Good Intentions, the Constitution, and Drones

On Wednesday, Senator Rand Paul and some of his colleagues made an amazing stand for our constitutional rights by filibustering the vote to confirm potential CIA Director John Brennan. Why? Because they wanted President Obama or Attorney General Holder to admit that it’s unconstitutional for the federal government to target and kill American citizens on American soil with drones without due process (as long as they’re not posing an imminent threat).

Seems simple enough, right?

It was inspiring and encouraging to see a representative of the American people do his job, literally stand for what’s right, and motivate others -- like Senator Cruz, Senator Rubio, and others -- to do the same. While it’s impossible to narrow down what I loved about the thirteen-hour-long filibuster and its meaning into one or two distinct points (after all, it was full of references to Shakespeare, Ayn Rand, the Alamo, Jay-Z, The Godfather, Twitter, Alice in Wonderland, and a billion other things), here is one that really struck a chord with me: the connection between the Constitution, good intentions, and slippery slopes.

“You know, I have no intention of doing bad things, I will do good things, I'm a good person. And I'm not really disputing [President Obama’s] motives or not saying he isn't a good person. But I'm disputing someone who's naive enough to think that that's good enough for our republic, that his good intentions are good enough for our republic. It never would have been accepted, it would have been laughed out of the Constitutional Convention. The Founding Fathers would have objected so strenuously that that person probably would never have been elected to office in our country. Someone who doesn't believe that the rules have to be in place and that we can't have our rights guaranteed by the intentions of our politicians. Think about it. Congress has about a 10 percent approval rating. Do you think the American people want to base whether they're going to be killed by a drone on a politician? I certainly don't.” - Sen. Rand Paul [emphasis added]

When writing our Constitution, our Founders had just come out of a war against tyranny. They knew what it was like to live under an oppressive government. Our Founders knew all about “slippery slopes,” and the importance of setting precedent, and that’s why they made sure they wrote down a concrete restriction of federal government -- a set of restrictions that couldn’t be easily changed. The very reason that the Constitution and its checks and balances exist is because, as James Madison so wisely pointed out, “If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary.”

“Am I the only one in America that's a little bit, you know, underwhelmed by the President saying he has no intent to dough taken [sic] somebody but he is going to sign it into law saying he has the power to? That's the same thing we're getting now in this drone strike program. Don't worry, everything's okay. I'm your leader, and I would never detain you. I would never shoot Hellfire missiles at noncombatants. I won't do that. And I can take him at his word, but what about the next guy? And the next guy? In 1923, when they destroyed the currency in Germany, they elected Hitler. I'm not saying anybody's Hitler, so don't misunderstand me. I'm saying that there is a danger even in a democratic country that someday you get a leader who comes in in the middle of chaos and says, Those people did it!” Sen. Rand Paul [emphasis added]

When we trust our leaders to not do a specific thing that’s wrong, but still allow that wrong thing to technically be allowed, we’re heading down a slippery slope. As Senator Paul reminded us, we’ve got to remember that “absolute power corrupts absolutely.” NO man or woman is above that. Senator Paul was right when he said that anyone who openly upheld that belief in our Founders’ time would have been “laughed out of the Constitutional Convention.” Our Founding Fathers knew that there needed to be stronger protections on the people’s rights  than one man or woman’s morality or his/her personal defense against corruption. 

As Daniel Webster said, “The Constitution was made to guard the people against the dangers of good intentions.” Senator Paul and the other legislators who stood with him last night in defense of the Constitution understand this key point. That’s why I’m very thankful for these senators and their stand for what’s right -- and I’m much more hopeful about our country’s future because of them!

Questions: What about you? Why do you think the Founders wrote the Constitution as they did? Do you think intentions can be good, but the outcome be bad? What do you think of the filibuster?

Photo Credit: Senate Television, via Associated Press
Isabella Penola is a high school girl completely obsessed with God, history, politics, writing, and cookie dough, and is concerned about the direction our country is taking. Besides contributing to SGPA, she also writes for The High School Conservative and runs a political/historical blog, Operation Revival, with a close friend. 
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commented 2013-03-08 14:59:06 -0500 · Flag
Terrific piece! Good intentions are not worth staking your life on and I certainly do not intend to start trusting politicians and taking them at their word now! The old saying is, “The road to Hell is paved with good intentions”…I thought the filibuster was terrific, an overdue history lesson to members of Congress who certainly seem to need at least a refresher course on our Nations founding documents!
commented 2013-03-08 12:02:52 -0500 · Flag
i find that actions trumps intentions. Intentions are just thoughts, and rarely mean anything on their own. It really on matters what you do. and not only that, but good intentions can have unforeseen consequences. like with hand sanitizer- we wanted everyone to have clean hands and stop passing germs. what do we have now? drug-resistant super bugs. I think the most appalling thing about the filibuster, and the hearings that led to it, was the admin’s (holder’s) inability to answer simply a very straightforward question. being that holder skirted the question when first asked by sen. cruz, our options are that: holder/admin doesn’t understand the constitution well enough to answer “no, of course not”; or they really think they have this power. Sen. Rand Paul did well calling attention to this ongoing choice we have to answer about the admin (especially when it comes to the constitution): ignorant or incompetent?
commented 2013-03-08 08:55:25 -0500 · Flag
I thought the filibuster was spot on! I admire Rand Paul more and more – he has the backbone to stand up and say what needs to be said, more of our conservative leadership should follow suit.

There’s a saying about a road – “the road to hell is paved with good intentions” Through out history, many have had ‘good intentions’ with disastrous outcomes. That being said – I greatly fear a leader who says “well I don’t intend to…..” particularly when said leader has a track record of just doing his own thing and bypassing legislative approval and acts like a petulant child when he doesn’t get his way.

You’ve written an excellent article and I admire your political acumen, a trait I wish was shared by more of your generation.
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