Rand Paul’s new comments on drones: flip-flop or fudge-up?

You’ve probably all seen (or at least heard about) Rand Paul’s drone filibuster last month. The whole thing started when the Kentucky Senator vowed to block the confirmation of CIA director John Brennan unless the White House told him it wouldn’t use unmanned drones to kill US citizens on American soil.

Eventually, the Obama administration replied with a letter from Attorney General Eric Holder, saying that they would never target American citizens in the US for drone operations. That statement came after Sen. Paul said this on the senate floor:

“No American should be killed by a drone on American soil without first being charged with a crime, without first being found to be guilty by a court.”

That’s fair enough, and I agree with him. Obviously, I wasn’t the only one, because Paul’s 13-hour filibuster brought him tons of media exposure and strengthened his loyal following of libertarian-leaning Republicans.

But then Paul said this on Fox yesterday:

“We shouldn’t be willy-nilly, looking into [a citizen’s] backyard at what they’re doing. But if there is a killer on the loose in a neighborhood, I’m not against drones being used to search them out, heat seeking devices being used.

If someone comes out of a liquor store with a weapon and $50 in cash, I don’t care if a drone kills him or a policeman kills him.”

I could be misinterpreting this, but doesn’t that statement contradict what Paul said back in March about the need for a trial before a drone strike can take place ? Ignore the logistical challenge of finding someone guilty in court and then having to chase them down with a drone for a second. Isn’t Rand Paul saying he’s actually okay with using drones on citizens who haven’t been convicted by a jury of their peers?

I'd hate to see Ronald end up as collateral damage, but these are tough times.

I’d hate to see Ronald end up as collateral damage, but these are tough times.

An argument could be made that the guy coming out of the liquor store in this scenario poses a clear and present danger to other people on the ground. But if that’s the threshold for using drones on citizens, it seems pretty low. That’s the reaction from most of the Rand Paul fans that I’ve seen online so far, anyway. Some of them even say they don’t trust him anymore and are looking at other candidates for 2016.

I think that’s a bit of an overreaction. It seems more likely than Sen. Paul was caught up in speculating on a weird hypothetical (a bad policy in dealing with the media, but the guy’s human after all!) than that he spontaneously changed positions on one of his strongest issues. But I’ll let the Paul-ites fight this one out in the comments: were Rand Paul’s comments on Fox yesterday about drone usage a flip-flop or a fudge-up?

H/t to my friend Manik for inventing the term “fudge-up.”

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Posted in Foreign Policy
2 comments on “Rand Paul’s new comments on drones: flip-flop or fudge-up?
  1. Jim Hull says:

    It’s more like a fudge-up. Paul is being consistent, but the way he put it was awkward. What he probably meant was, “If there’s going to be a confrontation on the street between an armed-and-dangerous suspect and police responders, and the police find they must use lethal force, it doesn’t matter if it’s their flying robot that fires on him or a sworn peace officer.” He doesn’t object to drones _per se_ but only to those used for executive assassinations with no judicial review.

    • That makes sense, and that’s what a lot of people I’ve talked to are saying. His office issued a statement today clarifying as well. I guess people just got confused because of the context of the interview.

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