Sen. Rand Paul’s (R-Ky.) filibuster appears to have exposed a divide in the Republican Party, with the party’s two top foreign policy hawks — Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) — taking to the floor Thursday to denounce Paul’s effort in stark terms.
McCain and Graham said they support the president’s right to use deadly force — including drones — against U.S. citizens on U.S. soil who are engaged in terrorism, when there aren’t other options available.
Graham even labeled Paul’s effort — which was joined by more than a dozen Senate Republicans — as “ill-informed.”
“I don’t worry about [drones killing Americans],” Graham said. “Here’s what I worry about: that al-Qaeda has killed 2,958 of us and is going to add to the total if we let our guard down. And I will do everything in my power to protect this president — who I disagree with a lot — and future presidents in having an ill-informed Congress take over the legitimate authority under the Constitution and the laws of this land to be the Commander in Chief on behalf of all of us.”
Graham appeared with a placard that compared the number of Americans killed on U.S. soil by al-Qaeda (2,958) to the number killed by drones (0).
“We need hearings,” McCain said. “But that conversation should not be about drones killing Jane Fonda and people in cafes. It should be all about what authority and what checks and balances should exist…”
(Paul in his filibuster Wednesday suggested that the loose definition of who is an enemy of the state could mean the U.S. would drop “Hellfire missiles on Jane Fonda” or could kill people sitting down at cafes with people they didn’t know were terrorists.)
McCain also linked from his Twitter account to a Wall Street Journal op-ed that was strongly critical of Paul’s “rant.”
— John McCain (@SenJohnMcCain) March 7, 2013
Paul has admitted that he trusts that President Obama would not use such authority, but he said he worries that it might be abused by future presidents who aren’t as scrupulous.
Here are McCain’s remarks: