After asking Tea Party favorite Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) to discard his talking points and be frank on the debt ceiling issue, CNN's Don Lemon repeatedly interrupted the Senator, and even lectured him and threw some Democratic talking points at him. Lemon interviewed Paul on Saturday's 5 p.m. EDT edition of CNN Newsroom.
"At this point though, and can we do this – let's do this interview without talking points, okay, let's just talk to each other," Lemon curtly told the senator at the outset. But then he asked a pointed question which made Paul raise his eyebrows.
"Both Democrats and Republicans are pointing fingers at you. So I guess maybe the best question to start with is what will make you and the Tea Party happy at this point?" Lemon asked.
He followed up later with a loaded question that could easily have been from a Democratic Senator. "The Democrats have made many concessions when it comes to what's going on here, and even the Tea Party position, it appears to most people, remains rigid," Lemon conveyed. "The question is, have you made your point? And are – by continuing to go on with this, do you feel like you're overreaching and you're going to lose the clout?"
Later the host interrupted Senator Paul, and scolded him when he was attempting to finish his original point. "Please, be respectful here," Lemon reproached Paul.
He lectured the Senator that "you should know that the public is really frustrated right now, and they don't know what's going on, they don't understand why we haven't come to some sort of consensus, or you guys haven't come to some sort of consensus, and they want some answers. You understand that. Is that – are you feeling that in Washington right now?"
At the end of the testy interview, Senator Paul revealed his disappointment with the interview. " I think we're having maybe some trouble understanding each other," he curtly observed.
A transcript of the segment, which aired on July 30 at 5:03 p.m. EDT, is as follows:
DON LEMON: I know that you're very busy. You guys have a lot going on. At this point though, and can we do this – let's do this interview without talking points, okay, let's just talk to each other. Both Democrats and Republicans are pointing fingers at you. So I guess maybe the best question to start with is what will make you and the Tea Party happy at this point?
Sen. RAND PAUL (R-Ky.): Well, the interesting thing is, I mean in your lead-in you say that I rejected both plans. I have actually accepted both plans as long as they have an amendment to them that says that we gradually balance the budget over seven to eight year period. I think that's a very reasonable position. It's supported by 75 percent of the American people, and what –
LEMON: But how did you – hang on, how did you vote on those plans?
PAUL: Well, on the Reid plan, we haven't voted on it yet. On the Cut, Cap and Balance, which has had the most votes of any bill that has been passed so far –
LEMON: But on the Boehner plan, how did you vote?
PAUL: On the one that's gotten the most votes out of the House, we had 234 votes, and we had Republicans and Democrats. I voted for that plan. On the Boehner plan, I voted no because it did not balance the budget before we raised the debt ceiling. So many times up here, we haven't really abided by our own rules, and I don't really trust the institution to abide by its rules.
LEMON: Okay, listen. The Democrats have made many concessions when it comes to what's going on here, and even the Tea Party position, it appears to most people, remains rigid. The question is, have you made your point? And are – by continuing to go on with this, do you feel like you're overreaching and you're going to lose the clout? And really, the respect that you've gotten, because when you've really made your point here and most people will say, you have done a good job at it. Do you feel like you're overreaching right now?
PAUL: Well, I guess the thing is is that we have $14 trillion in debt, and the Boehner plan and the Reid plan and whatever the mixture of the two will become, will add about seven to eight trillion dollars over the next ten years. I think what's interesting here is that people have talked about Moody's and S&P downgrading our debt –
LEMON: Okay, hang on, hang on. Can we just stick to that –
PAUL: There's much talk about - well there's much talk about
LEMON: Hold on. Please, be respectful here.
PAUL: Let me finish my thought.
LEMON: Can you answer the question and we'll talk about Moody's and all that. I want to ask you - do you feel like -
PAUL: I'm trying to answer your question, but you've interrupted my answer.
LEMON: Do you feel like - if you answer the question, I'll give you plenty of time.
LEMON: Do you feel like you have made your point and now do you think people are going to think that you're overreaching and that maybe you're going to ruin the clout that you already have and the respect that you've gotten?
PAUL: Well, here's the problem is this, I'm not trying to make a point. I'm trying to do what's best for the country, and adding seven trillion to eight trillion dollars of debt over the next ten years I don't think is good for the country.
LEMON: If – you have been criticized here as I said by both sides, and maybe the answer to this question is both sides have to blame. But if the U.S. does default, do you think who will be to blame here? Will it be the president? Will it be the Democrats? Will it be the Tea Party, Republicans? Who's going to be the blame here?
PAUL: I think all along, the president should have taken default off the table. In fact, we have legislation that would require him to pay the interest on the debt, require him to pay Social Security checks, and require him to pay the soldiers' salaries. So, we have never been for default or reneging on any checks. The president has put that on the table in a grand, elaborate game of chicken. We've always been oppose to that. We think he should reassure the markets and there's plenty of tax money to pay the interest.
LEMON: Okay. Mr. Paul, I'm going to ask you again, just a simple answer to my question, if we indeed default, who's going to be to blame, do you feel?
PAUL: I don't think we should default, but if we do, I would say it's the president's fault for not reassuring the markets that he will pay the interest. And actually, privately, he is reassuring the markets, but publicly he's still playing this game of chicken. But we have plenty of tax revenue to pay the interest on our debt, there's no reason to default.
LEMON: I appreciate you taking the time, and I just want simple answers because, listen, you should know that the public is really frustrated right now, and they don't know what's going on, they don't understand why we haven't come to some sort of consensus, or you guys haven't come to some sort of consensus, and they want some answers. You understand that. Is that – are you feeling that in Washington right now?
PAUL: Well you know, we have been continuing to offer compromises. About 30 minutes ago, I was on the floor and I offered to vote for the Reid bill. So while many in the media are trying to portray it –
LEMON: But hang on, hang on, one second again.
PAUL: Well you're in the middle of my answer –
LEMON: I know, but I'm asking you to answer the question – I don't want talking points, with all due respect, I'm asking you, do you feel the public sentiment in Washington?
PAUL: This isn't a talking point, I'm trying to tell you what we did 30 minutes ago on the floor. That's not a talking point.
LEMON: I'm not asking you what you did, sir. With all due respect, I'm asking you if you feel how the public feels in Washington. You don't have to tell me what you did, but are you feeling? Do you understand how people feel about this?
PAUL: We feel that they want compromise and I'm trying to tell you that we're still trying to compromise, and many in the media are trying to depict us as not. But the only way I can prove to you that we're trying to compromise is by telling you, we have offered up on the floor another chance to compromise. I've said that I'll vote for the Reid bill, I'll vote for the entire $2 trillion that the president wants, so he can avoid talking about this during his campaigning. But the thing is, is that is an offer to compromise, and it is me hearing the American people that they do want to compromise.
LEMON: Okay. So you are hearing the American people, you feel?
PAUL: I think I've answered the question. I think we're having maybe some trouble understanding each other. But yeah, I have answered the question. I do understand the Americans want us to find a compromise and I have offered to compromise. I have offered to vote for the Democrat plan if they'll agree to balance the budget gradually over a seven-to-eight year period.
LEMON: Okay. All right. Thank you, Rand Paul. We appreciate it. Guys, get back to work, because the American people, we want something done, the people who sent you there. Thank you very much. I appreciate you coming on.
- Matt Hadro is a News Analyst at the Media Research Center