So I went to the "New Hampshire Freedom Summit" in Manchester
on Saturday (April 12).
swiped borrowed their logo image for this post's
A good blogger would have at least a same-day report, possibly
even live updates from the scene. Sorry, I'm not
that guy. The following is just an unfocused list of stuff
I noticed, with no overarching theme.
I had a surprisingly good time. It was one speech after another,
mostly by slick politicians, on barely-comfortable 0.95-asswidth
hotel mass seating. There were (it was claimed) in the neighborhood of
700 people in attendance, and the speakers (as near as I could tell)
did not interact much with the masses.
And (everyone kept pointing this out) it was a beautiful
day outside. So I held open the possibility of cutting out early. But
the speeches were pretty good. The event was put on for free, even
the box lunch. So, although a normal person probably wouldn't have
liked it, I did.
This free-to-me event was sponsored by Citizens United (you might
recognize them as First
Amendment heroes and left-wing
for Prosperity (which, in the left-wing stylebook, must never
allowed to be uttered without the phrase "Koch brothers" somewhere
So, yay: after years of being accused of being in the underhanded
employ of the
Koch brothers, I can report: they might have indirectly bought me lunch.
About damn time.
The speakers included:
- Four Senators (Lee, Cruz, Paul, Ayotte)
- Three current Representatives, one ex-Representative (Steve King
from Iowa, Louie Gohmert from Texas, Tennessee's
Marsha Blackburn, and Newt Gingrich)
- One Ex-Governor (Mike Huckabee)
- One President (of the American Enterprise Institute), Arthur Brooks
- One talk-show host (and new ABC News contributor), Laura Ingraham
- In a category of his own: The Donald Trump
There were also a host of local pols and representatives
from CU and AFP.
I had forgotten that politicians tend to be charismatic and polished
(or, pejoratively, "slick") speakers. Most had laugh lines and jokes,
delivered with practiced skill. The funniest story (to me) came from
Senator Lee, who had a pretty good one about how his relative youth
caused problems getting the Capitol security cops to recognize
him as a Senator.
Probably the biggest surprise came from AEI President Arthur Brooks.
You might have noticed that he's kind of the odd man out in the speaker
list: never held, or attempted to hold, elective office.
But, as it turned out, I thought Brooks gave the best speech
of the day. (Here's the C-SPAN
video, see what you think.) Brooks was funny, and had good,
insightful, advice for conservative/libertarian candidates. Their problem
is shown in the polls that ask "Does Candidate X care about the problems
of people like me"? Our guys invariably come up on the short end of that stick.
I used to—up until Saturday, in fact—think that didn't matter. Brooks
convinced me I was wrong. The argument needs to be made that
conservative/libertarian policies actually help middle/lower classes.
(That should be easier to do after the Obama/Pelosi/Reid years,
Some other, more random, observations:
The audience was surprisingly up on current events. You could tell, for
example, that many in the crowd were aware of Rep. Gohmert's run-in
with Atty. Gen. Eric Holder the previous Tuesday. ("You don’t want to go
there buddy, all right? You don’t want to go there, OK?”) Rep. Gohmert
also (amusingly) revealed the source of his "casting aspersions on my asparagus"
comment to Holder last year.
The audience also recognized references to Jeb Bush's recent
"act of love" immigration remarks, and clearly, um, disagreed.
Kathleen “Unfortunately, a page is missing" Sebelius's
farewell remarks were also lampooned, to knowing laughs.
The phrase that caused the most consistent applause, uttered by several
speakers: "Abolish the IRS". I'm all for that, of course, but I was
surprised how popular the sentiment was amongst the crowd.
Also a reliable applause-getter: being against Common Core. (I don't
Jeb Bush would have made a good showing if we'd had a straw poll.)
I had no idea how short Rand Paul is. Yes, that's superficial. (I'm far
more worried by his foreign policy statements.) But I Googled it,
and it's not
that I'm the only one who's noticed.
This was billed as the first New Hampshire "cattle call" for 2016 GOP
presidential candidates. Based on the crowd reaction, Cruz and Paul
were the clear favorites.
The Donald Trump gave a pretty good speech, given that he seemed to have
no prepared remarks,
just rambling off the top of his head for his allotted time, mostly
himself. (Not a surprise.) I think the only speaker to use the word
speakers avoided issues that divide the GOP, Trump singled out Paul Ryan
and his proposed budget for criticism. We should not touch the
entitlements, Trump argued, it's a recipe for getting large masses
of people to hate you. He argued that, if we get "smarter" about
international trade and internal economics, we can get wealthy enough
to grow our way out of budgetary disaster.
I doubt Trump's math works, for any reasonable assumptions about
More on "divisive" issues: as this BuzzFeed guy
notes, everyone steered pretty much clear of "social" issues. (But also
read Ramesh Ponnuru on that.)
Senator Cruz deployed a decent Jay Leno impression.