Rand Paul and Jack Conway made a mess of the Kentucky Senate race when a debate Oct. 17 took a nasty turn. After Conway recounted an incident about Paul’s time in college 30 years ago, as reported by GQ, Paul was incensed his religion had been mocked in the debate. Rand Paul ended the debate early as he walked off the stage and refused to shake Conway’s hand.
The Los Angeles Times reports that Paul may or may not have their last scheduled debate Oct. 25. When Paul attended Baylor, he was allegedly high on marijuana when he kidnapped a woman with his friends. When Conway continued to question his spirituality, Paul took a stand and walked off.
This is not the first time that a political debate has gotten heated, and it won’t be the last. Several stories have happened in our television-watching society that lends to great theater amongst political campaigns. Here are some of the most prevalent which stick out in my mind in modern American politics.
McCain/Obama in 2008
John McCain and Barack Obama were in the final month of the 2008 presidential election campaign when McCain’s comments about Obama were possibly seen as racist. ABC News showed video of the town hall-style debate in Nashville, Tennessee, in which McCain says Obama voted for George W. Bush’s oil industry energy policy by saying “You know who voted for it? You might never know. That one.” as McCain motioned toward Obama.
Unfazed, Obama continued the debate, even after it seemed that McCain was getting worked up over the issue. The vote happened in 2005 in the Senate, and McCain was referring to Obama’s voting record on energy policy.
Bentsen/Quayle in 1988
The 1988 election between the elder George Bush and Michael Dukakis showed Republicans riding a wave of enthusiasm from the Reagan years. But the most memorable moment came when the vice presidential candidates debated.
The New Statesman has a video clip of Dan Quayle looking into the cameras and saying he has as much experience in the Senate as Jack Kennedy did when he ran for national office. To which Bentsen calmly replied, “Senator, I served with Jack Kennedy, I knew Jack Kennedy, Jack Kennedy was a friend of mine. Senator, you’re no Jack Kennedy.” The audience loved it. Unfortunately for the Democrats, Dukakis was no Bentsen.
Jimmy Carter/Ronald Reagan in 1980
When Jimmy Carter attacked Ronald Reagan’s stance on Social Security and Medicare during a televised debate in 1980, Regan expertly dodged the question and instead addressed the American people, according to the New Statesman. Even though Carter brought up a relevant point, Reagan took Carter to task and asked Americans if they felt “our security is as safe, that we’re as strong as we were four years ago?”
Reagan also hit Carter in the pocketbook, saying that basic items were more expensive now and there was more unemployment. Reagan became a master at avoiding people questioning his own stances while trying to get things done in office, and this debate was a precursor of things to come.
Paul and Conway clearly don’t like each other. What I don’t get is that not once did Paul repudiate what he did. Conway asked him a straightforward question, and Paul didn’t answer it. Both men were just as cowardly-Conway for continuing to hound Paul on the subject, and Paul for throwing a political tantrum. Either way, Kentucky is back on the political map after so much focus has been heaped upon Nevada and Delaware.
GQ Magazine, “GQ Exclusive: Rand Paul’s Kooky College Days (Hint: There’s a Secret Society Involved),” www.gq.com.
Pierce, Tony, “Rand Paul doesn’t shake hands with opponent after ‘Aqua Buddha’ debate; the two may not meet again”, Los Angeles Times.
ABC News, “Debating McCain Reference to ‘That One'”, ABCNews.com.
Smith, Ian K., “TV debate moments: Dan Quayle vs. Lloyd Bentsen October 1988”, New Statesman.
Vamburkar, Meenal, “TV debate moments: Jimmy Carter v Ronald Reagan October 1980”, New Statesman.