The image: During a commercial break in Wednesday's Republican presidential debate, a photographer captured a seemingly tense exchange between the party's presidential frontrunner, Texas Gov. Rick Perry, and Rep. Ron Paul, also a Texan. (See photo below). Perry walked over to Paul's podium, grabbed the libertarian congressman's forearm with one hand, and pointed in his face with the other. The confrontation came shortly after Paul skewered Perry for writing a letter in the '90s praising then-first lady Hillary Clinton for her health-care reform efforts. Perry subsequently asked Paul to explain a 1987 letter the libertarian wrote to then-President Ronald Reagan saying he was leaving the Republican Party. Paul supporters accused Perry of "assaulting" their candidate during the unintended photo op, but the Perry camp said the pair merely discussed border security in a "very cordial" fashion. For his part, Paul insists that the two did not exchange any "cross words."
The response: It's perfectly understandable that Paul supporters would "go nuclear over this," says Taylor Marsh at her blog. "When a man puts his hands on another man, pointing a finger in his face for emphasis, that's a point when things have crossed the line." Indeed, this looks like a "heated exchange," says Tommy Christopher at Mediaite, "but for all we know, they were discussing the relative merits of My Little Pony and Thundercats." Whatever really happened, says Katrina Trinko at National Review, this was certainly one of the more interesting moments in the debate — and it didn't even make it on the air. Most of the other candidates just ignore Paul's broadsides, "but Perry seems unwilling or unable to do that." Take a look for yourself: