That’s what Kentucky Democrat Jack Conway found out last night at the close of a debate. Conway’s campaign ran a disastrously, desperately dumb ad last week suggesting that 30-year old college pranks Paul may have been associated with have anything to do with his current fitness as a Senate candidate, and Paul didn’t take it so well…
Paul’s reaction certainly attracted some attention, and it’s bouncing around the blogosphere this morning. As with most of what he’s done in this campaign, it’s bound to draw both positive and negative reactions. At Redstate.com, he’s getting raves…
This is going to backlash against the Conway campaign. To begin with, it showed a certain contempt for Kentucky voters generally that suggests to me that the idea came from outside the state: surely Kentucky Democrats themselves know their constituents better than that. Second, an ad that allows your opponent to say something like “I will not be associated with someone who attacks my religion” legitimately is more or less the definition of a bad ad. Third – and I don’t know how important it is, but it may be – doing this ad allowed Paul (practically forced him, in fact) to bring up something that normally doesn’t get mentioned about him: he’s a Presbyterian. Which is to say, a perfectly normal mainline Protestant sect that has female deacons (his wife is one). Which is also to say, something that is light years away from the progressive, probably out-of-state smear job that was tossed at the man and his family.
Put another way: I applaud Dr. Paul’s refusal to shake the hand of Jack Conway. Because I think that by now we all know where Jack Conway’s hands have been.
Daniel Foster at National Review nodded approvingly at Paul’s reaction, and went through the actual events of the debate:
Paul’s anger stemmed from Conway’s repeated references to vague allegations that Paul had participated in an anti-Christian secret society while attending Baylor University decades ago, and that he — well, I’ll let Conway say it himself.
“When is it ever a good idea to tie up a woman and ask to kneel before a false idol, your god that you call “’Aqua Buddha?’” Conway asked Paul during the debate, repeating a charge made in an attack ad run by his campaign.
Paul later responded:
“You know how we tell you’re lying. It’s when your lips are moving. You’re accusing me of crimes. Do you nothing about the process? You are going to stand over there and accuse me of a crime from 30 years ago from some anonymous source. How ridiculous are you? You embarass this race.”
The Conway line of attack is pathetically thin gruel. Far from implicating Paul in some pagan secret society, it at worst captures a teenager engaged in an inappropriate prank. Indeed, the classmate of Paul’s who revealed the “aqua buddha” story in an interview with GQ has since said it has been blown wildly out of proportion. You can read about it here, should you find it worth your time.
As for Conway’s allegation that Paul is or was anti-Christian, Paul — a congregant at a Presbyterian church in Bowling Green, where his wife is a deacon — responded by quoting Mark 8:36.
Paul also said Conway should be “ashamed” of rehashing the charges and urged him to “run a race like a man. . . instead of calling me names.”
HotAir’s Ed Morrissey notes the whole “Aqua Buddha” thing isn’t exactly Watergate:
The only person in the world who has ever taken Aqua Buddha seriously appears to be Jack Conway. Does Aqua Buddha appear to him in his dreams? Does Conway shake with fear at the thought that Aqua Buddha might be corrupting the minds of Kentucky’s youth?
More to the point, what does a college drinking joke from 1982 have to do with governance today? If this is what occupies Conway’s waking thoughts, then every Kentuckian must have a job, every Kentuckian must be properly educated, and every Kentuckian must be sure that their life, liberty, and property are fully secure and need no protection from the rule of law or from the runaway agenda of Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, and Barack Obama.
Even on the Left the reaction to the Conway/Paul dustup was mixed. Melinda Henneberger of PoliticsDaily threw brickbats at both sides:
Right out of the gate last night, Paul pretended that this was an attack on him as a Christian: “Those who stoop to the level of attacking a man’s religious beliefs to gain higher office, I believe that they should remember that it does not profit a man to gain the world if he loses his soul in the process,” Paul lectured his opponent, quoting from Scripture.
“Jack, you should be ashamed of yourself,” said the self-described “pro-life Christian,” who may or may not have turned the other cheek, but who did refuse to shake Conway’s hand after the debate. “Have you no decency? Have you no shame?”Apparently not. Not to be outdone, Conway also behaved as though the relevant question really did involve the Bowling Green eye doctor’s spiritual life; instead of noting that men raised other than by wolves don’t for any reason tie up women who aren’t in on the plan, the Moses of Frankfort tried to cast the incident as evidence that Paul worships false gods: “Why did he freely join a group known for mocking, for making fun of people with faith?” Conway asked during the debate. “When is it ever a good idea to tie up a woman and ask her to kneel before a false idol, your god, which you call Aqua Buddha?”