RUSH: We welcome to the program this afternoon Senator Rand Paul from Kentucky. Senator, you got some sleep last night, I trust?
PAUL: Well, I did, but, you know, I was thinking of you when I was in the middle of this 13-hours. I got about five hours into it and I was like, “Well, Rush does four hours of this every day. Certainly I can do four more hours.”
RUSH: (chuckling) That’s awfully nice of you to say, but I doubt that I was in your thoughts last night, although I appreciate the comment. When did you decide, Senator, that you wanted to make this a filibuster? Did it just happen spontaneously or did you have a plan for it?
PAUL: We’ve been talking for a week about how important the issue is, that it’s a constitutional issue and has more to do with the Constitution than it does to do with individuals. But we didn’t decide on doing it, really, ’til I walked in that morning. I was walking into the Capitol and unfortunately didn’t have very good shoes on for it, either. My shoes were hurting me the whole time.
But we walked in, and you have to look for an opportunity when the floor is open. The Democrats control the floor, and most of the time they tie it up where you’re not allowed to filibuster. And the floor became open, and it was either today or Wednesday or Thursday, and we decided the opportunity was there, and we went for it. But we had prepared for it in the sense that I’d been going over articles about drones in the discussion for a couple weeks.
RUSH: Well, the American people recently, modern era, hear about a “filibuster,” and to them it just means everything’s on hold ’til somebody comes up with 60 votes. You actually had… People were marveling last night. We actually had a speaking or a talking filibuster. You had some help from people on your side and even had some Democrats join you. I’ll tell you what, you probably know this, but the people of this country — and I think it’s a majority of people, Senator — are very frustrated at how we’re being governed by a minority. We’re the majority of thinking in this country, people that heard you filibustering on the topic you were filibustering on last night.
The idea of a smaller government — and government’s simply out of control, too big, too much in debt — that is a majority viewpoint. But nobody in the Republican Party has dared take this president on. You did last night, and you’re alive today to talk about it, and nobody’s calling you names. You are, in certain ways, a hero to a lot of people today, and I hope this kind of thing continues. I hope the reaction you’ve gotten… I know you’re getting some criticism, I’ll ask about a minute, but to me this was a seminal event last night that could change the direction that we are all heading, particularly in terms of educating and informing the American people about what actually is happening in their country.
PAUL: Well, you know, we ask a pretty important question, and that’s whether you get to pick and choose which parts of the Bill of Rights apply to American citizens. And, you know, the Fifth Amendment says you get a right to a trial, you get a right to due process. And we don’t think the president or any politician, Republican or Democrat, should get to choose when the Fifth Amendment applies. We also just weren’t satisfied with him when he said, “Well, I intend to not do this. I don’t intend to kill Americans.”
The problem is, it’s sort of like indefinite detention. We can now detain American citizens without trial, and he says, “Well, I don’t intend to.” Well, his oath of office says, “I will preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution.” It doesn’t say, “I intend to preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution.” So we want stronger language. We want him to admit it. We’re still talking to the White House today, and we’re not gonna let the nomination go forward in any expeditious fashion unless he will answer the question directly.
RUSH: Well, that’s a good point. Your filibuster ostensibly was to protest the nomination of John Brennan as the CIA director, but it’s taken on a much larger universe of ideas now. It’s become bigger than just the Brennan nomination. Now, I imagine a lot of people who came to this whole debate late, who hear that the subject being discussed is whether or not the president will promise not to kill American people sitting in a cafe who are not engaging in any provocative behavior, are saying, “Come on! There’s no president that would ever do that. What are we talking about here?” So why are you concerned? Do you actually need this in writing from the president to be assured that this is something he wouldn’t do?
PAUL: Well, here’s the question. It seems so absurd and so bizarre, and it should be a really easy question to answer. But the reason we asked the question is, we currently do drone strikes overseas, and I’m all for ’em when people are shooting at American soldiers, I think they’re a great tool. I think it’s a great weapon we should use to defend American soldiers and American lives. But we are also killing a lot of people who aren’t actively involved. Now, they may be bad people. They may have been involved yesterday or going to be tomorrow.
But we kill them at home, asleep, in restaurants, cafes, et cetera. Now, that standard may be okay overseas. I think it’s debatable, but at home that standard’s not good enough. So if you’re in a cafe and you’ve been e-mailing your cousin who lives in the Middle East, and people here in a conference room say, “Well, you’re an enemy combatant,” well, I think you can be accused then of being associated with a terrorist if that person in the Mideast is a terrorist, but you need to be arrested and you need to have a chance to defend yourself.
If you have a grenade launcher, though, you don’t get due process.
So if you’re attacking America, inside or out, American or otherwise, you don’t get a lawyer or due process if you’re setting up a bomb. But you do, if you’re in a cafe eating with somebody or sending an e-mail to someone, it needs to be clear that if you’re a noncombatant — if you’re not engaged in combat — that you get your day in court. The problem is the president came forward with this document that he leaked, this drone document, and he said in it that an imminent threat doesn’t have to be an immediate threat, and then there are these pictures of people being killed around the world who are not engaged in combat, and I just don’t think that standard can be used here at home.
RUSH: Senator Cruz yesterday, in hearings at his committee with the attorney general, eventually pried from the attorney general that such behavior as you just described by the government would indeed be unconstitutional. It took him a while.
RUSH: It was like pulling teeth without Novocain but he finally got that done. Now, that was earlier in the day. Why wasn’t that enough for you to end your filibuster?
PAUL: Well, we got that news a couple hours into it. I talked to Senator Cruz. But it’s hard to have conversations ’cause I had to keep talking the whole time. But we did get a transcript of it and we read through it, and I described it later on in a debate as a “withering cross-examination by Senator Cruz.” That’s basically what it was. He did not want to answer the question, and I think it was under duress and the word “constitutional” never occurs in any of his answers. So all we want is a short paragraph.
I think they’re coming towards us. We want them to answer something that every American believes: That you cannot target an American, on American soil, and kill them without first charging, arresting, or convicting them in a court of law. I think every American believes that, left and right. But some who are so fearful say, “Oh, America’s the battlefield and this is law of war over here.” But “law of war” means you don’t get due process, and I’m not against that. In the middle of a war when you’re shooting at someone, you don’t get a lawyer. You don’t get due process.
But in America, eating at a restaurant, you get arrested and you get due process.
RUSH: Well, I —
PAUL: And that is a really important distinction, and we need to have that debate because there are some up here arguing — in fact, the Wall Street Journal today argues — that if you’re declared an enemy combatant, you can be killed. The problem is, who gets to decide when you’re an enemy combatant and when you’re not?
RUSH: The president does. He’s got the kill list.
PAUL: That’s a real problem for me.
RUSH: He’s bragging about it, Senator. He’s bragging. They’re trying to build up his tough, pro-military credentials by saying, “He’s got the kill list. He picks the names.”
PAUL: Well, the Bureau of Justice has come forward with some criterion for people you need to report on if you know these people. These are people with missing fingers, stains on their clothes, people who like to pay in cash, people who have weatherized ammunition, and more than seven days of food. These are people who are potential terrorists. And if that’s the list, I know a lot of people on that list. I’m a little concerned that they ought to get a trial before they get a drone strike ordered.
RUSH: I’m on that list!
RUSH: I am! You raise an interesting point. It’s 2013. There are a lot of people today who can’t believe — literally can’t believe — that the highest law enforcement officials in the country will not, with ease, assure the American people that they will not be randomly targeted by a drone while they’re minding their own business and not threatening anybody. This doesn’t even seem, to most people, to be something that should take five seconds to answer.
PAUL: And the real debate is bigger than President Obama or any president. It’s bigger than Republican or Democrat. It’s about what Madison said in the Federalist Papers. He said basically that you can’t… You know, if you had a government of angels, we wouldn’t have to worry about having rules. But we don’t always have a government of angels, and that’s why we have the rule of law to prevent the time when a democracy can make a mistake and elect a bad person, an evil person to office. So this is not always about the here and now. It’s about protecting people in the future from bad government.
RUSH: Exactly. By the way, a point of clarification. When I said I was on the list, I meant I fit the criteria. I don’t think I’m on anybody’s list.
PAUL: Yeah, I’ve seen the list, but I don’t want to announce in front of you whether you’re on the list or not.
RUSH: (laughing) Okay, well, I fit the criteria. Now, let’s get to the critics. Senator McCain, who went out to dinner last night with President Obama, along with Senator Graham, said that what you’re doing is a waste of time, and you’re actually maybe doing something harmful. You are somehow conveying to the American people that the rules of the Senate are being abused. What in the world could he possibly be talking about, and what is your reaction to his criticism?
PAUL: You know, I think we’ve struck a nerve, and there is a little bit of a difference within the Republican caucus and a growing sort of division on some of these issues. Their side believes that the battlefield is everywhere. And this is what John Brennan believes here. He says there’s no geographic limitation to the battlefield. And that means that if the battlefield is America also, then the people, you know, like Senator McCain and Graham, they believe that the laws of war apply. The problem is that the laws of war don’t involve due process. And I understand when you’re in war, you don’t get due process. So in the battlefield you don’t ask your opponent, you know, for Miranda rights, you don’t present them with warrants. You shoot your opponent.
PAUL: That’s a different sphere than America. That’s why the military operates overseas and the police operate here. We have different sets of rules. I don’t want to believe that we’re gonna have to live in America as a battlefield because I know these young men and women. When they go over they’re fighting for the Bill of Rights, they tell me so and I believe so, and I know that’s why we’ve sent them. They’re fighting for the Bill of Rights and the Constitution, but if we give up and say, oh, we’re gonna have the law of war, the law of war doesn’t include the Bill of Rights.
RUSH: Senator Graham said that your filibuster has convinced him to vote to confirm Brennan.
PAUL: Hmm. Well, he misses the point. This has never been about Brennan. This is about the president and whether or not he will respond to the request I’ve made. And the request is very simple: Can you kill Americans not engaged in combat in America with a drone strike. And I think the answer’s gotta be an unequivocal “no.” Brennan may win over my objections but I’m gonna ask this question of the president. I’m gonna keep asking ’til we get an answer. We’ve asked them this morning. We’ve talked with the White House this morning. Other Republicans are calling the White House, so I’m having assistance with other members of my caucus who want the answer, too. I think we will get an answer.
RUSH: Let me give you a real world example. We have, and it’s been criticized by some, we have killed an American with a drone strike, an admitted, acknowledged terrorist. His name was Anwar al-Awlaki in Yemen. Now, let’s play hypothetical, Senator. Let’s put him in an American cafe, but everything else about him we know. We know he’s a terrorist. We know he’s acknowledged it. We know that he was involved in the USS Cole, whatever terrorist activity. Let’s put him in Chicago and he’s at an outdoor cafe in the summer waiting to go to a Cubs game. Is the administration asking for the right to drone him, to kill him with a drone on American soil if he’s in that circumstance?
PAUL: You know, Senator Cruz addressed this last night, is that if he’s in America and he doesn’t have a weapon or grenade launcher on his shoulder, obviously we’d arrest him. Senator Chambliss also made the point that that’s how we’ll get information, is by arresting people. And, if they don’t have a weapon, why in the world would we want to kill ’em first? We’d get no information. Some of that argument’s been made overseas, but particularly in this country when you’re unarmed and the police can arrest you, why would we not arrest you? So even when someone’s clearly guilty, if we can arrest ’em, it’s preferable for intelligence reasons. If they’ve got a grenade launcher on their shoulder, any kind of lethal force can be used against them. If they’re flying planes into our buildings, F-16s, bombs, rockets, any way we can stop people from attacking us, we use.
RUSH: Right. But al-Awlaki was not doing any of that when we killed him in Yemen.
PAUL: Yeah, there’s a debate overseas how you ought to do it as well because is there a difference for American citizens than foreigners? My argument — not everybody agrees on this. We’re all agreed, I think, or many of us on American citizens on American soil. Overseas, my preference with al-Awlaki would be to have a fairly expeditious trial for treason. Not one with multiple appeals. One at the highest court level and then I would do the drone strike after convicting him of treason. There aren’t very many of these people, so this isn’t something we’re gonna go through every week.
The problem is, and this is where I really find the president’s men reprehensible, is that when Awlaki’s son is killed in a separate strike later, two weeks, we think it’s a signature strike. They won’t tell us all these things, but a signature strike is where you just knock out a caravan. You don’t know who all’s in it. You just think they’re bad people coming from a place where bad people are gathered. And when he was killed there, the president’s man responded, and they said do you feel bad about killing the 16-year-old, are you gonna say was he a target or was he an accident, he said, “Well, he should have chosen a more responsible father.” And so my question yesterday was, is that the standard we’re gonna take in America? If you’re related to bad people are you allowed to be killed with a drone strike? You know, so the standards overseas, there is maybe some question about those standards, but for goodness’ sakes, we can’t have a standard in America that if you’re related to someone who’s committed evil or someone who is bad, that you are now eligible for a drone strike.
RUSH: Senator, I have to take a quick break. Do you have just two more minutes when we get back?
RUSH: Okay, great. Senator Rand Paul is with us discussing his filibuster last night, the reasons for it.
We’ll be back just a second.
RUSH: We’re back. We have Kentucky Senator Rand Paul fresh off his… how long did your filibuster go last night? Excess of 12 hours?
PAUL: I think it was close to 13, but just shy of 13 hours. I think it may have been the second longest one since Strom Thurmond in 1957.
RUSH: Were you thinking of trying to beat that record and the call of nature just overwhelmed?
PAUL: Well, his was 24 hours, so we were only halfway there, and the other thing is, is, he was using some means of beating the rules on biological functions. He had some secret devices he was using.
RUSH: I see.
PAUL: And I’ve been there and inserted those, and I decided I didn’t want one of those.
RUSH: (laughing) Okay. Now, one more reaction to criticism you’re getting is that what you’re really doing, you have a larger mission here that is hidden, and that is similar to your father. You simply don’t like drones, period. You don’t like them being used, the War on Terror, particularly against Islamists, and that that’s what you’re really aiming for here by calling attention to their use domestically. What do you say to people that say that?
PAUL: Well, I would say that’s not accurate. You know, I don’t object to the technology. And, in fact, I’ve been supportive of the drone strikes, particularly in aiding our soldiers in battle. I’m not necessarily against targeted strikes overseas. I think we have to look at the rules. But at home, I’m absolutely opposed to targeted strikes on Americans. So I think there’s some debatable things overseas. In the military action, I’m absolutely in favor of them. I think drones in America, if you have hostage situations or bombs, you know, we use robots to disable bombs, there’s all kinds of reasons for the technology to be used. In America, though, I am worried about them doing surveillance without warrants, flying over my farm, watching where I hunt, things like that. Looking at my farmland with the EPA, there’s all kinds of potential abuses, but it’s not the technology. It really gets back to the Bill of Rights. If you obey the Bill of Rights, I don’t have any problem with drones.
RUSH: Senator, I appreciate your time. And I know you’re being hotly pursued today by a lot of people that want to talk to you. I just want to say that I don’t know if you’ve had time to get a lot of feedback or if you’re aware of it, but you’ve turned a lot of people last night, including people predisposed to oppose Republicans. You hit a nerve with a lot of people last night. And you did demonstrate that this administration can be criticized. You can take this administration on and you can get public support for doing so. I hope that others learn from your example and pick up on it going forward.
PAUL: Thanks, Rush. Thanks for having me on.
RUSH: Senator Rand Paul from Kentucky and his explanation why he was doing the filibuster last night.