Mr. Paul goes to Washington and draws blood on both sides of the aisle

Jeffrey T. Kuhner

Sen. Rand Paul has lit a fuse, one that threatens to blow up President Obama’s secret drone program.

The Kentucky Republican on Wednesday held a nearly 13-hour filibuster opposing John O. Brennan’s nomination as CIA director. Mr. Paul’s action was prompted by a shocking admission from the administration: Namely, Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr.’s claim that the president has the constitutional authority to order drone strikes against Americans on U.S. soil.

Hence, Mr. Obama thinks that he can order the execution of any American citizen in our country without due process — no charges, no trial and no verdict — simply if that person is suspected of being a terrorist or an “imminent threat” to national security. The president thinks he can act as accuser, jury and executioner. In short, this is an unprecedented power grab. Mr. Obama is behaving like a tyrant. Call him Hugo Chavez on the Potomac.

Sen. Rand Paul.  /AP
Sen. Rand Paul. /AP

Mr. Holder this week wrote a letter to Mr. Paul arguing that, under certain conditions, Mr. Obama could launch drone attacks on U.S. soil. “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,” Mr. Holder said.

There is only one problem: Mr. Holder is dead wrong. Drone strikes on U.S. soil are not only immoral, they are illegal and unconstitutional. Any such action would violate the fundamental principle of our democracy — the rule of law. Under the Constitution, especially the Fifth Amendment, Americans are entitled to legal due process. This means they must be formally charged with a crime, have the right to confront their accusers and undergo a trial by judge or jury. Mr. Obama is now saying that he can willy-nilly — under the guise of waging the war on terrorism — abrogate our fundamental liberties. He is an imperial president, slowly assuming authoritarian powers.

Mr. Paul’s filibuster was necessary and heroic. “I will not sit quietly and let him shred the Constitution,” he said, referring to Mr. Obama on the Senate floor. What is remarkable isn’t Mr. Paul’s response, but the lack of a larger outcry. Many Republicans were silent. In fact, a dozen of them — including Sens. John McCain of Arizona, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire — were having a luxurious dinner with Mr. Obama while their colleague was defending the Bill of Rights.

Afterward, Mr. Graham excoriated Mr. Paul, calling him “ridiculous” for warning about drones potentially firing missiles on a cafe in Kentucky. My advice to establishment Republicans such as Mr. Graham: Don’t sell your soul for a filet mignon dinner. It’s not worth it.

Moreover, anti-war Democrats are refusing to oppose the administration’s drone program. The hypocrisy is stunning. When President George W. Bush was in office, progressives decried the warrantless wiretapping of overseas conversations with suspected foreign jihadists. Forget eavesdropping — the president now says he can kill Americans with impunity and the Democratic left simply yawns. Liberals have jettisoned their principles in service of the Obama regime.

Mr. Paul is an old-school Republican senator. Like the late Sen. Robert A. Taft of Ohio, Mr. Paul is a staunch critic of the welfare-warfare state. He is a constitutionalist. He champions limited government, balanced budgets and military non-interventionism. He understands one basic truth: Rights of Americans are in peril. As Washington drinks from the poisoned chalice of imperial hubris, it is becoming more hated around the world and bankrupt at home. We are going the way of ancient Rome.

Mr. Obama is behaving increasingly like a Roman emperor. Drunk with power, dismissive of his subjects and recognizing no restraints on his authority, he now claims the right to kill his fellow citizens. He has declared war on the Constitution and, increasingly, parts of his own country. His administration has repeatedly behaved illegally and unconstitutionally. Obamacare, suing Arizona for upholding federal immigration laws, Operation Fast and Furious, appointing countless policy “czars” possessing Cabinet-level powers without the Senate’s consent, the unauthorized war in Libya, and countless executive orders trampling the rights of Congress — we are becoming a republic in name only.

Mr. Paul is emerging as the leader of the constitutional resistance. He represents the best of traditional America — the nation founded upon small government, self-reliance, individual freedom, the rule of law and a non-imperialist foreign policy. Mr. Paul is the anti-Obama. This is why he is now the front-runner for the Republican presidential nomination in 2016. Democrats beware. A conservative champion has been born.

Jeffrey T. Kuhner is a radio commentator in Boston.