By Garth Kant
Talk radio icon Rush Limbaugh today called Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., a hero for facing off against the Obama administration and surviving.
Limbaugh told Paul today: "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."
Limbaugh noted Paul has received criticism, but he called the filibuster "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's filibustered President Obama's nomination for CIA director. His move was declared a victory today when Attorney General Eric Holder issued a terse response to the question the senator raised during nearly 13 hours of talking on the Senate floor.
"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," Holder responded.
Holder previously told Paul the U.S. never has carried out a drone strike against a U.S. citizen on American soil and it would be "unlikely."
However, Holder said he could not rule it out entirely.
"It is possible, I suppose, to imagine an extraordinary circumstance in which it would be necessary and appropriate under the Constitution and applicable laws of the United States for the president to authorize the military to use lethal force within the territory of the United States," Holder's letter said.
He said Obama "has the power to authorize lethal force, such as a drone strike, against a U.S. citizen on U.S. soil, and without trial."
Limbaugh interviewed Paul after his marathon filibuster over Obama's nominee for CIA director, John O. Brennan, who was affirmed in a vote late today. The senator wanted the administration to affirm it won't kill non-combatant Americans in the U.S. It was the ninth-longest filibuster in Senate history, lasting 12 hours and 52 minutes, and ending early Thursday morning.
Republican Sens. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., who were among a group of Republican senators who had dinner with Obama at a Washington, D.C. hotel while Paul filibustered, were combative toward their Republican colleague.
McCain said, "If Mr. Paul wants to be taken seriously he needs to do more than pull political stunts than fire up impressionable libertarian kids."
McCain charged Paul's warnings that the Obama administration could target American citizens on U.S. soil puts the debate into the "realm of the ridiculous."
"Calm down, senator," McCain said. "The U.S. government cannot randomly target U.S. citizens.
“What we saw yesterday is going to give ammunition to those who say the rules of the Senate are being abused,” the Arizona Republican said.
Graham took it a step further. He said he was leaning toward opposing the Brennan nomination, but now he's changed his mind.
"I am going to vote for Brennan now because it's become a referendum on the drone program."
Paul was diplomatic when Limbaugh asked about the attacks on him and his filibuster, declining to attack his critics. But, he pointed out, there is little difference between the administration's views on the subject and those of McCain and Graham.
The senator said: "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," Paul continued. "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."
Paul said 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," he said. '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."
When Limbaugh mentioned the filibuster had convinced Graham to vote to confirm Brennan, Paul said: "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.'"
Limbaugh began the interview by asking: "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 explained: "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."
He continued: "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."
Limbaugh praised Paul's filibuster and the popular reaction to it.
"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," Limbaugh said. " ... 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."
Colleagues who came to Paul's aid during the filibuster included fellow Republican Sens. Ted Cruz of Texas and Mike Lee of Utah. Cruz gave Paul a breather at one point by asking a 50-minute question.
Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus sent out an SOS late in the evening, reading, “Attention all Republican US Senators - Please go to the floor and help out.”
Those who showed up and spoke included Sens. Marco Rubio of Florida, John Cornyn of Texas, John Barrasso of Wyoming, Jerry Moran of Kansas, Saxby Chambliss of Georgia, Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania, Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, Tim Scott of South Carolina, Jeff Flake of Arizona, John Thune of South Dakota and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.
Most of those senators were elected in 2010 or 2012.
Paul even got help from a Democrat, Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon.
A liberal celebrity wondered where the other Democrats were.
Actor John Cusack tweeted: "For gods sake where are democrats ?? “@democracynow: Rand Paul: Obama Admin Response Drones 'More Than Frightening'"
He added: "Up to 8 Senators now joining the Rand Paul #filibuster. Where are the so-called progressive Democratic senators?"
Cusak summed up his thoughts with slams against the attorney general and the president, tweeting: "AG say its ok to kill us citizens–and other bad guys- but trust us we're the good guys...how'd that play out through history mr hold...pay no attention to the man behind that curtain...the great and powerful O has spoken."
THE BIG STORY
"The filibuster heard 'round the world?" by Diana West
"Are there no limits on use of drones?" by Bill Press
"Let's build on the Paul filibuster" by David Limbaugh