TAMPA, March 10, 2013 – First, the good news. Kentucky Senator Rand Paul squared off in a 13-hour game of chicken with the White House on Wednesday. At stake was the bedrock American principle that no one will be deprived of life, liberty or property without due process of law. Early Thursday morning, the White House blinked.
“It has come to my attention that you have now asked an additional question: “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. Sincerely, Eric H. Holder, Jr.”
It took “a month and a half and a root canal” to get that carefully worded answer, according to Senator Paul, and even then some obvious questions remained.
Does the president have the authority to use manned aircraft to kill an American not engaged in combat on American soil? How about a rifle? A bow and arrow?
Perhaps due to the popular support for Paul’s filibuster, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney attempted to clean up Holder’s overqualified answer.
“The legal authorities that exist to use lethal force are bound by, constrained by, the law and the Constitution. The issue here isn’t the technology…. Whether it’s a drone strike or a gun shot, the law and the Constitution apply in the same way.”
Make no mistake, this was a victory, even before Carney’s clarification. That’s because the larger question looming over the proceeding was even more fundamental:
Is there any power over the lives, liberty and property of Americans that the President does not presume to have?
Over the past century, the answer to that question has been a consistent “no.” It would have been no different this time if not for Paul’s filibuster and the immediate approval it met with from Americans across the political spectrum. Paul’s principled stand was admirable, but it was popular support by the people that struck fear into the establishment. That’s why politicians and pundits who have consistently supported unlimited executive power fell over themselves to support Paul’s filibuster.
They were afraid not to.
It would seem that those who care about liberty have found a formula for success. Stop the government in its tracks and don’t allow it to resume its business until it has answered the people to their satisfaction. That could be accomplished in a number of ways, including popular support of a filibuster or peaceful demonstration. It is only important that the government know it is being confronted by the people. Like all bullies, the government folds when its victims refuse to back down.
222 years after it became the law of the land, we have reestablished that the president cannot kill us without due process of law. That’s a good thing, but it sets the bar somewhat low for a nation that calls itself “the land of the free.” Here are just a few of the additional questions that should be answered before allowing the federal government to proceed any further:
What is the probable cause that allows the government to search every single person who boards an airplane, intercept and store every e-mail sent and record every phone call made by anyone in the United States?
How did American taxpayers become financially responsible to provide military defense to every soul on the planet?
Where in the Constitution is the power delegated to the federal government to force young people entering the workforce to pay for the medical care and living expenses of retirees, based upon the promise that future generations will be forced to do likewise for them?
From whence does the federal government derive the power to prohibit an American from accepting an hourly wage below an arbitrarily set minimum? From ingesting substances that the government doesn’t approve of? From refusing to purchase health insurance?
If the government truly has the “consent of the governed,” then that consent can only be found in one place: the powers delegated to it in the Constitution. That is not the most stringent measure of the government’s power. It is the bare minimum. One must use an extremely elastic definition of the word “consent” even to justify that.
If one cannot find clear and unambiguous delegation of the powers currently exercised by the federal government in the Constitution, then why kid ourselves that we’re free?
Tom Mullen is the author of A Return to Common Sense: Reawakening Liberty in the Inhabitants of America. He writes weekly columns on his blog and his weekly column in the Washington Times has been featured on The Daily Caller, The Huffington Post, Daily Paul, LewRockwell.com, 321 Gold! and Peter Schiff’s EuroPac.net. Tom has been a guest on Fox’s Freedom Watch with Judge Andrew Napolitano, Adam Vs. the Man, Free Talk Live, and numerous other programs.