Rand Paul was excluded from Thursday night’s Republican debate. But the senator from Kentucky still delivered the most cogent analysis of the forum, when he flipped off everyone involved.
Literally and figuratively.
In an interview with ABC News Radio’s Aaron Katersky, Paul raised his middle finger as he was saying, “Ninety-nine percent of our supporters are calling in and saying [this] for the media, that’s where you can go.”
The pressure from Paul backers to open up the debate did not succeed. And what viewers were left with—because of the absence of Paul and other contenders who might have been willing to push the envelope when it came to the discussion of issues and the direction of the party—was a diminished discourse that will be most remembered for an absurd exchange that began with billionaire Donald Trump pointing out that Calgary-native Ted Cruz was “not born on the land.”
Then Trump assured Cruz that, while he would never bring a lawsuit challenging the Canadian-born senator’s status as a not a natural-born citizen, Democrats surely would do so if Cruz were to secure the Republican nomination. “You have a big lawsuit over your head while you’re running. And if you become the nominee, who the hell knows if you can even serve in office,” said the billionaire.
Cruz had his comeback ready: “I’ve spent my entire life defending the Constitution before the US Supreme Court. And I’ll tell you, I’m not going to be taking legal advice from Donald Trump.”
Things degenerated from there.
Florida Senator Marco Rubio elbowed his way in with a scripted announcement that “I hate to interrupt this episode of Court TV.”
Then Rubio proceeded to accuse New Jersey Governor Chris Christie of writing a check to Planned Parenthood, and Christie replied by telling Rubio, “You talk so much so that nobody can see if whether what you’re saying is accurate or not.”
At around that point, Bill Maher tweeted, “I’ve seen productions of Boys in the Band that weren’t this bitchy.”
This was a debate that could have used some Lindsey Graham talk about rational responses to immigration and respect for American Muslims. This was a debate that could have used some Rand Paul talk about avoiding quagmires or ending the drug war or defending privacy. The point here is not to suggest that Graham (if he was still in the race) or Paul or any of the other excluded contenders would have arrived as visionaries, or even candidates with right answers to every question. Far from it.