Droning the Same Old Tune


2013-03-06 – There was a peculiar outrage yesterday.

The cause of the outrage was a letter from Attorney General Eric Holder to Senator Rand Paul expressing his opinion on the authority of the President to launch a drone strike against American citizens within the United States. Holder said that such a thing would be highly unlikely, but that the President would have the authority in the face of a huge provocation like Pearl Harbor or 9/11.

Senator Paul is outraged.

I am outraged at Paul’s outrage because here is what he is saying: although local police have the authority to use lethal force to stop crimes in progress, the President of the United States does not. Senator Paul is wrong about this. Attorney General Holder is right.

In Paul’s world view, and in the world view of many Republicans, even private citizens have the right that they deny to the President. What is the source of the right? The second amendment. Local terrorists, be they al Qaeda or some flavor of white supremacist or something entirely new, will have have the protection of the second amendment. What protection do the citizens have?

Private citizens have the right not only to keep arms but to use them. Gun-rights advocates go around the country enacting legislation allowing citizens to “stand their ground,” for self-defense is a sacred right. But these same folks get upset at any idea that the President might act against the same way in the face of a physical attack on the United States.

Could the power be abused? Sure! The President’s war powers are abused all the time. Look at our wars in Iraq or Vietnam or dozens of other places. But to me, the one place where an exercise of the President’s war powers would be entirely legitimate would be to repel a physical attack on our territory – on our people.

I’m glad Eric Holder thinks that occasions for the use of this power will be rare. Too bad that nonsensical attacks by Republicans like Ron Paul aren’t just as rare. Because you know that they would not take positions like this if their guy were at the helm. They didn’t with the last guy.

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UPDATE ON THE WEATHER: Last week I wrote about how weather forecasters hype their forecasts. But it’s not just the forecasts. They continue with the hype even after a storm is over, even a minor storm. Yesterday in Chicago, we had the forecast of a major snow storm. And snow it did. But it was definitely not major. The snowfall started petering out in the early evening after a forecast of heavy snow going into the night. At my house we had six inches. I’ll even give you eight inches. But streets are already clear. And temperatures are heading to above freezing. It’s already melting. As of lunchtime today, very few cars downtown even had snow on them and the sidewalks are all clear, not to mention the streets.

But the papers are not satisfied that we dodged a major disruptions. The Chicago Sun-Times gives us this headline:

Chicago area shovels out after biggest storm since 2011 blizzard

The 2011 blizzard was a blizzard. I specifically remember it because it occurred on February 2, Groundhog Day, the day of my 20th wedding anniversary. That was a storm. We had dinner reservations and the restaurant called to say they would be closed. (My son, the budding chef, took something out of the freezer and made us an anniversary dinner.) My office closed that day. It almost never closes. Many, many businesses were closed. We stood in the middle of the street for hours shoveling people out. Traffic was not moving.

If today’s snow was the biggest since then, that tells you something. It doesn’t tell you about a disaster. It tells you how light our snows have been in recent years.

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