Monday, October 25, 2010

Rand Paul Schools Jack Conway

Rand Paul and Jack Conway just finished their last debate, and the verdict is that Paul gave far more thoughtful and original answers that did not simply regurgitate campaign ads.

To be sure, Conway, as always, played like JFK while Paul was a Nixon on camera. Conway was better coiffed and suited -- and sported an American flag lapel pin with a blue tie, in contrast to Paul's red tie and a curious, matching red circular button on Paul's suit lapel that he never explained. Also, Paul's feet, unlike Conway's, were awkwardly crossed under his chair, while Paul's left hand seemed to be constantly reaching for his coffee mug, while Conway didn't appear to take a single drink from his (or was better at sipping off camera).

But Paul's disheveled and misfit look didn't detract from his central themes, which he articulated well: that (1) President Obama's new regulations and spending are out of control and undermine real economic recovery; (2) the Democrats have refused to confront the demographic issues that create long-term funding problems for Social Security and other entitlement programs; and (3) Conway's campaign has misleadingly taken snippets from Paul's statements out of context.

Paul also got in a couple of good zingers, such as when Conway claimed that Paul's appearance on MSNBC early in the campaign was the most "painful" television to watch, which prompted Paul to respond that, no, Conway got the award for the most "painful" MSNBC moment with his recent interview with Chris Matthews regarding the Aqua Buddha ad. And speaking of Aqua Buddha, when Conway feigned great offense after Paul alluded to Conway owning a race horse and Conway said that "in Kentucky, no one attacks another man's dog or horse," Paul was quick to respond to Conway, "but attacking another man's religion is ok, right?"

Indeed, quicker is the best way to describe Paul's performance tonight, in contrast to Conway's flat-footed pace. Yes, we know about the $2,000 Medicare deductible and the 20-something percent national sales tax, Jack, so you don't have to keep repeating those talking points, and we all know they were taken out of context. And we know about the $200 billion you think will be saved when you tweak Obamacare to allow for group pharmaceutical purchasing, again thanks to your repeating your talking point over and over tonight. We also know, thanks to your repeating it constantly, that "Moodys.com" -- whatever that means -- has supposedly verified your claims. (By the way, while $200 billion seems like a lot of money, it really is a drop in the bucket compared to the multi-trillion dollar problems of future Social Security funding that you failed to address.)

Paul, in contrast, seemed ready to take on the tough issues and suggest solutions that may not be the most popular, but reflected a willingness to take risk and exercise courage. That was one of the two thoughts I had at the end of the debate. My other thought was, "thank God, the camera was on the moderator at the end" so we were spared the painful view of whether Paul would or would not shake Conway's hand. The handshaking decision was a Catch-22 for Paul: shaking would have been seen as Paul's backing down from his righteous outrage at the end of the last debate, whereas not shaking would have made Paul seem mean-spirited and even petty.

So, all in all, the night went well for Rand Paul, to whom the cameraman, in the end, was kind. We, Aqua Buddhists were pleased.

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