Rand Paul came to the University Near Here today, and I figured it was my Civic Duty™ as a registered New Hampshire Republican and a more-or-less libertarian blogger to go see him. And I can prove I was there! That first picture, all the way over on the left, that's the top of my bald head in the middle of the right-facing front row:
Awww, the youth vote. That's me!
He was impressive. I had seen him before, at the New Hampshire Freedom Summit back in April 2014, but I'd forgotten how appealing his no-nonsense libertarianism can be. I will probably vote for him in the primary. Although the bettors driving the PredictWise site round the probability of him becoming our next President off to a very disappointing zero percent, I don't feel that I'm in the voting booth to vote for the winner.
As usual, I am not a reporter, I'm just typing some stuff I noticed, and my impressions.
The crowd filled the Strafford Room at UNH's Memorial Union Building. That's not the biggest venue on campus, but it's the same one Hillary appeared in back in September. (Contrary to some reports, she filled the room, and there was an overflow room available.) In contrast, Bernie Sanders filled up the UNH Field House, a much larger space, a couple days later.
But back to Rand Paul: introduced by his regional coordinator and the local leader of "Students for Rand Paul", he launched into an extemporaneous-sounding speech hitting the points I'm sure he felt were of interest to college kids.
First up: pot. He ripped Jeb Bush a little for his acknowledged marijuana use back in prep school, using him as an example "rich kid" who didn't have to worry that much that his use might land him in jail. Compare and contrast with poor kids from the streets who might get in a considerable amount of legal woe.
From there, he hit his other main themes: a return to federalism, the trashing of privacy rights post-9/11, a non-interventionist foreign policy, a 14.5% flat income tax (while doing away with the employee part of the payroll tax), efforts to cut spending.
Issues on which Paul's position might clash with current student zeitgeist, e.g., abortion, went unmentioned.
After the speech, a few questions were allowed. One guy asked about "Empire", alleging that the US had one. Paul reiterated his non-interventionist foreign/defense policy without going into whackadoodle land.
A student wanted to nail him down on climate change; he kind of handwaved about his uncertainty about whether warming was caused by human action or natural processes, and the benefits of electrification. I wish he had given the sort of answer you might hear from Bjørn Lomborg, Ronald Bailey, or Matt Ridley: "climate change" alarmism is mostly poor excuse for sneaking in totalitarian social engineering.
Also weak was his response to a questioner about his flat tax, about whether it would blow up the deficit. It was part: (1) yeah it would, so what, we want to shrink government too and (2) the government spends a lot of money on silly crap (like a $43 Million Afghanistan Gas Station or a study of how cocaine affects the sex habits of the Japanese quail). Problem being: nobody who's done the math thinks that eliminating all possible silly crap-spending will do much of anything about long-term deficit trends.
I managed to get in a question. Roughly: what would newly-inaugurated President Paul do on January 20, 2017 in terms of executive orders, directions to cabinet departments, actions as Commander-in-Chief? His answer was OK, springing off the "executive order" bit: he would undo a lot of executive orders of past Oval Office inhabitants, especially those imposing burdensome business regulations. I wish he'd given a fuller, more specific answer, but that's OK.