The Legacy of a Filibuster

Friday, March 29, 2013


In early March, Kentucky Senator Rand Paul used a 13-hour filibuster to draw attention to the Obama Administration's drone programs. This week, Slate's David Weigel noticed that public opinion about drones has changed significantly since that filibuster. Bob spoke with Weigel about the connection.

Errors - Tusk


David Weigel

Hosted by:

Bob Garfield

Comments [10]

Last year OTM spent a month navel-gazing and reading studies purported to display "bias" in NPR reporting. "Nope, no bias here!" came the verdict. But here's Bob: "These three guys [duly elected U.S. Senators] to me are extremists, and the less attention paid to them, the better." Do you guys listen to your show? I'm with "Vermont's Kingdom Born" -- no donation this quarter.

Apr. 03 2013 07:26 PM
Vicki from Oregon

I don't remember "On the Media" covering Bernie Sanders' filibuster against tax cuts for the wealthy. It wasn't as long as Paul's, but Sanders didn't have anyone spelling him.

Apr. 01 2013 09:40 PM

Re: Bob's comment
"Would the United States use a drone to kill a US citizen on US soil? The White House finally replied to Paul’s hypothetical with a simple, “No.”"

The 'simple no' certainly has become the meme, hasn't it? Yet if we read Mr. Holder's letter as published in the New Yorker (3/7/2013), we see there is room for interpretation:

It has come to my attention that you have now asked an additional question: “Does the President have the authority to use a weaponized drone to kill an American not engaged in combat on American soil?” The answer to that question is no.


Eric H. Holder, Jr.

Can you give me an exact definition of "not engaged in combat on American soil"?

Apr. 01 2013 09:19 PM

I wondered if the public's attitude towards US citizens has changed. When the poll was originally posed, I'm sure many people saw it in the context of "Do you support the drone strike against al-Awlaki?" As a result, when you ask in a poll, "Do you support extra-judicial strikes against US citizens?" In 2011, it sounds like a referendum on whether or not to condemn Obama for the strike against al-Awlaki specifically. When you ask the question in 2013, you'll get different answers because it seems like a much more general question.

My argument is that I'm not sure that US opinion has shifted on the question. I just think the question posed in 2011 becomes much more about "Do you support the drone strike against al-Awlaki? Do you want to condemn Obama for authorizing that strike?" And I think some Americans generally feel that it was okay to kill al-Awlaki while opposing extra-judicial drone strikes against American in general (this may be due to the fact that al-Awlaki is already assumed to be guilty and was also a higher-up member of the jihadi/terrorist movement).

Apr. 01 2013 02:41 PM
Vermont's Kingdom Born

I listen to your show for years not because you've annoyed me with your editorial bias, but because despite it, you actually do cover the media well, particularly as it interfaces with technology and law and privacy. But this article was mind blowing: Bob's statement that a legally elected representative was an "extremist" and should not be heard was bold and honest and extremely disturbing. It is the difference between having a neighbor who's a little creepy and one who just flashed your preteen daughters.

Never mind that drones over America, observing the population of a free country as they go about their daily, law abiding lives, are going to be photographed and cataloged. This is very little different than peaking in windows or glancing in mail boxes, not reading the mail, just looking at the magazines and catalogs. You've called attention to electronic privacy issues before, many, many times. Never mind that drones which can be armed with anti-tank and anti-aircraft missles will be operating by a federal agency that is not part of the Department of Defense, under an administration that has stated that it is perfectly legal to just execute American citizens without trial, without judicial review, without public record, so long as it is overseas and no one sees it. When the same drones are flown over Yemen or Pakistan or Somalia, you raise a flag, you shine a light on it, and ask if this is right. That is why I keep listening to you. But you just dismissed concerns about the possibility of such operations being performed in the United States with this one statement, because you don't like someone who was calling attention to the issue.

A sizable portion of population of Kentucky voted for this Mr Paul, by a margin much greater than any president in the last half century. And even in the most liberal bastions of the "blue states", many people support his message at least in part- smaller government, lower taxes, less military deployments and fewer pointless handouts, neither of which has done more than drain blood, treasure and credibility. Even if I don't always agree with him, and neither does the RNC nor the DNC, Mr Paul was selected to be a voice of the people of Kentucky. By your statement, you marginalize them. Is it ok to do so because he's only a rebellious, semi-libertarian Republican? Or is it because he's not a glib, polished, urbanite? Either way, it reaks of the very left wing, very Los Angeles or very Manhattan dwelling, ivory tower dwelling Public Radio stereotype.

Thank you, Bob, thank you for showing what your true ideology is and that ideology might trump just the simple, honest, impartial facts on On The Media. Thank you for confirming that your truthiness may be counting for more than truth on your show, and possibly all shows produced on NPR.

And thank you for saving me money- yet again, some one has said something on NPR that convinces me not to donate to NPR this quarter.

Mar. 31 2013 04:58 PM
David Freiman from Philadelphia, PA

Public opinion has changed?
Was the question posed before: " Do you want drones to kill American terrorists abroad?"

and the current question: "Do you want drones to kill American suspected of plotting terrorism abroad?"

Is the change in public opinion purely due to achange in wording of the question in the poll?

Mar. 31 2013 03:54 PM

@Rob Hec,
OTM can't treat Paul fairly because the public radio donor base would, reactively, restrict or decrease existing funding. That's the point in the end. It's always the same point in the end.

Mar. 31 2013 03:46 PM
Rob Hec from North Carolina

About the Obama administration's stance on domestic drone strikes this piece contained somewhat of a factual error that I was surprised to hear. Bob Garfield claimed the Obama administration's answer to Rand Paul was no they would not use drone strikes on US soil. But Eric Holder's response was more ambiguous. He actually stated "it is possible" while "unlikely to occur."

I'm also surprised Bob Garfield called Rand Paul an extremist for "sounding the alarm bell" on drone strikes. The Obama administration has executed US citizens without due process. Extra-judicial assassinations hand signed by the US president is unprecedented I believe. If George W. Bush had done as much, I have to wonder if Bob Garfield and NPR would give the administration the same leeway they are giving Obama?

Mar. 30 2013 04:45 PM
Salvatore Principato from New York City

Should Rand Paul try to filibuster gun control legislation
someone should insist he answer this question first:

"Would you ever use a firearm to kill an American citizen on American soil
without due process?"

Mar. 30 2013 01:48 PM

"Kentucky Senator Rand Paul used a 13-hour filibuster to draw attention to the Obama Administration's drone programs"
In other words drawing attention to lethal drone strikes that the media has downplayed compared to non-lethal waterboarding that was constantly covered by the media?
If a Senator does not compel attention to the President's actions then who does?
If a Democrat filibustered either wouldn't that Senator be lionized rather than derided by the media?

Why does the guest cite the irrational "government paranoia" by some during the Clinton administration but not during the Bush administration? Not in keeping with the progressive narrative? Is that typical double standard worthy of some eye-rolling?

"These three guys...are extremists.."
A president who added more than six trillion dollars to the debt and seeks massive regulatory intrusion into most aspects of American life is not extreme but Senators who seek to slow the power grab and remind citizens of their Constitutional protections are extreme?
Again, if they don't take a stand using a "good, old fashioned" Senatorial practice then who does?
The dashing news media?
Not likely with this President.

Mar. 30 2013 10:22 AM

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