What Rand Paul and Drones Have To Do with Juliette Kayyem

This is one bad combination for the gubernatorial candidate.

Photo via Associated Press

Photo via Associated Press

Gubernatorial candidate Juliette Kayyem has run into some trouble with Massachusetts Democrats over what some characterize as hawkish views on the use of tough measures in the cause of national security, her area of expertise. So, with the Democratic state convention less than six weeks away, she probably doesn’t need the trouble that’s stirring up around her husband on the issue—regardless of how irrelevant it may be to her, and how she might run the Commonwealth.

David Barron, Kayyem’s husband, is awaiting confirmation by the US Senate to be a judge on the First Circuit Court of Appeals. He is among a considerable list of President Barack Obama’s nominees who are finally being pushed through for confirmation votes; reports suggest the vote on Barron could come this week.

However, libertarian-conservative Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky has now warned Majority Leader Harry Reid that he will put a hold on Barron’s confirmation, as The Hill reported today.

Barron, back when he worked for Obama’s Office of Legal Counsel, apparently helped author one or two of the memos providing authorization for the September 2011 drone strike that killed Anwar al-Awlaki, an American citizen working with al-Qaeda in Yemen. Those memos are among several documents that the Obama administration has been ordered to release; it has not done so, claiming that it might still appeal the court ruling.

Rand Paul really doesn’t like drone assassinations; you might recall that he held a one-man filibuster over the issue a while back. So, he is threatening to do the same to demand that Obama turn over the memos before the Senate confirms Barron. (The Kayyem campaign says it will not comment on Barron while his nomination is pending.)

Thanks to new procedural rules agreed adopted this session, Paul probably can’t stop Barron’s confirmation. Probably, but not definitely. The American Civil Liberties Union, among others, is on Paul’s side on the memo demand, and quite a few Democratic Senators are sympathetic as well. Massachusetts’s own Ed Markey was among those who declared support for Paul’s previous drone-related filibuster. If Paul’s antics prompt some Democrats to say they won’t vote yes on Barron until the memos are released, Reid just might have to withdraw.

Even if he can’t prevent the vote, Paul can delay it and cause an attention-getting ruckus about it—enough of a ruckus to get noticed by Massachusetts Democratic delegates deciding who to support at the coming convention. And, trust me, on this one issue (and perhaps only this one issue), quite a few of those delegates will side with Rand Paul.

None of which, of course, should have anything to do with supporting Kayyem for governor. They’re not her memos; it’s not her decision whether to release them; it’s not her nomination. But with her gubernatorial campaign hinging on what those delegates do in mid-June, this is probably a distraction she would rather have behind her.