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Rand Paul talks up possible drone strikes

The Kentucky Republican has been critical of the use of drones as a counter-terrorism tool. It now appears he's begun to change his mind.
Image: Rand Paul
Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., walks to the Senate floor for a vote on the energy bill, at the Capitol in Washington, May 12, 2014.
There is a contingent on the left that agrees with Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), his party and general worldview notwithstanding, because of his position on one important issue: the use of drone strikes as part of the U.S. national security policy.
It was the Obama administration's use of drones, for example, that sparked Rand Paul's 13-hour speech on the Senate floor last year. Two months later, the Kentucky Republican said drone strikes as part of a counter-terrorism policy are at odds with the American system of due process. More recently, the senator railed against a presidential judicial nominee, again over drones.
With this in mind, it was interesting to see Rand Paul talk approvingly yesterday about ... launching drone strikes.

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) late Tuesday said if the United States discovered any of the released Guantanamo Bay prisoners were planning a terrorist attack, "there would be a drone with their name on it." On Fox News's "Your World with Neil Cavuto," Paul was asked if he advocates tracking them down and killing them if they plot against the U.S. "I would say that there would be a drone with their name on it," replied Paul, who has been somewhat critical of portions of President Obama's drone program.

Well, that's not quite what Paul's supporters expected to hear.
This isn't the first time the GOP senator has strayed from his own talking points. Last April, also during an interview with Fox's Cavuto, Paul said he's comfortable with the executive branch having the authority to use drones on Americans over U.S. soil if an administration perceives an "imminent threat." Paul even went so far as to say, "If someone comes out of a liquor store with a weapon and 50 dollars in cash, I don't care if a drone kills him or a policeman kills him."
But yesterday's rhetoric seemed especially out of place given all of the senator's recent posturing on the issue of drone strikes, and raises some important questions about Paul's actual beliefs.
It's possible, for example, that the Kentucky Republican is starting to engage in some chest-thumping, there-would-be-a-drone-with-their-name-on-it "tough" talk in order to impress his party establishment. As Paul gears up for a national campaign, he's no doubt aware of the fact that many Republicans reject his foreign policy vision and fear his general preference for isolationism.
In other words, maybe the senator is starting to talk more like the typical Republican, talking up things like drone strikes during Fox News interviews, to make himself more appealing to his intra-party critics.
But let's also not discount the possibility that Rand Paul doesn't fully understand the issues he claims to care the most about. This applies to drones, but it's not the only issue that has recently tripped up the senator.
Paul claims to have invested considerable time in the "philosophic debate" over "rights," which he doesn't seem to understand at all.
He says he's deeply concerned with the Federal Reserve, which he also clearly does not understand.
Paul claims to be outraged by the Affordable Care Act, though he seems confused by the basics of the health care law.
He says he's concerned with voting rights, which also seems to push the confused senator into incoherence.
Paul insists he has serious questions about the 2012 attack in Benghazi, though the details have left him clueless.
And he claims to be deeply outraged by the federal budget deficit, though he has no idea what the federal budget deficit is.
As we've discussed before, it's one thing for a politician to be ignorant; it's something else when he's ignorant about his signature issues. Paul isn't just confused; he's confused about the issues he claims to care about most.
As the senator gears up for a national campaign, he's going to need remedial lessons on the basics of his own favorite issues. For his supporters, this should be rather alarming.