10:05 p.m.: Before he speaks, Kentucky Senator Rand Paul has already proved one thing: he can get from a Fox television studio to his Capitol Hill office quicker than you can bake brownies. Those just tuning in don’t know that this is actually Paul’s second rebuttal of the evening, following an appearance on Fox News immediately after Obama’s address.
10:06 p.m.: In the first 20 seconds, Paul delivers a polite salutation, a reminder that it’s been 12 years since 9/11 attacks and a statement that Obama wants the U.S. “to be allies with al Qaeda.” He does not explain which actions, exactly, amount to the world’s worst friend request.
10:06 p.m.: Paul takes an uncomfortable swallow, immediately conjuring the image of another Republican Senator who recently had a dry mouth during a certain rebuttal—and creating a second layer of tension. Will this be a third Watergate?
10:06 p.m.: Paul says that just because Obama has threatened force in Syria, that doesn’t mean the U.S. has to follow through. “I would argue that America’s credibility does not reside in one man,” he says, much like a political party’s credibility does not reside in one member. The GOP did not invite Paul to make this address. He is speaking as “a concerned Senator.”
10:07 p.m.: Paul swallows.
10:07 p.m.: It has taken just over a minute for Paul to mention the Gipper. He says that Reagan’s defense secretary made two crucial points about getting involved in the Middle East: Americans must support any involvement and, “most importantly, our mission must be to win.” But there is no clear mission in Syria, he says, so winning isn’t possible. He swallows.
10:07 p.m.: The Senator criticizes the notion of “unbelievably small” military action (a bumbled phrase used earlier in the week by John Kerry), saying something that size wouldn’t be effective anyway—much like an unbelievably small bottle of Poland Spring. He swallows and embarks on a series of rhetorical questions about whether a U.S. strike would make things more or less likely, such as Israel being attacked or Assad losing control of chemical weapons.
10:08 p.m.: Paul answers his questions in one fell swoop: “Just about any bad outcome you can imagine is made more likely by the U.S. involvement in the Syrian civil war.” He takes another hard swallow.
10:09 p.m.: Speaking about the possibility for diplomacy to succeed, Paul wonders aloud whether Russia and Syria can be trusted to turn over all Syria’s chemical weapons to the international community. He cocks his head dubiously. He then quotes a mantra Obama also used in multiple interviews on his media supertour the day before: We must trust but verify.
10:09 p.m.: “Some will say that only the threat of force brought Russia and Syria to the negotiating table,” Paul says. He’s talking about Obama, who said something like that on Monday and Tuesday night, arguing that the threat was “in part” responsible for the diplomatic option. Paul also takes credit.
10:10 p.m.: ”Will diplomacy win the day?” Paul asks. “No one can tell for certain.” Any viewer listening closely would have known that answer was coming. Seconds before, Paul just said “one thing is for certain”—that “the chance for diplomacy would not have occurred without strong voices against an immediate bombing campaign.”
10:10: Paul lauds the President for seeking congressional approval before a military strike. But he says he’ll still vote against any authorization. He swallows and discusses the writings of James Madison on the subject of checks and balances.
10:10 p.m.: Quoting a line from an open letter he released earlier in the week opposing military intervention, he says he will not send “my son, your son or anyone’s daughter” to war without a more compelling justification than what Obama has given. Whether he would send your dentist’s son is not clarified.
10:11 p.m.: Paul closes with an invocation, just like Obama did, but rather than request a blessing, he asks for guidance: “May God help us to make the wise decision here,” he says, and presumably sprints toward the nearest garden hose.
10:12 p.m.: Those watching Fox News see the feed break away from Paul and back to host Greta Van Susteren. Seemingly perplexed by what has just occurred, she turns to guest Karl Rove for answers. “I’m just curious, Karl, if you know, I suspect that he elected to make that response?” she says. “He was not chosen by his party or by the leadership to do this? And we just, we elected to take the speech?” Rove responds.