Rand Paul Filibusters Brennan CIA Appointment Over Drone Strikes

February 10, 2020

PAUL JAY: Welcome to The Real News Network.
I’m Paul Jay in Baltimore. As we record this interview, John Brennan
appointment to the CIA is being filibustered by Rand Paul, the Republican senator from
Kentucky, son of the libertarian leader and icon Ron Paul. Here’s a little clip of what
he has said during the filibuster. RAND PAUL: No one is questioning whether the
U.S. can repel an attack. No one is questioning whether your local police can repel an attack.
Anybody involved in lethal force, the legal doctrine in our country (and has been historically)
has always been that the government can repel lethal attacks. The problem is that the drone strike program
is often not about combatants. It is about people who may or may not be conspiring, but
they’re not in combat. They’re in a car, they’re in their house, they’re in a restaurant, they’re
in a cafe. If we’re going to bring that standard to America,
what I’m doing down here today is asking the president to be explicit. If you’re going
to have the standard that you are going to kill noncombatants in America, come forward
and please say it clearly so we know what we’re up against. JAY: Now joining us to talk about Rand Paul’s
filibuster is Brian Doherty. He’s a senior editor at Reason magazine, which is one of
the country’s leading libertarian publications. Thanks very much for joining us. BRIAN DOHERTY: Glad to be here. JAY: So why is Rand doing this now? And why
this issue? DOHERTY: You know, he’s doing it because the
Brennan nomination is up, and this is the place where a senator gets to weigh in with
that whole advise and consent thing. And he’s really trying to show that he is one of the
few and in some cases one of the only senators in Washington who actually is going to stand
up to the administration on some very basic rule of law issues. The question he’s positing, of course, is:
does the president have the right to unilaterally kill American citizens on American soil without
due process of law? And he’s a little bit disturbed that when he’s asked the administration
and asked Brennan to sort of unequivocally say no, which is what you’d think the answer
would be, the administration doesn’t want to do that. And he’s sort of shoring up his civil liberties
bona fides, probably for a 2016 presidential run, which everyone suspects he’s going to
do. Whether or not he’s going to win any support on the left for this is hard to say, ’cause
a lot of them tend to just be for their guy and for their team. Of course, Paul also made a point of spelling
out that he would be saying the same thing, raising the same objections, even if it were
a Republican in office. And because of his libertarian background, I actually believe
him when he says it. I wouldn’t necessarily believe that of any other Republican. JAY: Yeah. And he did vote in favor of Hagel’s
confirmation, where he actually went against most of the Republicans on that, and I think
because Hagel is a little closer to his view of what U.S. foreign policy should be. I don’t
know if he goes as far as his father, Ron Paul, did, but Ron Paul was in favor of closing
all American military bases around the world and bringing American troops home. Actually,
while we’re at it, let me ask: does Rand go that far? DOHERTY: You know, I don’t believe that Rand
Paul has ever said to bring all troops home from everywhere. But he did make a very prominent
foreign policy speech in front of the right-wing Heritage Foundation last month in which he
tried to raise the question for a Republican audience that, hey, we have to admit, if we’re
supposed to be the party of fiscal responsibility, if we’re supposed to be the party that adheres
to the Constitution, that it’s not really our constitutional mission–and we can’t really
afford it–to try to manage the world. So he’s sort of–he’s laid out the idea that
we shouldn’t have our military everywhere. I don’t believe he has ever said the words
bring all the troops home now, but he certainly is the Republican senator who is the most
skeptical of foreign intervention. He’s even gone so far as to say, hey, even
if Iran does get a nuclear weapon, that doesn’t necessarily mean we have to wage war. And
he points to the historical example of the Soviet Union, a terror-sponsoring state run
by madmen with tons of nuclear weapons. We managed to contain them without going to war,
and Rand Paul has suggested we could do the same with Iran–again, a very rare thing to
hear from any politician, much less a Republican. JAY: Well, I think a lot of people around
the world have seen the U.S. state and might have described it as such over the last 50,
60 years, but that’s a discussion for another day. Let me just say, in terms of my own take on
this, I think it’s kind of outrageous that Rand Paul is the only person filibustering
this today. This issue was raised in the Senate Intelligence Committee when Brennan was before
it. I don’t think the Obama administration ever provided the real legal justification
for this, and they’ve never clearly answered the question on whether or not these drone
strikes and the order of someone being killed could happen even on American soil, never
mind killing Americans abroad. And let me add one other caveat. There’s certainly nothing
under international law that allows killing of non-U.S. citizen noncombatants all over
the world, which is going on. So Rand could have raised that as well. But let me quickly play another clip of what
Rand said today about the use of drone strikes in the United States. ~~~ PAUL: If sympathizing with our enemies and
propagandizing on their behalf is equivalent to making war on our country, then the Johnson
and Nixon administrations should have bombed every elite college in America, because during
the 1960s that’s all that came out was anti-America, antiwar. Is objecting to your government or objecting
to the policy of your government sympathizing with the enemy? Some openly were sympathetic.
No one will ever forget Jane Fonda swiveling around in North Vietnamese armored guns, and
it was despicable. Now, it’s one thing if you want to try her for treason, but are you
going to just drop a drone Hellfire missile on Jane Fonda? Are you going to drop a Hellfire
missile on those at Kent State? ~~~ JAY: That was Rand Paul speaking during his
filibuster. As we speak in this interview he’s still at it, trying to block the confirmation
of John Brennan as head of the CIA. Brian, it is a principled position, in my
point of view. It’s consistent with what Rand Paul always stood for prior to running for
Senate. And I’ll say again, I think it’s outrageous that he’s the only one there, and there should
be I don’t know how many Democrats that claim to be progressive and against militarism and
against such illegality that are not up there standing with him, and it’s outrageous. But given all of that, let’s talk about the
politics of this. Rand did accept money from Karl Rove during his election as a Kentucky
senator, and that was sort of in my mind a beginning of this kind of a positioning of
himself, but within the Republican Party, and starting to work with those people that
he thought were the enemy. I interviewed Rand Paul in the New Hampshire primaries, and he
told me he had more in common with people like Kucinich and who were opposing at that
time Bush-Cheney overseas adventures and illegal invasions, he had more in common with Kucinich
and the Democratic progressives, antiwar progressives, than he did with the neocons. But he took
money from Rove, and then more so he supported Romney in the election, who’s–clearly was
building a neocon foreign policy cabal around himself. So, I mean, where is the overall
consistency here for Rand? DOHERTY: Sure. I want to quickly say I sat
through the whole filibuster, and there were a handful of other people who did sort of
go up there with Rand. Actually, Wyden from the Democratic side actually did–I don’t
know if join in is the technical term, but he showed up on the floor to ask him questions.
So did Lee and Rubio and Ted Cruz. But to your larger question, yeah, Rand Paul
is definitely trying to build an audience beyond the fanatical fans of his father Ron
Paul. He has what you–you could call it political intelligence, you could call it sneakiness
almost, but he is definitely trying to bring in your sort of standard Karl Rove talk radio–the
talk radio wing of the GOP. He is not trying to deliberately alienate anyone in his own
party, which his father had no problem of doing. That said, I think things like his filibuster
today over this issue that no one, either from the Democratic or the Republican Party
side, really cares about shows that he is also trying to stay true blue to his libertarian
roots. He is not going out of his way to become a lickspittle to the standard right wing.
Neither is he trying to alienate them. It’s a very difficult, as we were discussing earlier,
sort of tightrope that he is trying to walk. And so far I think he has succeeded. He hasn’t
fallen one way or the other. You know, he appeals to the neocons by saying things like,
you know, Israel, an imminent attack on Israel is an attack on us. He appeals to the libertarian
wing by things like this filibuster and things like saying, we could contain a nuclear Iran.
I think he’s doing magnificently so far. Of course, he’s going to have a lot of opportunity
to screw up between now and 2016. But he is trying to be a libertarian-leaning Republican
who can appeal to the wide Republican base. JAY: And in doing so, as I say, I give him
a lot of credit for this drone filibuster. But is he not on the whole losing what he
stood for? And maybe he has to, in terms of pragmatically advancing himself in any kind
of position to run in 2016, which everybody says is what he’s trying to do. But, like,
for example, his position on Israel, I mean, certainly his father–and I can’t say I remember
directly Rand saying this, but I never heard Rand disagreeing with his father before he
ran as senator. But Ron Paul, I thought, was always pretty clear that this one-sided support
for Israel was not in America’s national strategic interest. But that’s not what you hear from
Rand. DOHERTY: No. You know, I’m not going to use
the term sold out. I will say that he is trying to not draw the concerted opposition of, you
know, what you call your [incompr.] Israel lobby, which also played into how Rand Paul
handled the politics of the Chuck Hagel nomination. As you might remember, Rand Paul was part
of the filibuster against bringing Hagel to a vote, and yet when the vote actually came,
he went ahead and voted for Hagel. So he has two different things he could point to. He
could point to Hagel’s enemies and go, hey, look, I was trying my hardest to get Hagel
to answer the tough questions. I was not helping rush the vote. And yet when the vote actually
happened, he did vote for him. But he didn’t say he voted for him because he agreed with
him. It was interesting. Rand Paul basically said, well, I generally believe the president
should be able to have the cabinet member he wants, absent some obvious gross reason
[incompr.] So he managed to vote for Hagel without actually really endorsing what Hagel
stands for in terms of him being supposedly an enemy of Israel, which I don’t think was
ever really true anyway. So, no, I don’t think he has done anything
that is an outright selling out of noninterventionist principles. I mean, it’s never healthy to
hear an American politician say that an attack on Israel is an attack on us. That sort of
mentality, I think, is at the root of why we’re dug in so deep and so foolishly in the
Middle East. It’s not a good attitude. But that said, he’s not out there saying that
oh my God, we have to go to war with Iran right now, which is basically what John Kerry
was out there saying the other day. So, yeah, I think his noninterventionist bona fides
are still reasonably solid right now. JAY: Where is he on this resolution that Lindsey
Graham’s pushing, which essentially says that if Israel attacks Iran, the United States
should jump in and then join in? In other words, Israel gets to decide what war the
United States participates in, which is, I think, the essence of Lindsey Graham’s resolution. DOHERTY: Yeah. I do not know what Rand Paul
has said about that resolution. Certainly, if he did support it, that would be remarkably
disappointing and, I think, a violation of his containment philosophy which he expressed
at that Heritage Foundation speech. But, honestly, I am not exactly sure if he has ever said
anything about that resolution. JAY: Okay. Just one final quick question,
then. How is it working? How is Rand in the Ron Paul constituency? DOHERTY: It’s working alright. I think, you
know, I’m sort of deep in the Ron Paul world. I wrote a book about him. But I think it’s
worth remembering that the sort of fanatic on the internet for Ron Paul is not that large
of a voting bloc. I mean, Ron Paul got 2.1 million votes in the primaries last year,
and Rand Paul definitely needs to keep most of those people. I don’t think most of those
people [incompr.] on the internet, so I think right now, especially today, I’ve been keeping
my eye on the chatter about this. Rand Paul is definitely seeming like he’s still a star
to that core Ron Paul audience. JAY: Okay. Good. Well, we’ll come back to
this issue as things develop. Thanks very much for joining us. DOHERTY: Thanks for having me. JAY: And thank you for joining us on The Real
News Network.

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