Rand Paul’s Berkeley Speech Wasn’t Brave — John Yoo

 

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Senator Rand Paul gave a much-noticed speech here in Berkeley last week attacking America’s intelligence agencies for being “drunk with power.”

Of course, this is Berkeley … there were no doubt many people in the audience who were drunk. Indeed, Senator Paul appeared intoxicated — not from the second-hand pot smoke that often floats through town, but from his celebrity status. Senator Paul was drunk on the publicity that comes with pulling a stunt like speaking in Berkeley as a libertarian Republican.  

Paul got a lot of praise for supposedly venturing into the lion’s den. But it took as much bravery for him to come here to complain about the NSA as it did for Joe Lieberman to appear at the 2008 Republican National Convention to criticize Democrats for being soft on national security. Come on, this is Berkeley — there are a lot of people here who think that  intelligence agencies have been following them around since 1964. 

Paul was clever to choose a college-age crowd, most of whom were 5-8 years old at the time of the 9-11 attacks and believe they have more to fear from the NSA wiretapping their smartphones (for what possible purpose?) than from another terrorist attack. You’ll notice that he did not mention other views, such as his opposition to abortion or gay marriage, both of which would have gotten him booed off the stage. He could have pressed opposition to Obamacare —on which the interests of the young really do coincide with the Republican party — but he did not, because that might not have been popular.

Senator Paul’s fans should worry about his lack of seriousness on intelligence issues. To claim that the CIA is spying on Congress, for instance, when the real fight is over legislative aides’ access to classified documents in a secure facility, is sheer exaggeration. To raise fears of government spying without any serious effort to present an alternative vision of how the government is supposed to successfully use electronic surveillance to stop terrorist attacks is irresponsible. To claim that the United States should withdraw from its commitments and alliances around the world while Russia seizes part of the Ukraine and China declares air defense zones over Japanese territory shows a lack of deeper thought about world affairs and American grand strategy.

I’m glad that Senator Paul came to Berkeley — just as I would be if any leading Republican politician decided to show the flag in one of the deepest blue spots in the United States. The substance of his appearance, however, was a disappointment — but one in keeping with this city’s casual relationship with reality.

There are 169 comments.

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  1. user_7742 Member
    user_7742
    @BrianWatt

    John Yoo: To claim that the United States should withdraw from its commitments and alliances around the world while Russia seizes part of the Ukraine and China declares air defense zones over Japanese territory shows a lack of deeper thought about world affairs and American grand strategy.

     I’ll have to go back and listen to the speech again. I’m afraid I must have missed that part where Rand says the US should withdraw from its commitments and alliances around the world.

    • #1
  2. user_7742 Member
    user_7742
    @BrianWatt

    I think there needs to be a thorough debate in this country on what constitutes unreasonable search and privacy rights of law abiding American citizens. Should the state record virtually every aspect of a citizen’s life for future retrieval? In the aim to prevent future terrorist attacks has the state established  reasonable methods to monitor and track the behavior of citizens? Is there no presumption of privacy in the archiving of metadata, health records, phone calls, or private online correspondence? Is there room for abuse? Can information be used to coerce individual citizens not to voice grievances to the state? Would a government agency ever target citizens and insist that they disclose what their intentions are to hold political office under penalty of perjury? Are we fast approaching Philip K. Dick’s imagined future of pre-crime? Should Americans be concerned about any of this? No, not to worry. Move along.

    • #2
  3. DrewInWisconsin Member
    DrewInWisconsin
    @DrewInWisconsin

    Brian Watt:

    John Yoo: To claim that the United States should withdraw from its commitments and alliances around the world while Russia seizes part of the Ukraine and China declares air defense zones over Japanese territory shows a lack of deeper thought about world affairs and American grand strategy.

    I’ll have to go back and listen to the speech again. I’m afraid I must have missed that part where Rand says the US should withdraw from its commitments and alliances around the world.

    I’ve noticed quite a lot of conflating of Rand’s and Ron’s positions lately, as if the son automatically adopts the views of the father.

    • #3
  4. DrewInWisconsin Member
    DrewInWisconsin
    @DrewInWisconsin

    Brian Watt:
    I think there’s needs to be a thorough debate in this country on what constitutes unreasonable search and privacy rights of law abiding American citizens. Should the state record virtually every aspect of a citizen’s life for future retrieval? In the aim to prevent future terrorist attacks has the state established reasonable methods to monitor and track the behavior of citizens? Is there no presumption of privacy in the archiving of metadata, health records, phone calls, or private online correspondence? Is there room for abuse? Can information be used to coerce individual citizens not to voice grievances to the state? Would a government agency ever target citizens and insist that they disclose what their intentions are to hold political office under penalty of perjury? Are we fast approaching Philip K. Dick’s imagined future of pre-crime? Should Americans be concerned about any of this? No, not to worry. Move along.

     In my view, if you can conceive of a way that collected information can be used against the citizenry, then it’s likely already happening.

    • #4
  5. Tuck Inactive
    Tuck
    @Tuck

    “…there are a lot of people here who think that  intelligence agencies have been following them around since 1964. ”

    And now we know that they were right.  Great. 

    The FISA courts weren’t invented out of whole cloth, they’re there for a reason.  And Snowden’s revelations about what the NSA is up to has confirmed a lot of the concerns these folks had.

    They really are spying on us all the time.  And if you’re going to say “it’s just metadata”, we already covered why that’s not an adequate defense.

    • #5
  6. user_86050 Inactive
    user_86050
    @KCMulville

    Tuck:
    They really are spying on us all the time.

    There’s a distinction between

    • [someone else spying on me] versus
    • [me revealing information wantonly].

    The modern age depends on electronic devices that require individuals to wantonly reveal data about themselves. The fact that you can assemble such information and draw conclusions isn’t new; you could’ve done the same thing with phone records in the 1940s. What’s new isn’t the data itself, it’s the ability of database and analysis techniques that can examine large volumes of data. What previously prevented snooping into your phone records was the intimidating amount of work involved; but with modern databases, that’s no longer a problem.

    Even if you managed a saint-like and “privacy-sensitive” intelligence community, you’d still have the problem that the modern age wantonly reveals information about everyone. That’s a privacy spigot that isn’t going to get turned off.

    People aren’t spying on you, if by spying you mean “intruding into something you had kept hidden.” You’re openly revealing data to them, every time you use an electronic device.

    • #6
  7. user_138562 Moderator
    user_138562
    @RandyWeivoda

    Mr. Yoo, I don’t think Rand Paul went to Berkeley for the purpose of demonstrating his bravery.  I believe his purpose was to show the left that on some issues, freedom-loving people on the left and the right can find some common ground.  Whether he was successful in peeling off some votes from Hillary Clinton or some other big-government Democrat, who knows?  But they won’t vote for any Republicans if no Republicans are willing to meet them face to face.

    • #7
  8. Franco Member
    Franco
    @Franco

    This is sad post coming from Yoo. It’s despicable actually. Yoo is misrepresenting a lot here and he must think we’re stupid. I listened to the entire speech. He said nothing about the US withdrawing from its commitments. I’d like to see a quote provided by Yoo of RAND PAUL saying that.  It was a political swipe from a National Security hawk who would have us nominate Jeb Bush. Admit it John, Jeb would be your guy, right?

    On that subject, I think it would be better for the US to withdraw from some of its commitments outright than to pretend we have them and back down, which is what the current administration is doing. Under Obama our ‘commitments’ are a farce. And how did we get Obama? Running Republicans who Yoo sanctioned as national security hawks. McCain was acceptable to the national security Republicans, he was more than acceptable, he was touted as the best candidate. I think McCain’s only connection with conservative ideals is his national security posture, and apparently that’s all guys like Yoo care about. Run Jeb and we’ll lose again and then Yoo can complain about Elizabeth Warren’s foriegn policy. 

    Throughout the speech Paul stipulated the need for spying, the need for classified information and the need for counter-terror efforts. Rand Paul is objecting to the stance of the US intelligence agencies who are arrogant and unmanageable. And yes, they are spying on Congress from what members of Congress are saying.. How does Mr. Yoo know they aren’t? He doesn’t. So let’s find out shall we? Or do we just take their word? 

    Yoo uses the tired smears of Berkely students being “drunk” and high on second-hand pot. Is that all you got John? These people are paranoid druggies and they have no valid fears or claims. They take drugs and drink! Don’t listen to them! Nothing to see here….

    The post focuses a lot on the subject of ‘bravery’, and that is a red herring. Paul didn’t claim to be brave, and if some folks thought he was, well that’s their idea. I fail to see how a politician should be expected to pick the most controversial subjects in which to goad a potentially hostile audience. Paul is seeking common ground on one issue. What is ‘brave’ of Paul is the knowledge that National Security obsessives like Yoo, people in his own party but with different agendas will attack him unfairly as we see here.

    Absent from this post is any level of remorse or care for the excesses of the NSA past, present and future. No, this is attacking the messenger and political sniping.  National security Republicans are losing arguments with me because there is an erosion of freedom here in the USA, and how are we going to place priorities on defending ourselves from communism/socialism/fascism and other forms of tyranny when our OWN politicians are subverting us here at home?

    Until the fourth amendment is restored and the rest of the Constitution is being followed, I have zero interests in foreign adventures. Until we defeat the socialists , fascists  and their abettors in this country, I will not agree with sending one more infantryman or sailor into combat. To fight for what? Liberty?  

    • #8
  9. DrewInWisconsin Member
    DrewInWisconsin
    @DrewInWisconsin

    What Franco said.

    Also, if Republicans think “We’re going to keep spying on you” is a winning platform for 2016, then they’re doomed. This is likely the #1 issue where Republicans can get enthusiastic support from both left and right.

    • #9
  10. user_96427 Contributor
    user_96427
    @tommeyer

    I’ll agree with the Professor that Paul’s choice of subject was one almost guaranteed to win him acolytes from the crowd; I took that to be smart politics, but if anyone is conflating it with bravery, he’s correct that they’re mistaken.

    That said, it’s worth noting that Professor Yoo represents an extreme position on questions pertaining to executive power in the context of national security.  I mean that in a descriptive sense, not a pejorative one: i.e., it’s difficult to find anyone who argues that the president should have more power than does Yoo, or who is more bullish about national security than he.

    Now, there’s nothing wrong with having an extreme position: I’ve lots of opinions that are wildly out of the mainstream myself.  The problem only comes in not acknowledging it; I think the good professor conflates his (genuine) expertise in the subject with reasonableness.

    • #10
  11. Franco Member
    Franco
    @Franco

    Among the many bugs on this new site, I can’t ‘like’ I just get sent to the top of the page. So add one more ‘like’ to all those comments which disagree. 

    Do these folks like Yoo even realize how low his faction of NSA/TSA/National Security/Bush-wing  of Republicanism has sunken in the opinions of conservatives, who used to be their allies? They don’t even seem to care….

    • #11
  12. DocJay Inactive
    DocJay
    @DocJay

    What a silly post.   The days of Bush are over.  Forever.

    • #12
  13. Umbra Fractus Inactive
    Umbra Fractus
    @UmbraFractus

    Randy Weivoda:
    Mr. Yoo, I don’t think Rand Paul went to Berkeley for the purpose of demonstrating his bravery. I believe his purpose was to show the left that on some issues, freedom-loving people on the left and the right can find some common ground. Whether he was successful in peeling off some votes from Hillary Clinton or some other big-government Democrat, who knows? But they won’t vote for any Republicans if no Republicans are willing to meet them face to face.

     Then he was welcomed on false pretenses. There are no freedom loving people on the left anymore.

    • #13
  14. Umbra Fractus Inactive
    Umbra Fractus
    @UmbraFractus

    The issue with so-called left-libertarians is that they will fight to the death for their own freedom, but they are just as hostile as any other leftist to freedom for people they don’t like. The point Paul should have but did not make was that it is absurd to constantly insist that the government must tax, regulate, and otherwise control disfavored groups (the rich, Christians, Zionists, etc.) and then respond with outrage when you find they’re doing the same to you.

    • #14
  15. Franco Member
    Franco
    @Franco

    Umbra,

    I think the real issue here is the expansion of the war on terror into every communication in the world including of non-suspect American citizens and the possible consequenses of that. You can have all the animosity you like of leftists, I agree that there should be less government regulation taxes and targeting of groups, but that’s not the point. The NSA isn’t Republican or Democrat or conservative/liberal, its an agency that has a heluva lot of power and can go, or perhps already is going, rogue. 

    • #15
  16. user_96427 Contributor
    user_96427
    @tommeyer

    Umbra Fractus: e point Paul should have but did not make was that it is absurd to constantly insist that the government must tax, regulate, and otherwise control disfavored groups (the rich, Christians, Zionists, etc.) and then respond with outrage when you find they’re doing the same to you.

    Paul needed to show where he and students agreed before he could get on to where they might disagree.

    Basically, I would totally love to see him do that in a subsequent speech.

    • #16
  17. Albert Arthur Coolidge
    Albert Arthur
    @AlbertArthur

    &blockquote cite=”comment-962380″>Brian Watt: Should the state record virtually every aspect of a citizen’s life for future retrieval?
     Is there any evidence that the state does this? No.

    Tuck: The FISA courts weren’t invented out of whole cloth, they’re there for a reason.  And Snowden’s revelations about what the NSA is up to has confirmed a lot of the concerns these folks had. They really are spying on us all the time. 

    [Redacted for CoC]. FISA stands for Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. As in, foreign. As in, not domestic. As in, it has nothing to do with US Citizens on American soil who are not communicating with foreign terrorists. Ed Snowden has not revealed anything to suggest the NSA is doing anything wrong. Wow, the NSA is spying on our enemies. I’m outraged. Oh, wait, I’m not a libertarian; I’m not outraged, I’m happy.
     

    • #17
  18. DrewInWisconsin Member
    DrewInWisconsin
    @DrewInWisconsin

    At the root of all this is the question of trust in government. In short: we don’t. And in 2014 it would seem to be foolish do to so. Our representatives in Congress are stupid or evil and the executive branch is both in equal amounts. Meanwhile, the little agencies are going rogue and nobody really seems to care. 

    Asking me to trust the NSA? I LOL at you, sir.

    Trust must be restored, but regaining trust is a lot harder than breaking it. Any ideas how we do that? Seems that smacking down the rogue agencies (EPA, NSA, IRS, TSA, CIA, FBI, ETC) should be the first order of business for the next Congress.

    • #18
  19. Albert Arthur Coolidge
    Albert Arthur
    @AlbertArthur

    DrewInWisconsin:
    At the root of all this is the question of trust in government. In short: we don’t. And in 2014 it would seem to be foolish do to so. Our representatives in Congress are stupid or evil and the executive branch is both in equal amounts. Meanwhile, the little agencies are going rogue and nobody really seems to care.
    Asking me to trust the NSA? I LOL at you, sir.
    Trust must be restored, but regaining trust is a lot harder than breaking it. Any ideas how we do that? Seems that smacking down the rogue agencies (EPA, NSA, IRS, TSA, CIA, FBI, ETC) should be the first order of business for the next Congress.

     
    If you ask me, for many libertarians it’s not that they don’t trust the government–most conservatives don’t trust the government–they don’t want to acknowledge that we have foreign enemies who want to destroy us. 

    Many libertarians oppose the NSA. Period. 

    Am I wrong?

    • #19
  20. user_1020988 Inactive
    user_1020988
    @thedaner

    Bravo to Franco! Incredibly well articulated post, and spot-on!

    • #20
  21. DrewInWisconsin Member
    DrewInWisconsin
    @DrewInWisconsin

    Albert Arthur:
    If you ask me, for many libertarians it’s not that they don’t trust the government–most conservatives don’t trust the government–they don’t want to acknowledge that we have foreign enemies who want to destroy us.
    Many libertarians oppose the NSA. Period.
    Am I wrong?

    Possibly. You’d have to ask them. People generally aren’t at extremes and it does their positions a disservice to paint them that way.

    But what if we could dump the NSA completely, and create a replacement with more oversight than the NSA appears to have? I’ve said the same thing about the EPA. I like clean air and water, but I think the current EPA is out of control. My solution would be to shut it down, fire everyone, and then create  a new agency with more controls and oversight.

    In other words, some of these things can’t be fixed because of the embedded bureaucrats. (cf Lois Lerner). So the only solution is to get rid of the agency completely and start over. (This goes for all sorts of agencies and cabinet-level departments. Shutter them all, and reopen on a case-by-case basis.)

    • #21
  22. user_96427 Contributor
    user_96427
    @tommeyer

    Albert Arthur: If you ask me, for many libertarians it’s not that they don’t trust the government–most conservatives don’t trust the government–they don’t want to acknowledge that we have foreign enemies who want to destroy us.  Many libertarians oppose the NSA. Period. 

    I’ll concede that there is some of that (though there’s also a lot of folks on the other side of that issue who over-estimate al-Qaeda’s dangerousness, and therefore, the countermeasures required to fight them).

    That said, did you read my post last year responding to Prager’s arguments regarding the NSA?  I think I addressed some of the issues that you’re concerned with.

    • #22
  23. Klaatu Inactive
    Klaatu
    @Klaatu

    Franco:
    Among the many bugs on this new site, I can’t ‘like’ I just get sent to the top of the page. So add one more ‘like’ to all those comments which disagree.
    Do these folks like Yoo even realize how low his faction of NSA/TSA/National Security/Bush-wing of Republicanism has sunken in the opinions of conservatives, who used to be their allies? They don’t even seem to care….

     I would argue you have it backwards, it is the isolationist/non-interventionist/Paulian wing of the Republican party which has sunken in the opinion of conservatives.  When your position is no different than the most radical leftists, it is absurd to deem yourself the true conservatives.

    There is no evidence the NSA or any portion of the US military has gone rogue.  You slander good men and women in uniform when you make such a baseless accusation.

    • #23
  24. DrewInWisconsin Member
    DrewInWisconsin
    @DrewInWisconsin

    For example, it appears that Mr. Yoo wants to paint Rand Paul as holding an extreme position regarding American involvement in the world. From everything I’ve read or heard, I don’t think that’s fair, but gosh, it sure helps draw the battle lines, doesn’t it? “You’re either for us or against us!”

    Well, let me know who “us” is and I’ll let you know if I’m for or against.

    • #24
  25. Albert Arthur Coolidge
    Albert Arthur
    @AlbertArthur

    Hazzah, Klaatu!

    • #25
  26. Albert Arthur Coolidge
    Albert Arthur
    @AlbertArthur

    DrewInWisconsin: Well, let me know who “us” is and I’ll let you know if I’m for or against.

     Americans.

    • #26
  27. DrewInWisconsin Member
    DrewInWisconsin
    @DrewInWisconsin

    Klaatu:
    I would argue you have it backwards, it is the isolationist/non-interventionist/Paulian wing of the Republican party which has sunken in the opinion of conservatives. When your position is no different than the most radical leftists, it is absurd to deem yourself the true conservatives.

    I’m pretty sure the “radical leftists” aren’t isolationist. After all, they seem to have no problem with Obama’s drone warfare or his belief that he can kill anyone he likes for any reason. Just ask ’em. They’re fine with it. The radical left doesn’t care if you have to break a lot of eggs to make that Marxist Omelet.

    • #27
  28. DrewInWisconsin Member
    DrewInWisconsin
    @DrewInWisconsin

    Albert Arthur:

    DrewInWisconsin: Well, let me know who “us” is and I’ll let you know if I’m for or against.

    Americans.

     No fair. Democrats are Americans, too, and I’m against them.

    • #28
  29. Fricosis Guy Listener
    Fricosis Guy
    @FricosisGuy

    Two points:

    1. While the speech itself was indeed tuned to the audience, he didn’t moderate his economic libertarian views during the Q&A for the Berkeley crowd. No “Eat The Rich” from Rand; in fact, the exact opposite.
    2. We haven’t had a serious, credible foreign policy president since Bush 41. His successors have veered from activism to “leading from behind”, from “wag the dog” to criminal neglect. A presidential candidate must make clear he’s neither Clinton nor Bush 43 nor Obama. Their inconstancy won’t cut it in the dangerous world they’ve left behind.

      Tom Meyer:

    Umbra Fractus: e point Paul should have but did not make was that it is absurd to constantly insist that the government must tax, regulate, and otherwise control disfavored groups (the rich, Christians, Zionists, etc.) and then respond with outrage when you find they’re doing the same to you.

    Paul needed to show where he and students agreed before he could get on to where they might disagree.
    Basically, I would totally love to see him do that in a subsequent speech.

     

    • #29
  30. DrewInWisconsin Member
    DrewInWisconsin
    @DrewInWisconsin

    Of course, a lot of this would be moot if we had a Congress that took its oversight powers seriously. As it stands, Congress appears to be cowed by the executive branch.

    • #30

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