Posted by: JDM..... | March 7, 2013

Rand Paul…..

and the drones of Obama….

Sen. Rand Paul wanted to know the parameters of the Obama administration’s drone policy and he filibustered thirteen hours before getting a response from the White House. Sen. Paul may view the President’s note in response to his 13 hour filibuster as a victory of sorts, and perhaps it is, but he still hasn’t received a straight answer. Rand had raised a question about the possibility of whether or not an American citizen could be drone-targeted on American soil.

Attorney General Eric Holder delivered the answer, in which the President stated “Does the President have the authority to use a weaponized drone to kill an American not engaged in combat on American soil.’ The answer to that question is no.

But…. that wasn’t the question asked.

I read the prepared “answer” and my radar came to life like a switchblade on Saturday night on the wrong side of the tracks. As with an unfortunate majority of political jousting episodes, when the guy in front of you drops a glass on the floor, the guy behind you is lifting your wallet.

Whenever a person paraphrases a question and then responds to the paraphrased version instead of the original query, it is not an “answer”, it’s a parry, it’s a distraction.

Adding buttons and levers to the original question smacks of the old “dazzle ‘em with bullshit” shtick, like a stage magician waving his white-gloved right hand in the air while the left retrieves a hidden coin from some place out of the focal radius.

Using a level of creativity on a par with that of the President’s wordsmiths, I wondered about the emphasis on weaponry and combat. Government has been known to issue its own dictionary on occasion, those occasions themselves tending to be defined by convenience, so I thought about how the plebian understanding of what constitutes “combat” might be written off as an unfortunate and naive misunderstanding. In my own lifetime, protests against government have metamorphosed from fire in the streets to hacking the technology that distributes toilet paper in the Capitol, so just about anything could be called “combat” in this day and age. That said, perhaps the unspoken “answer” is that the President or one of his appointees could easily word-salad themselves into authorization to do just about whatever they believe circumstances justify.

But that’s only in the worst case scenario. I still wonder if the President’s non-answer means he does have the authority to use a non-weaponized drone against an American citizen on American soil. What if the goal wasn’t to kill the person but to observe certain activities? If I tick off the President and then take a brown bag lunch to some remote Bahamian atoll for a change of scenery, can I be offed by a Presidential drone there? How about a DOD drone? Heck, how about a Dept. of Agriculture drone?

In the President’s defense, I’m sure Sen. Paul’s wording and delivery were provocative in their own right. After all, he is a politician, and he did use that much maligned filibuster tactic, so perhaps the whole yawn was just another Washington tit for tat. That would fit. Not much moves forward these days, …..except when Congress cuts out for a long weekend or some such thing.


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  1. I just an op-Ed on this which made the point that it doesn’t matter if people trust THIS president or not; it’s what future presidents would do with that kind of authority. The author is no fan of Rand Paul, but he did give him kudos for demanding answers. And you are right on point about the verbal jousting and stall tactics. If someone can not give a direct answer to a direct question, then I have no reason to trust anything that comes out of their mouth. It’s really repulsive for me to watch the leaders of our country act even more childish than my four year old.

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