Rand Paul, the great white hope, presumed enemy of extrajudicial killings from the air, shocked and disappointed his libertarian disciples today by embracing drone warfare and defending President Obama’s use of flying death machines to immolate two hostages held by Al Qaeda.

The Republican senator, who earlier this year vowed that he would shoot a drone over his old Kentucky home with a shotgun, once made his bones with a 13-hour Senate filibuster of drone warfare in which he took an unequivocal stand for the constitutional rights of Americans not to be fried with a missile from an R/C doohickey:

I will speak as long as it takes, until the alarm is sounded from coast to coast that our Constitution is important, that your rights to trial by jury are precious, that no American should be killed by a drone on American soil without first being charged with a crime, without first being found to be guilty by a court.

But hey, that’s American soil. All bets are off when you’re talking about a structure somewhere in the Pakistan mountains that we’re pretty sure was a bad-guy hangout, even though we couldn’t really say who was in it, friend or foe.

Discussing the White House’s somewhat shady admission last week that two January drone strikes had inadvertently killed American hostage Warren Weinstein, Italian hostage Giovanni Lo Porto, and two American citizens accused of supporting Al Qaeda, Paul told Fox News Monday the attacks were a “difficult situation” and defended the president’s use of slightly discriminate fire from above to kill whoever:

“There is a valuable use for drones and as much as I’m seen as an opponent of drones, in military and warfare, they do have some value,” Paul said on Fox News’s “Fox and Friends.”

“I’ve been an opponent of using drones about people not in combat, however if you are holding hostages, you kind of are involved in combat.”

You see, we had to kill whoever was in that hut, because they were probably in possession of the hostages we had no idea were in that hut. That’s strategic logic, people! Presidential strategic logic. Right? Right?

In fairness, for all the disappointment that Paul’s presidential posturing on drones may arouse today, it’s no revelation to his Fox News viewers, whom he told in 2013:

“I’ve never argued against any technology being used when you have an imminent threat, an active crime going on,” Paul said. “If someone comes out of a liquor store with a weapon and fifty dollars in cash. I don’t care if a drone kills him or a policeman kills him.”

Rand Paul: He stands for the rights of all Americans, except for enemy combatants, hostages, and armed citizens with cash and liquor. And really, how many of those are there?

[Photo credit: AP Images]