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.