The targeted killing of Yemeni-based al-Qaeda "cleric" Anwar Al-Awlaki was guaranteed to be a flashpoint for controversy because it was essentially a White House-sanctioned assassination of an American citizen. Not surprisingly, it was Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) who quickly moved to stake out what will no doubt become the minority position on the GOP side. In the wake of the news of Al-Awlaki's death, Paul made his case to New Hampshire voters:
“That’s not a good way to deal with our problems,” he said of the drone strike in Yemen that killed Awlaki.
“He was born here,” said Paul. “He is an American citizen. He was never tried or charged with any crime. Nobody knows if he killed anyone.”
And Paul said the precedent of striking against Americans, even those suspected of being terrorist masterminds, is not a good one.
“If the American people accept this blindly and casually -- have a precedent of an American president assanating [sic] people who he thinks are bad. I think it that’s sad,” he said.
Today, Politico's Dan Hirschhorn reports that Paul escalated the matter somewhat by suggesting that the specter of impeachment could be raised over this issue:
Asked at a Manchester, N.H., town hall meeting about last week’s killing of the American-born Al Qaeda leader, the Texas congressman said impeachment would be “possible,” but that he wants to know more about how the administration “flouted the law.”
Paul called the killing a movement toward “tyranny.”
“I put responsibility on the president because this is obviously a step in the wrong direction,” Paul said. “We have just totally disrespected the Constitution.”
It's more or less certain that Paul would be on his own trying to make this case in Congress, and, as Hirschhorn points out, this puts Paul "at odds with his Republican rivals" and demonstrates once again that "his foreign policy views stray far from Republican orthodoxy." But on the issue of whether the Al-Awlaki killing represents an abuse of executive power, Paul isn't alone.
As Dave Weigel notes, Herman Cain's position is, "If he's an American citizen, which is the big difference, then he should be charged, and he should be brought to justice." (Cain isn't suggesting Obama get impeached over this, but he has, in the past, opined that impeaching Obama "would be a great thing to do.")
Former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson (R) also expressed concerns with the Al-Awlaki killing on Hardball tonight, offering, "Maybe I would have done the same thing, but I would have been very transparent about it."
Weigel goes on to note that Paul and Cain are opposed in their stance on Al-Awlaki by Michele Bachmann and, naturally, Rick Santorum, who the media has seemingly cast in the role of the neo-conservative critic of Paul's entire foreign policy portfolio. Odds seem good that Paul and Santorum will get to reprise their foreign policy fight club at the next GOP debate.
(One imagines that given enough time, Bachmann and Santorum could, nevertheless, come up with hundreds of reasons why they think Obama should be impeached.)
[Politico; Weigel @ Slate]
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