Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) said on a CNN appearance in mid-February that support for President Barack Obama’s drone program was “very scary and worrisome” and he feared it could open a “Pandora’s box” about government’s power. 

Today’s decision by Sen. Paul — who was elected in 2010 with support from the Tea Party – to orchestrate a genuine filibuster focused on the potential for the Obama administration to use drones to attack an American on U.S. soil is not a shock.

 Scanning various news sources today, I almost concluded that Barack Obama invented the drone, and that he has been the unilateral champion of its use.  Paul went so far to say that, “Obama will be the executioner-in-chief if he sees fit.”

What seems to be missing from the news reports is that the first U.S. use of an unmanned Predator drone in a targeted killing took place over eleven years ago (February 2002) in Afghanistan, near the city of Khost.  In that case, CIA sources revealed at the time that the intended target was Osama bin Laden.  Journalists on the ground in Afghanistan learned from local Afghans that the dead men were unarmed civilians gathering scrap metal.

 Then-CIA Director Donald Rumsfeld explained: “A decision was made to fire the Hellfire missile. It was fired.”  – This information was primarily sourced from an article John Sifton wrote which appeared in a February 2012 edition of The Nation.

A Reuters story which ran in the NY Daily News on March 3, 2013 tells us:

“Tens of thousands of domestic drones already are in use nationwide, with more to come. They hover over Hollywood film sets and professional sports events. They track wildfires in Colorado, survey Kansas farm crops and vineyards in California.  They inspect miles of industrial pipeline and monitor wildlife, river temperatures and volcanic activity.  They also locate marijuana fields, reconstruct crime scenes and spot illegal immigrants breaching U.S. borders.

Increase of use in drones by law enforcement, movie studios, environmental organizations and the news media, comes as the U.S. government prepares to issue commercial drone permits in 2015. Many of those already flying do so without the proper permits. Currently, just 327 FAA-issued permits are active.”

Prior to his decision to filibuster today, Sen. Paul had publicly pushed the Commander in Chief to declare his position on the use of drones.  On February 21, Sen. Paul had said, “The question which I and many others have asked is not whether the administration has or intends to carry out drone strikes inside the United States, but whether it believes it has the authority to do so. This is an important distinction.”

In a March 4 letter to Sen. Paul, Attorney General Eric Holder said that such domestic use of drones is “entirely hypothetical, unlikely to occur and one we hope no President will ever have to confront.”  Holder also said he couldn’t rule it out under an “extraordinary circumstance.”

Paul’s assertion that the administration has failed to provide sufficient assurances on the issue of drone usage is not universally supported among Republican legislators.

Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Mi), chairman of the House intelligence committee said, “Any suggestion that the United States would use drone strikes against U.S. citizens in the United States is irresponsible.  Suggesting that such a thing is being contemplated provokes needless fear and detracts attention from the real threats facing the country.”

Certainly, as this saga unfolds new information will emerge, meanwhile, it seems to be ‘much ado about nothing’.

Yikes!

Our friends at Standard & Poor’s reminded us today that posturing and bickering by our elected officials is not only juvenile and annoying, it also has the potential to cost us dearly!

Despite their affirmation of a ‘AAA/A-1+’ rating for U.S. sovereign debt, the major stock indices lost real value.

Although S&P had some pretty positive things to say about the U.S. in its press release, investors are nervous.

Analysts at Standard & Poor’s think that our “highly diversified, and flexible economy (is) backed by a strong track record of prudent and credible monetary policy, evidenced by its ability to support growth while containing inflationary pressures.” They also admire “the unique advantages stemming from the dollar’s preeminent place among world currencies.”

Their concerns seem to emanate from U.S. debt and deficit ratios that are equivalent (or perhaps even worse than!) those of Spain, Portugal and Greece, countries that have already been downgraded by the rating agencies.

Some of us have been sitting on the sidelines frustrated beyond belief that a small cadre of elected officials in Washington seem to be unable (or unwilling) to openly and civilly discuss, debate and/or negotiate policies that impact the present, and which potentially have significant long-term consequences.

Most recently, we sat on the edge of our seats while some fringe politicians followed their own personal agendas and attempted to derail a bi-partisan budget compromise with the demand that Planned Parenthood be defunded.

Apparently, we came within minutes of a total U.S. government shutdown while these self-important creatures followed their individual ideologies on the road to nowhere.

The Congress of the United States was created by the Constitution in 1789.

My recollection from history and civics classes I took in school leaves me thinking that these individuals – Senators and Congress people – are elected to represent the wishes and best interests of their constituents.

I don’t recall any language that implied an opportunity for individuals to be elected to represent their own individual agenda, at the expense of the rest of our nation.

Yet, the behavior of a few members of Congress appears to be at the very heart of Standard & Poor’s warning today.

We need to hold our elected officials accountable for getting to optimum solutions, based on facts and solid analysis, not based on emotion, anger or specious arguments.

Each and every of our elected officials ought to be entitled to their own opinions, but they should not be entitled to their own facts.

My friends, Standard & Poor’s has thrown down the gauntlet, and it’s time for all 311 Million of us to step up to the plate and tell our 536 elected officials in Washington to stop the nonsense and do the job we elected them to do: create sustainable, long term solutions that restore the U.S. to a leadership role economically and politically.

We can’t accept or tolerate anything less.