OPINION: CPAC straw poll shows Rand Paul captured American voters' attention with filibuster

Rand Paul, junior senator from Kentucky, came out ahead in the recent CPAC straw poll (photo courtesy of George Skidmore/Flickr).
Rand Paul, junior senator from Kentucky, came out ahead in the recent CPAC straw poll (photo courtesy of George Skidmore/Flickr).

Rand Paul’s March 6 filibuster, affectionately referred to by the public as “Filliblizzard,” has been the talk of the politics world for the past few weeks—especially because of the surprising amount of bipartisan support that surfaced for Rand during his almost thirteen hour speech. However, many people outside the political loop, and even some on the inside, wonder why Rand Paul put so much energy into a senatorial technique which many deem to be old-fashioned and a waste of time. After all, the only effect the filibuster ended up having was delaying a relatively expected vote approving Obama’s nomination of John Brennan for the position of Director of the C.I.A. But I, on the other hand, have to assert that there really was a great purpose to Paul’s filibuster, and many people do not seem to see that.

Rand Paul, son of famous Texas politician Ron Paul, had a good reason to filibuster the nomination. After sending a letter asking United States Attorney General Eric Holder if it would be legal—let alone ethically acceptable—for the United States military to authorize a drone attack on American citizens while within the boundaries of the United States and without due process, Holder’s response affirmed that such an attack may be acceptable in “extraordinary circumstances.”

Paul, a professed Libertarian, has clearly had massive objections to President Obama’s overseas drone program, which has killed an American citizen. Paul, not surprisingly, has an even stronger objection to that kind of military power potentially being used within the boundaries of the United States. Brennan has played a large role in the criticized drone program.

The filibuster, though it essentially delayed the inevitable, was a very good technique to bring public attention to this issue. Paul took a great opportunity to talk about a very important rights issue, milking it for almost thirteen hours. For Paul and the GOP, it was a great success. Though Brennan’s nomination was still approved by a 63-34 vote, Paul eventually did manage to squeeze out a statement from the White House, which claimed that an American citizen cannot be killed by a drone while residing on U.S. territory.

Conservatives seem to be highly impressed with Paul, giving him a victory in the Conservative Political Action Conference’s recent straw poll, which usually foreshadows future presidential campaigns. Though the filibuster is not Rand’s only high-profile political move, the filibuster seemed to be one of the greater talking points among the attendees of the conference.  Rand Paul has easily become one of the favorites among conservatives, especially for the younger generation comprising a large portion of the attendees at CPAC.

As a person interested in international security, I—personally—am not an adamant critic of Obama’s drone program. However, when there is a possibility that this kind of power could be used against me—an American citizen residing in the U.S.—by someone with the government’s authority, I am definitely not one to stand by to let such a thing happen.

I know the situation has become an issue of rights. Though it may seem hypocritical to some, I can’t say that the people who have been killed by drone program have been good, honest folks. They were considered terrorists with and posed an eminent threat to the United States by actively engaging in treasonous or terrorist activities.

Additionally, we can’t expect to just march into Pakistan and grab the guys like we can in the U.S., or in the countries of our closer allies. Pakistan already isn’t happy with the drones. Try putting boots on the ground and expecting to see their wonderful smiling faces. I don’t expect you’ll find any, especially after Pakistan’s quite negative reaction to the Bin Laden raid.

As long as drones are being used outside of the United States, I am not strongly opposed to their use. If drones were to be used on American citizens and residents, and without due process, then we have a problem—what couldn’t the government do? Besides being a blatant violation of Americans’ constitutional rights, how could the government assume a target is guilty of their accused crime? If drones are used on U.S. soil, welcome to the police state. 

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