"So let's say there are people going from a Constitution Party meeting to a Libertarian Party meeting. Both these groups don't like big government. They hate big government ... They are nonviolent as far as I know, but they were on the fusion list for potential terrorists," Paul said, referring to a Department of Homeland Security report tagging anti-abortion activists; border advocates; supporters of Rand's father, Ron Paul; and others as potential members of paramilitary groups that law enforcement should monitor. "Are we going to kill people in a caravan going from one meeting to the next?"
People will say the question is absurd, he readily acknowledged. But if the Obama administration resolutely fails to acknowledge the constitutional limits that specifically rule out such an assault -- which already has plenty of precedent overseas in the secretly expanding "war on terror" -- is it really absurd?
Meanwhile, there is something else to consider. So long as the Obama administration continues to demonize its political opponents as potential domestic terrorists, as Paul says, the outlandishness of a domestic drone strike is further worn down, conditioned into weary complacency or even mob consensus. We've seen such transformations many times before in modern -- and not always totalitarian --societies.
All the more reason for the president to alleviate such fears with his affirmation that killing noncombatant Americans in America is unconstitutional. But I don't think he's going to do it. There's not enough political pressure on him to do so.
One of the stranger results of the popular Paul filibuster was the instant coalescence of an ad hoc "Calm down, Rand" (read: shut up) effort. This political eruption loosely and overlappingly linked "surge" and Arab Spring diehards, neocon-esque conservative journals and blogs, and establishment pooh-bahs such as Sens. John McCain and Lindsey Graham.
I think the common ground here is that these groups basically favor the Bush-Obama drone wars that allow them to believe we are winning, or at least fighting, the war on terror groups, even if the unacknowledged reality is that we are losing the free world to what we might call "noncombatant" (or pre-combatant) Islamization. Maybe they think deep inside that if drone wars were deemed unconstitutional in any way -- or, worse, ineffective -- the hollow offensives the U.S. continues to support would eventually collapse, giving rise to panicky paralysis. In such an event, the absurdity of picking off terrorist leaders worldwide as a national strategy to fight "terror" might emerge with distressing clarity, while the Islamic law and money that have almost wholly engulfed Western institutions might become frighteningly apparent.
Maybe that's why it seems as if blind trust in presidential discretion now trumps the bounds of the Constitution. But I hope not.