McCain, Graham assail Paul on drones

March 8, 2013 at 4:00 AM
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WASHINGTON, March 8 (UPI) -- Two top Republican national security hawks defended President Barack Obama's drone use and lit into Sen. Rand Paul for his filibuster on the U.S. drone program.

"I don't think what happened yesterday was helpful to the American people," Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., said on the Senate floor Thursday.

The nation "needs a discussion" of drone policy, but concerns raised by Paul, a Kentucky Republican, are "totally unfounded," McCain said, referring to Paul's comments Wednesday night that the U.S. government could potentially use military force to kill American citizens who object to government policies.

"We've done, I think, a disservice to a lot of Americans by making them think that somehow they're in danger from their government," McCain said.

"They're not. But we are in danger from a dedicated, longstanding, easily replaceable-leadership enemy that is hell-bent on our destruction."

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said, "To my party, I'm a bit disappointed that you no longer apparently think we're at war."

McCain also assailed Paul for citing actress and former activist Jane Fonda, who criticized the U.S. military in July 1972 while in North Vietnam during the Vietnam War -- an incident that spawned the nickname "Hanoi Jane."

Paul had said: "Nobody will ever forget Jane Fonda swiveling around with North Vietnamese armored guns, and it was despicable. That's one thing if you want to try her for treason, but are you going to just drop a drone, a Hellfire missile on Jane Fonda?"

McCain, who was captured by the North Vietnamese in 1967 while on a bombing mission and was a prisoner of war until 1973, said Fonda was not an enemy combatant, she was an American citizen, and would therefore not be targeted by the executive branch.

"The use of Jane Fonda's name does evoke certain memories with me, and I must say she is not my favorite American," McCain said.

"But as odious as it was [for her to go to North Vietnam], Ms. Fonda acted within her constitutional rights," The Wall Street Journal quoted McCain as saying.

He said suggesting "the United States of America would drop a Hellfire missile on Jane Fonda brings a serious discussion into the realm of the ridiculous."

Graham, who was on active duty with the U.S. Air Force from 1982 to 1988 and later served in the Gulf War as an Air Force judge advocate, briefing departing pilots on the laws of war, asked, "What is it all of a sudden that this drone program has gotten every Republican so spun up?"

He said Obama had the "good judgment to understand we're at war."

Paul later said: "He's wrong -- the issue is a very important issue."

"He's dismissive of something that involves a discussion of whether the Fifth Amendment applies to American citizens, and I consider that to be a very important issue," Paul said.

Paul -- a libertarian like his father, former Rep. Ron Paul of Texas, who sought the Republican presidential nomination last year -- won support from Tea Party-backed Republicans as well as from the peace and social justice group Code Pink.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., praised Paul for his conviction.

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