are planes flying at the Twin Towers? Obviously we repel them. We repel any attack on our country. If there is a gentleman or a woman with a grenade launcher attacking our buildings or our Capitol, we use lethal force. You don’t get due process if you are involved with actively attacking us, our soldiers, or our government. You don’t get due process if you are overseas in a battle, shooting at our soldiers. But that is not what we are talking about.
And here’s how he ended it:
Mr. President, I am hopeful that we have drawn attention to this issue; that this issue won’t fade away; that the President will tomorrow come up with a response. I would like nothing more than to facilitate the voting and the continuation of the debate tomorrow. I hope the President will respond to us. We have tried repeatedly throughout the day, and we will see what the outcome of that is.
I would like to thank my staff for being here for a long day, for their help. I would like to thank fellow Senators for being supportive of this cause. I would like to thank the Members of Congress who came over to support this cause, as well as the clerks, the Capitol Police, the staff of the Senate, the doorkeepers–who, apparently, I may have gotten in trouble–and anybody else who came to support us, and even the senior Senator from Illinois, for better or worse, for being here to support the cause. The cause here is one that I think is important enough to have gone through this procedure.
I sit at Henry Clay’s desk, and they call Henry Clay the “Great Compromiser.” When I came to Washington, one of my fellow Senators said to me: Oh, I guess you will be the great compromiser. I kind of smiled at him and laughed. I learned a little bit about Henry Clay and his career.
People think some of us won’t compromise, but there are many compromises. There are many things on which I am willing to split the difference. If the Democrats will ever come to us and say: We will fix and we will save Social Security, what age we change it to, how fast we do it–there are a lot of things on which we can split the difference. But the issue we have had today is one on which we don’t split the difference. I think you don’t get half of the fifth amendment. I don’t think you acknowledge that the President can obey the fifth amendment when he chooses. I don’t think you acknowledge that the fifth amendment, due process, can somehow occur behind closed doors.
So while I am a fan of Henry Clay, I have often said I am a fan of Cassius Clay. Cassius Clay’s weapons of choice were said to be his pen and his Bowie knife. He was said to be so good with the first, that he often had recourse to the latter. He was a fierce abolitionist. He didn’t suffer fools, and he didn’t compromise often.
But what I would say is that it is worth fighting for what you believe in. I think the American people can tolerate a debate and a discussion. There has been nothing mean-spirited about this debate for 12 hours. I think, in fact, more of it would be even better. I wish we had more open and enjoined debate. The senior Senator from Illinois has brought up good points, and I think there is much discussion. I just hope that this won’t be swept under the rug and that this isn’t the end of this but that it is the beginning of this.
I would go for another 12 hours to try to break Strom Thurmond’s record, but I have discovered there are some limits to filibustering, and I am going to have to go take care of one of those in a few minutes here. But I do appreciate the Senate’s forbearance in this, and I hope that if there are some on the other side of the aisle who have been listening and feel they may agree on some of these issues, they will use their ability to impact the President’s decision and will, No. 1, say the Senate should be trying to restrain the executive branch, Republican or Democratic, and, No. 2, will use their influence to try to tell the President to do what I think really is in his heart, and that is to say: Absolutely, we are not going to be killing Americans not in a combat situation. We will obey the fifth amendment; that the constitution does apply to all Americans and there are no exceptions.
I thank you very much for your forbearance, and I yield the floor.
For those interested in reading the full transcript of the filibuster, we’ve got it right here (all 190 pages of it–consider yourself warned). Have at it.
Here’s the video of yesterday’s Senate floor action: