Early last week on Fox News, former U.S. Attorney General Michael Mukasey was interviewed by Jenna Lee. The subject was Congress’ extended debate over whether the President had the authority to order that drones hunt down an American who is working with Al Qaeda and who is believed to be planning attacks against the United States.
Mr. Mukasey commented that the leaking of this information to the press was likely giving the intended target advanced notice to hide, neutralizing the hard work in tracking him. But the overriding issue was does the President or any other government official have the authority to order such a killing? It has already occurred twice, without judicial process, causing considerable outrage on both the left and the right.1
Last March, Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) gave a 13-hour filibuster during the nomination of John Brennan for CIA director. The senator’s long speech was not directed as opposition to Mr. Brennan himself, but at the continuing unanswered question regarding President Obama’s legal authority to kill a U.S. citizen on our soil with a drone strike. He began his filibuster with, ““I rise today for the principle, that Americans could be killed in a cafe in San Francisco, or in a restaurant in Houston or at their home in Bowling Green, Kentucky, is an abomination.”2
In the weeks prior to this, Sen. Paul and others had not received satisfactory answers to this question of authority. Among the group of Brennan-Obama-Holder being asked, it was Attorney General Eric Holder who was the most specific. The quoted article put it this way, “While allowing that Obama has ‘no intention’ to blow up an American within the 50 states, he could ‘conceivably have no choice’ but to do so in an extreme emergency, akin to the September 11 or Pearl Harbor attacks.”2
In fact, the reference to Rand Paul’s suggestion that it could lead to the killing an American “sitting in a café” occurred earlier in the same day of his filibuster when Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex) had asked Holder whether that would be legal. Holder replied, “No.”2 But when Rand Paul was unable to receive a “comprehensive” statement from Holder that ““the drone program will not kill Americans who are not involved in combat,” it led to his filibuster.2
Mukasey’s Incorrect Diagnosis of Rand Paul
Thus, it was Senator Paul’s more famous use of the statement which the former Attorney General took issue with. Mr. Mukasey’s comments on Fox News last week:
“Rand Paul is a joke. He’s afraid that if we kill Americans abroad who are plotting to and have killed other Americans and who are in a place, who can’t be captured, that we are then going to use drone strikes on coffee houses. He’s actually concerned about that?” After which he said that Sen. Paul “needs clinical help” for believing this.
Does Mukasey Actually Trust President Obama With this Kind of Power?
Mr. Mukasey went on to say that a drone strategy could work and it requires “somebody to analyze the situation, take action and take political responsibility for it.”
First of all, it must be pointed out that Sen. Paul’s comments (and Sen. Cruz’) are what is known as “hyperbole.” The Free Dictionary explains hyperbole as being: “A figure of speech in which exaggeration is used for emphasis or effect, as in I could sleep for a year or This book weighs a ton.” The senators may not be of the opinion that the President would do such a thing.
And, the former Attorney General could have been using the same tactic to describe Sen. Paul. It still boils down to the Mukasey position that a president’s authority to use drones against U.S. citizens need not be feared.
After all, why would someone not trust a leader who:
1) kept promoting his health care bill vigorously by saying it was not an additional tax and when he knew that people could very well not keep their doctors and that our already suffering employment situation would take another hit from it… and his Administration salvaged part of a Supreme Court challenge by arguing that Obamacare IS a tax
2) protects those who go after his political enemies by proclaiming in a nationwide interview that there’s not a “smidgen’ of corruption within the IRS – when the investigation is far from over and early evidence points to the contrary3
3) repeatedly tried to dismiss the Benghazi murders as not an act of terrorism, when they were confirmed to be such by several U.S. intelligence groups, because he was in a tightly-contested election and had been reassuring the American public that “Al Qaeda is on its heels” in order to prop up his record4
4) who tried to appoint members to the NLRB when Congress was blocking him with the legal tool that they were in session during a form of recess, thus, he was later overruled by the courts
5) invested significantly in mutual funds which had holdings in companies known for outsourcing jobs as well as having invested in private equity… while he was criticizing Mitt Romney during the campaign for investing in companies which outsource U.S. jobs and in private equity.5
6) used executive orders improperly to make changes in the Affordable Health Care Act, which can only be legally done by Congress (and misuse of “affordable” in the name of his signature legislation should be considered criminal, too)
So, Mr. Mukasey still believes we have no reason to fear the executive branch having the authority to use drones to kill Americans whom are viewed as a threat to the U.S?
But, in his defense, maybe he wasn’t taking Senators Paul and Cruz image of the café seriously. They were only using hyperbole. The President is trustworthy, just look at his record… then again, maybe they weren’t.
1 – “Target an American with drones?” by Peter Bergen, CNN National Security Analyst, 2/11/2014
2 – “Rand Paul, John Brennan and the Exploding Cafe Scenario,” by Michael Crowley, www.swampland.time.com, 3/6/2013
3 – Many of the aggrieved parties had not been given the opportunity to speak before Congress when this statement was made and former Director of the IRS Exempt Organizations Lois Lerner had sent an email to several legal counsels within the IRS saying that her division would have to work “off plan” to reduce the granting of tax-exempt statuses then later invoked the 5th Amendment when interrogated about her involvement in this case.
4 – “Al Qaeda’s Not as Battered as Obama Thinks,” by Daniel Byman, www.newrepublic.com, 11/29/2012
5 – “Obama has investments in companies which ship jobs overseas,” by Philip Klein, www.washingtonexaminer.com, 7/17/2012 and “Despite Criticisms, Obama’s Investments Share Similarities with Romney’s,” by Daniel Halper, www.weeklystandard.com, 8/25/2012