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Rand Paul, M.D., America’s Most Fraudulent Alleged Champion Of Civil Liberties

[ 128 ] April 23, 2013 |

Is Rand Paul planning to urge the Obama administration to read Tsarnaev his Miranda rights? Or to defend the decision not to declare Tsarnaev an enemy combatant against the opponents of the rule of law in his conference?* I hope, at this late date, that you know the answer:

A little over a month ago, Rand Paul embarked on an epic thirteen-hour filibuster over his concerns that an American president might one day use drones to kill an American citizen suspected of terrorist activities rather than provide him with the due process guarantees enshrined in the Constitution. And yet, as his colleagues have called on President Obama to commit a glaring act of executive overreach in the Tsarnaev case, Paul has been silent.

Or take a look at Texas senator John Cornyn. Last month, he made an appearance on the Senate floor during Paul’s filibuster to proclaim that “there isn’t any more delicate and important matter than the limitations placed on the government when it comes to dealing with our own citizens.” Today, Cornyn told Fox News that the Obama administration is stuck in a “pre-9/11 mentality” if it thinks Tsarnaev should enjoy the Constitutional protections afforded to any other American citizen charged with a crime.

A drone strike on an American terrorist sitting at a café in Houston was a hypothetical that will almost certainly never come to pass. The Tsarnaev case is happening, right now, and any Republican who purports to care about the Constitution and its limits on executive power should be speaking up now just as loudly as they were during the drone debate last month.

Again, the problem with Rand Paul isn’t that he’s a champion of civil liberties who has appalling positions on a variety of other issues. I’m the last person to demand purity from people making useful contributions.  The problem with Rand Paul is that his reputation as a champion of civil liberties is a transparent con, a vacuous mix of partisan posturing and irrelevant opposition to various implausible hypotheticals. It’s just reactionary identity politics, not any kind of civil libertarianism.

…John Ashcroft calls for Tsarnaev to be declared an enemy combatant. If only enough liberals had voted for Gary Johnson, we could have had a real champion of civil liberties like him in the Attorney General’s office again!

*To his credit, I was wrong about this: albeit after the fact, he did defend Obama against Graham and McCain.

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Comments (128)

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  1. Warren Terra says:

    Re urging that Tsarnaev should be read his Miranda rights: he already has been, by a federal judge.
    (and may have been read them before that, for example before he got his court-appointed lawyer, with whom he briefly met before the hearing transcribed at the link).

    None of this changes anything about Rand Paul being a grandstanding moron who doesn’t actually care about civil rights, and if he did care he should have denounced McCain and the other bedwatters. But your first sentence reads like there’s still some uncertainty about whether Tsarnaev might be read his rights at some point in the future.

  2. oldster says:

    C’mon, Scott: Rand Paul’s position here is perfectly consistent.

    Right now, Tsarnaev is the world’s scariest swarthy foreigner, so the gloves come off.

    Last month, the world’s scariest swarthy foreigner was Obama, so ditto.

    The important thing is: the white race must protect itself from the foreign menace! This means making sure that we have our rights, and making sure they don’t have theirs!

  3. c u n d gulag says:

    The only thing Rand Paul champions, is Rand Paul.

  4. arguingwithsignposts says:

    HE’S BEEN MIRANDIZED! STFU ABOUT IT ALREADY! GOD, THIS IS USELESS BEDWETTING AT THIS POINT!

  5. More red meat for your commenters. You never change.

  6. Major Kong says:

    I mean hey, it’s not like the guy was trying to run an unregulated fertilizer plant next to a school or anything.

    I’m sure if he was Rand would be the first to speak out in his defense.

  7. 7iron says:

    if I recall correctly, a US citizen has all of those rights whether they are read out loud to him or not.

    • Warren Terra says:

      Actually, anyone on US custody has those rights – except apparently under the military commissions act, which says a non-citizen (but not a US citizen) can be detained on US soil, held as an enemy combatant, and denied their full civil rights.

  8. ISmellGood says:

    I’m no Rand Paul fan, but I’m pretty sure Tsarnaev not being Mirandized infringes upon his constitutional rights only if any statements made are admitted in court – Public Safety Exception aside.

    So until trial, nobody has an argument to make either way.

    • oldster says:

      Well, exactly. Also, torture: if the cops rip your toe-nails out and saw off your shin with a rusty hacksaw, but don’t use your confession in court, then in what sense have you been “compelled to be a witness against yourself”? No use in court, no violation of the Fifth.

      So until trial, anyone saying “boo-hoo my constitutional rights have been violated!” just doesn’t have a leg to stand on.

      • ISmellGood says:

        Colorful. But – and I’m no lawyer – sawing off a shin might be illegal in its own right. My point stands: nobody has violated anything at this point.

      • Cheap Wino says:

        Hah! I see what you did there.

      • John says:

        There are other constitutional rights besides the right against self-incrimination.

        I’d guess this clause might cover it:

        No person shall…be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law

        or maybe

        Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted

        I’d also guess that police brutality of this sort is explicitly illegal by statute, and subject to criminal and civil penalties.

  9. Pseudonym says:

    How dare you, Scott Lemieux, as a contributor to an all-straight-white-male blog featuring such straight white males as Dr. Kenneth Noisewater, criticize anything Rand Paul has to say. You are totally ignoring the voices of women and people of color in this discussion, which is a far worse sin than accusing certain women of color of supporting, nay enjoying, Obama’s rape of innocent nuns.

    • Incontinentia Buttocks says:

      (Though this idiotic line of argument was actually initiated by LGM’s brief pushing of the “brogressives” meme, which did such a great job accounting for sausage-fests like Firedoglake.)

      • witless chum says:

        “Brogressives” describes David Sirota to a fucking T, whatever it’s usefulness beyond that. Tough guy writers need to be mocked until they’re too embarrassed to post.

      • Bijan Parsia says:

        Do you mean “prompted”? “Initiated” suggests that “brogressive” is a kind of such argument.

        But also, isn’t the “You don’t REALLY CARE about brown people because you support the Mulsim-baby killer, Obama!” line a definite instance of this, and antedates it?

        “Brogressive” was mildly amusing if a bit tired (“bro-” is definitely overdone). The phenomenon of sexism in the leftist movement (both overt and more subtle) is definitely worth comment.

        • Incontinentia Buttocks says:

          I have no problem discussing sexism within the progressive movement.

          What I’m sick of is folks (including, e.g. Erik Loomis and Glenn Greenwald) who unfairly attribute others’ opinions (idiotic and otherwise) to their race, class, gender, sexuality, etc.

          Last year, when a tiny fringe of the left was arguing that it didn’t matter whether Obama or Romney won, we were greeted with the assertion on this blog that the only people who could possibly make such an argument were white, middle-class, males. In fact, this tiny fringe included people of color.

          Similarly, the people described on this blog as “brogressives” include plenty of women (e.g. Jame Hamsher).

          That doesn’t make either group at all worth paying attention to. But it does suggest that the “you’re all just a bunch of privileged white guys” is a lazy and inaccurate accusation in both cases.

          So, yes, Glenn Greenwald’s empty identity politics attack on this blog deserves to be sent up. But a number of the bloggers at LGM engaged in such attacks before GG did.

          • Incontinentia Buttocks says:

            Jane*

          • Bijan Parsia says:

            Last year, when a tiny fringe of the left was arguing that it didn’t matter whether Obama or Romney won, we were greeted with the assertion on this blog that the only people who could possibly make such an argument were white, middle-class, males. In fact, this tiny fringe included people of color.

            If you mean this one, well, it’s not ideal but it’s also not as you describe:

            Connor Friedersdorf writes the kind of political essay I can’t see anyone but a privileged white person writing. Going as far as to nearly (but not quite he says!) compare President Obama to an apologist for slavery, he can’t stomach voting for Obama because of his policies in Pakistan, drones, etc.

            Let’s not over rely on the “I can’t see” vs “there is no” distinction, though it is there. I think the white was all more an intensifier rather than a literal claim.

            [snip]

            But given that Friedersdorf probably doesn’t have to worry much about his next paycheck or be concerned about having an unwanted fetus in his body, it’s a luxury for him to be a one-issue voter on this particular issue. It’s all too typical of a lot of angry left-wing white men from Glenn Greenwald on down who live privileged enough lives that they can find the one issue where there really aren’t any differences on the two parties and instead suggest alternatives that completely ignore the poor in this country, whether being Paul-curious to not voting to voting for a whacko like Gary Johnson. That doesn’t solve any problems and it goes back to the worthlessness of politics to make a point I talked about last week.

            Even this doesn’t require that no unprivileged person could or would make those arguments. But that they would doesn’t remove it as a common characteristic of privileged folks. And not the focus isn’t on having an opinion or expressing it, but the content thereof.

            Similarly, the people described on this blog as “brogressives” include plenty of women (e.g. Jame Hamsher).

            Citation? Erik’s post:

            Sirota is the typical brogressive, as Stan and Megan Carpentier call them–hypermasculinized self-described progressive men like Greenwald who trivialize any concern outside of their own definition of what is important and then taunt everyone who disagrees with their tactics as apologists for killing Yemeni babies, falsifies their arguments, papers over nuance in favor of denunciation, and generally channels sexist and misogynistic values of shouting and exclusion over debate and inclusion.

            I don’t see how this describes Jane Hamsher. It specifically calls out men.

            I’m not really endorsing these particular bits, but I don’t really find the similarity between this and Greenwald’s “I’d never contribute to a sexist venue like LGM” comments.

          • sharculese says:

            Except that the Friedersdorf piece that started all of this showed a remarkable (if typical for him) lack of perspective, and privilege was the most obvious explanation.

            There is maybe a discussion to be had about whether the word privilege gets tossed around too much on the internet, but this is not the best jumping off point.

  10. sibusisodan says:

    You’re being terribly unfair here to poor John Cornyn. I doubt the poor fellow’s aware that anything he says made be later used against him in the court of public opinion…

  11. witless chum says:

    Again, the problem with Rand Paul isn’t that he’s a champion of civil liberties who has appalling positions on a variety of other issues. I’m the last person to demand purity from people making useful contributions. The problem with Rand Paul is that his reputation as a champion of civil liberties is a transparent con, a vacuous mix of partisan posturing, and irrelevant opposition to various implausible hypotheticals. It’s just reactionary identity politics, not any kind of civil libertarianism.

    But if Rand Paul’s vacuous mix of partisan posturing about fantasy drone strikes on Louisville gets caricatured in the media as principled opposition to the real drone strikes abroad, which it did, the cause of opposition to the drone campaign gets furthered rhetorically, at least a little bit. Compared to trying to explain black history to people who know a lot more about it (and probably everything) than Rand Paul, it’s a good use of his time.

    • Uncle Kvetch says:

      Good for him. Credit where due.

      • Bijan Parsia says:

        Indeed, although:

        “Here’s the distinction, I have never argued against any technology being used against having an imminent threat or an act of crime going on,” he said. “If someone comes out of a liquor store with a weapon and fifty dollars in cash, I don’t care if a drone kills him or a policeman kills him.”

        This wasn’t exactly the anti-drone view I understood to be praise worthy.

        • Cheap Wino says:

          Wow. He’s pro-death penalty for petty burglary. Good to know. And really, it’s not so much that he’s anti-drone to begin with, it’s that he’s pro-good political theater, especially as it relates to his political fortunes (which I suspect are the centerpiece of his ethos).

          • Bijan Parsia says:

            Charity suggests that the scenario should be “If the guy with the weapon refuses to surrender such that it would justify shooting him, it doesn’t matter whether it was a police officer or a drone that did the shooting.”

            Paul needs a lot of charity.

            • Cheap Wino says:

              Okay, we’ll give alms to the poor senator. I’m sure he’ll be more clear about his lack of empathy for people in the future.

            • Incontinentia Buttocks says:

              I’ve tended to think that Rand Paul is less the bad-faith, Machiavellian political genius and more the semi-good-faith, schmibertarian idiot.

              • Bijan Parsia says:

                Either way, where’s his utility? I’m pretty sure John McCain sincerely believes every nonsense thing omit out of his mouth. That generally makes him less useful when he happens to approach rightness. Still, at least he proposed legislation.

    • witless chum says:

      Oh, dear. Senator Hey Blacks, You Should Vote For Me Because James G. Blaine?, R-Kentucky, from the the link:

      What he objects to, he said, is constant surveillance in the absence of any evidence of criminal activity. “But it’s different if they want to come fly over your hot tub, or your yard just because they want to do surveillance on everyone, and they want to watch your activities.”

      Drones spying on Rand’s hot tub reads like an Onion parody of libertarianism.

      • To be fair, I don’t really think that “as much surveillance as technology will allow just because” is actually that fanciful of a possibility to be concerned about.

        • Uncle Kvetch says:

          To be fair, I don’t really think that “as much surveillance as technology will allow just because” is actually that fanciful of a possibility to be concerned about.

          I agree. (I also agree that the “hot tub” thing brings just the right soupçon of weirdness…right or wrong, dude’s still a world class fruitcake.)

          • witless chum says:

            This is what I was getting at. It’s a reasonable point, but because he’s Rand Paul he makes it sound as lame and Republican Who Wants To Smoke Pot Libertarian as possible.

            • It does a bit of an emerging meme flavor to it, but on the other hand I did have a hot tub once upon a time and, honestly, if you said “constant government surveillance of you outside of your house but still on your property,” let’s just say that would, in fact, have been one of the first places that came to mind…

    • This is indeed imminently reasonable, so kudos.

    • mds says:

      Whoa, okay, good on him to make the argument, on Fox Business, no less. This certainly partially obviates his letter to the Senate Majority Leader complaining about scary immigrants being let into this country:

      “I think we can still preserve the Bill of Rights,” Paul told Neil Cavuto. “I see no reason why our Constitution isn’t strong enough to convict this young man, with a jury trial, with The Bill of Rights. We do it to horrible people all the time. Rapists and murders – they get lawyers, they get trials with juries and we seem to do a pretty good job of justice, so I think we can do it through our court system.”

      He actually agrees with the Obama administration on this one. As does Rep. Amash. Both of which are “Man bites dog” news, as opposed to the ranking Democrat on the House homeland security committee, or Senator Feinstein, coming out against enemy combatant status. So welcome to the club, Messrs. Paul and Amash. Hey, why aren’t any Democrats pushing back against this?

      Anyway, it wouldn’t be the WaPo without something like this:

      Given Tsarnaev was a U.S. citizen allegedly engaged in terrorism on home soil, there continued to be disagreement about whether he can be held as an enemy combatant

      The 2009 law that Lindsey Graham helped write is actually not particularly ambiguous or open to “disagreement.” US citizenship and US soil mean game over, as I suspect Graham is aware, since he’s about as powerless on this as decent people are on federal gun control legislation.

    • Bijan Parsia says:

      So, as I understand it we had a no comment (though…sourced?) on Apr 20th and then the interview on Apr 22.

      I’m don’t know what caused the delay (could be benign; could be that there was pressure).

      It is interesting that while coming out right on Tsarnaev he does backpedal (in some way) on the filibuster.

      And now I’ve spent too much time on this!

      • Bijan Parsia says:

        Here goes some more.

        So, clearly, Rand Paul will say stuff that has the form of something useful. He’ll mix it in with the anti-useful and the sheer crazy, but he’ll say stuff that is of the form of useful.

        Is there anything useful to be gotten out of this behavior?

        This is the part I don’t understand. Assuming that ignoring him doesn’t harm anything, what possible advance of civil rights do we get from Paul’s words? Does his “support” give any cover to the administration treating its prisoners correctly? WIll it shut McCain up?

        What’s event the hypothetical benefit?

      • sharculese says:

        we had a no comment (though…sourced?) on Apr 20th … I’m don’t know what caused the delay

        Maybe he was worshipping Aqua Buddha?

  12. […] the comments in the previous post, we glean some real insight into Rand Paul’s principled objection to […]

  13. Hey, why aren’t any Democrats pushing back against this?

    ummm, I believe the White House did. Last time I checked, a Democrat lived there.

    But as to the other ones; I dunno, maybe because the slots on the Sunday talkies are taken up by Rand Paul, Peggy Noonan, Lindsey Graham, and John McCain?

  14. Jesse Levine says:

    I really don’t understand this obsession with Rand Paul. On occaison he offers up an opinion we “civil liberties extremists” agree with, but so what? He is a jerk 99% of the time, and I can think of no reason to constantly refer to him except as an opportunity to discredit the argument of we “extremists” by association.

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  16. mds says:

    …John Ashcroft calls for Tsarnaev to be declared an enemy combatant.

    Ashcroft: I Would Try Boston Bombing Suspect As An Enemy Combatant.

    Wow, in explicit violation of federal law, no less. It’s inconceivable to me that this guy was George W. Bush’s first AG.

    Hey, John, wouldn’t you have to wait until you had repeatedly blown off Boston-area FBI agents, further defunded the counterterrorism squad, and had your boss ignore a memo “Lone Wolves Determined to Bomb Boston Marathon”? Then you could feed the Constitution through your paper shredder again.

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