A Sunday night Kentucky U.S. Senate debate between Tea Party favorite Rand Paul and Democratic candidate Jack Conway quickly went to the gutter and ended with Paul refusing to shake the hand of his Democratic opponent at the debate’s conclusion.
Paul repeatedly fended off attacks from Conway about alleged questionable behavior during his college years and about his religion. In his opening remarks, Paul drilled Conway for campaigning negatively.
“I’m a pro-life Christian and I won’t apologize for that,” Paul said. “I’ve never written or said anything to indicate otherwise. I’m disheartened that my opponent has chosen to attack my religious beliefs.”
Most of the allegations Conway fired at Paul were denied by the candidate as being untrue and unsubstantiated, in some cases based on anonymous sources from more than 30 years ago.
Paul stopped letting allegations about his college years slide after a while. In a response to Conway’s question about his alleged embarrassing college shenanigans, Paul quipped, “Let me get this straight, Jack wants to know, ‘well, when did you quit beating your wife?’”*
“He’s accused me of these crimes, you’ve accused me of these crimes that you have completely just made up, Jack,” Paul said. “Do you know nothing about the process of accusation? Do you know nothing about the fact that, when you attack someone’s character, you just don’t do that stuff, Jack? I mean, you really should be ashamed of yourself. Run on the issues of the day, but don’t make up stuff about me from college that you think you’ve read on the Internet blogs, okay? Grow up.”
Conway responded to Paul by rehashing his same argument, but adding that those accusations weren’t just on the “Internet blogs,” but reported by CBS News and Politico, too.
Frustrated, Paul shot back, “I give up. How do you argue with somebody who has no logic and makes no logical sense? Who makes up stuff to accuse me of 30 years ago in college? It is absolutely absurd.”
Then, Paul turned to Conway and said, “You demean the State of Kentucky.”
When they finally got to real issues about 25 minutes into the hour-long debate, Conway tried to distance himself from President Barack Obama, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, by saying he consistently breaks from the pack and that he, as Kentucky’s attorney general, even filed suit against the Environmental Protection Agency.
Conway kept throwing in gritty one-liners against Paul, though, and on several occasions brought Social Security funding into the mix, alleging that Paul thinks Social Security is unconstitutional.
Paul fired back by saying that he has never said the entitlement is unconstitutional, but added that it’s a “serious conversation” people need to have as more American than ever before are going to be entering retirement soon.
As for Afghanistan military strategy, Paul said he thinks America is “very good at fighting war” but not so great at “building nations.”
Conway called for troops to begin returning to the United States next year, saying he does support the president’s timeline for withdrawal.
Paul left Conway with the biggest insult of all though: In his closing statement at the end of the debate, he asked the audience to notice he was not going to be shaking Conway’s hand at the debate’s conclusion, as is customary for political opponents.
“I will not shake hands with someone who attacks my religion and attacks my Christian beliefs,” Paul said. “These are something very personal to me, my wife and my kids – we take it very personally. I will not be associated with someone who will attack my religion.”
*Correction: This quote was originally transcribed inaccurately. It has now been corrected.