When I filibustered over domestic drone use, critics said that I was being ridiculous. They said that no American had been killed by a drone on American soil and that no one was likely to be anytime soon. President Obama responded that he hadn’t killed anyone yet and didn’t intend to — but he might.
That wasn’t the point. The filibuster was about the limits of power. It was about how much authority the president imagined he had. Lincoln wrote that nearly any man can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man, give him power.
I think Mr. Obama has failed that test of power. From the cover-up in Benghazi to letting the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) target the Tea Party to First and Fourth Amendment violations in obtaining records from the press, Mr. Obama has shown disregard for the Bill of Rights and his responsibilities as commander in chief.
The handling of the tragedy in Benghazi continues to raise more questions than it produces answers. The White House’s original story, that no one was told to “stand down” on the night of the attack, was contradicted last week by Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens’ deputy, Gregory Hicks. Mr. Hicks testified that he spoke with Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton on the night of the attack and that a special-forces unit was stopped from deploying.
In January, we learned that Mrs. Clinton had not read the cables from Libya, in which Stevens, who feared for his safety, made multiple requests for additional security. The review board tries to shield Mrs. Clinton from blame by saying the decisions to deny security the ambassador requested occurred below her level.
That is precisely her culpability. It is inexcusable that she left decisions concerning the security of our Libyan ambassador to underlings. This issue is far from over, but so far, this administration seems more worried about protecting its own than being honest about what really happened.
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Not to mention, who’s to blame for it.
Last week, the Internal Revenue Service admitted it intentionally targeted various Tea Party, conservative and libertarian groups, submitting them to audits or making them wait exceptionally long for tax-exempt status. If Benghazi represents abuse or misuse of power, the IRS stands in direct violation of the First Amendment — targeting American citizens for their political beliefs. The more we learn about this controversy, the clearer it becomes that anyone who dared to talk about spending, debt or anything related to our current state of government affairs from a conservative perspective was a target.
One of the paramount freedoms Americans have is the ability to criticize their government without fear of retribution. This has been especially true when it comes to freedom of the press.
When the news broke that the Justice Department had seized two months’ worth of Associated Press reporters’ phone records, it was just the latest in a growing line of abuses of power by this White House. AP head Gary Pruitt called this government seizure a “massive and unprecedented intrusion” into how journalists research and gather news.
It was, and the lengths to which Mr. Obama has gone to circumvent the Constitution are staggering. It’s as though the president thinks we no longer have a First Amendment protecting freedom of the press and free speech. It’s as though he thinks we no longer have a Fourth Amendment that prevents illegal search and seizure. It’s as though he and Mrs. Clinton think the State Department is no longer responsible for protecting our diplomats.
It’s as though we no longer have a Bill of Rights that guarantees American citizens the right to due process and a jury trial — and it took me 13 hours of standing and speaking to get the White House to finally, and begrudgingly, say we did. My filibuster was about drone use, but more importantly, it was about never giving government the benefit of the doubt. We cannot afford it, and the government never deserves it, as this administration continues to remind us in so many surprising and disturbing ways.
With great power comes great responsibility. The greater Mr. Obama’s power, the less responsible he becomes.
Power corrupts. Absolutely.
Sen. Rand Paul, Kentucky Republican, is a member of the Senate Foreign Relations and Homeland Security committees.