By Dr. Harold Pease
The approval rating presently for Congress, according to the Washington Post, is 14 percent and few Americans believe them capable of providing the leadership that is so desperately needed in our time. Few, if any, command universal respect and there are no Patrick Henry’s, serious advocates of freedom even if they do not get reelected. The last time the parties worked together was during the Bill Clinton tenure and the last time a majority of Americans had any real hope for the future was during the Ronald Reagan Administration when he ended the “Cold War.”
That may have changed for many on March 6, 2013, when one man stood, initially mostly alone with but a few Tea Party friends, on the Senate floor arguing for 13 hours far into the evening, even against his own party, for what he believed to be right. Most of my students have no idea what a Senate Filibuster is, as it has never occurred in their lifetime, but it allows a Senator to speak on a topic for as long as he can stand and speak. He may entertain questions from colleagues but he must never yield the floor. He may not leave the Senate Chambers, even for a restroom break, or sit down.
Such passion for liberty has never, in my lifetime, brought both ends of the political spectrum together and reminded us of our shared core values. Civil libertarians and Tea Party supporters buzzed their approval on social media. The American Civil Liberties Union referred to the event as historic and courageous. As the night wore on more people watched C-SPAN at one time then reportedly ever before.
America had a new hero and the phrase “Stand With Rand” gained popularity in a single evening. Not from the establishment press which largely ignored the new “Patrick Henry” of our day, and the significance of this moment, but decidedly without it.
Rand Paul, son of presidential contender Ron Paul, intentionally held up the confirmation of John Brennan as the new CIA Director because he had been elusive on the subject of drone use to kill Americans on U.S. soil, merely thought to have terrorist connection. This had happened in Yemen to a 16-year-old American boy Abdulrahman al-Awlaki, and Paul wanted assurance that it would not happen here. Failing to get it from the nominee he next asked for it from the Obama Administration. Certainly they would agree that such would be unconstitutional and a violation of the 5th Amendment’s due process provision to do so. Brennan’s stalling on the question amplified the need for such a statement which was even more amplified when the President seemed to be stalling also. The filibuster should have ended within the first hour. The world waited for an answer. That clarification finally arrived from Eric Holder the next day, but why was it not easily forthcoming.
Fear of the U.S. government is stronger today than at any time since the American Revolution and it does not help hearing that the Department of Homeland Security is buying up enormous quantities of ammunition to use somewhere and on someone: presumably on Americans because DHS has no function outside the country. As kind as they have been to illegal immigrants, even letting 2,000 incarcerated inmates go in early March, because of impending cuts due to the hardship anticipated from the Sequester, it is unlikely that they plan the ammo for them. Nobody seems to know. Since the word “terrorism” is not adequately defined or limited, (the best the government has given us is “Al-Qaeda-like” organizations) both ends fear a revolving definition. Vice President Joe Biden has already called the Tea Party terrorists, and Occupy Wall Street folks have already had clashes with law enforcement. If the federal government is anticipating a clash with her own citizens, it would be a short step in logic to assume drone strikes could be used on U.S. citizens on U.S. soil as well.
The assurance sought for by Paul should have been supported by everyone giving an oath to support the Constitution as such a course, by the federal government, would effectively end the Fifth Amendment of the Bill of Rights. What makes Rand Paul especially credible is that everyone who knows him attests that he would have done the same thing, and made the same case, in a George W. Bush Administration.
What was just as revealing with respect to the Rand Paul filibuster was who was not there defending our right not to be shot down by a drone in our own country. Only 15 Senators participated with Paul leaving 84 others to explain to their constituent’s why they had not defended the Constitution as their oath demanded. They were: Senators Ted Cruz (Texas), Marco Rubio (Fla.), Mike Lee (Utah), Pat Toomey (Penn.), John Thune (S.D.), John Barrasso (Wy.), Tim Scott (S.C.), John Cornyn (Texas), Jerry Moran (Kan.), Ron Johnson (Wis.), Jeff Flake (Ariz.), Mitch McConnell (Ky.) Saxby Chambliss (Ga.) and Ron Wyden (Ore.). Sadly, the following morning both Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Senator John McCain of Arizona took to the same Senate floor and castigated Paul for his stand.
For me this was a moment of truth separating those who are real patriots from those who once were. Senator McCain was a co-author of the infamous National Defense Authorization Act signed into law by President Barack Obama New Years Eve 2011, which authorized the President, through his military, to kidnap any U.S. citizen thought to be associated with a terrorist organization and ship them to Guantanamo Bay for indefinite detention. Such action would strip Americans involved of their 1st, 4th, 5th, 6th, and 8th Amendments to the Bill of Rights. Rand Paul voted against that law too.
No wonder he stood for 13 hours in defense of our liberty and the Constitution. If there is any hope in our saving our Republic it will come from those who stood for our core values this day. Will you “Stand With Rand” too?
Dr. Harold Pease is an expert on the United States Constitution. He has dedicated his career to studying the writings of the Founding Fathers and applying that knowledge to current events. He has taught history and political science from this perspective for over 25 years at Taft College. To read more of his weekly articles, please visit www.LibertyUnderFire.org.