Rand Paul is one of my two favorite current US Senators (the other being Ben Sasse). And I'm somewhat interested in the (usually dreadful) activism on American college campuses, especially at the University Near Here, where I used to study (long ago) and work (not so long ago). So I took the opportunity to attend the event hosted by the local chapter of Turning Point USA, featuring Charlie Kirk and Senator Paul.
One thing to get out of the way first: although the TPUSA event held last year at UNH was obstructed and disrupted by local social justice warriors, this event went extremely smoothly. One attendee shouted something (I didn't catch what) during the presentation, and that was it. There were no venue blockades, no shoutdown attempts, and even the negative questions (see below) were poised civilly.
Security was tight, though. You needed a ticket, IDs were checked, the UNH cops were in attendance. I ran into an ex-co-worker in line, a thorough progressive; she told me she was there as a "peacekeeper". I don't know how many others there were, or if the peacekeeper force was mustered by the University. Still, whatever measures were taken were effective.
The event was held in the Granite State Room of the Memorial Union Building (MUB); it's the largest meeting room in the building, and it was close to capacity, I would estimate about 600-700 attendees. Eyeballing the crowd, I estimated about 75% were students (or at least student-aged). And maybe 85% male.
A brief warmup: "Culture War" t-shirts were thrown to the crowd. A cheer was led: "When I say 'socialism', you say 'sucks'! Ready? Socialism SUCKS! Socialism SUCKS!…" And nearly all of the crowd seemed to join in. (I'm too old for such activities, even though I do think socialism sucks.)
The president of the UNH chapter of TPUSA started the presentation, welcoming us, pointing out the exits, thanking everyone involved in bringing off the event, and (most notably) reminding us that UNH was committed to civil discourse, and that people attempting to interfere with the event would be, um, asked/assisted to leave.
Then, after a razzle-dazzle video intro, the founder and Executive Director of TPUSA, Charlie Kirk, took the stage. He is a slick speaker, and he and TPUSA are in favor of good things: American exceptionalism, the Constitution, and free-market capitalism. Hey, me too. And (judging by applause and cheers) nearly all the crowd, too.
Charlie made reference to the Unfortunate Incident from earlier in the week reported by Breitbart where an earnest young lady destroyed a TPUSA display at the MUB and, when approached by TPUSA members, said “I hate you and I hope you die”.
Apparently, she was in the front row, and made her presence known. Charlie took it in stride, telling her: "Thanks for coming, and I hope you live."
Then Senator Paul was brought on. His main theme was socialism, and he's against it. (He even has a new book on the topic, Amazon link at right.) He and Charlie had a Q&A session, Charlie pitching softball (and, I suspect, rehearsed) questions to the Senator, the Senator hitting them out of the park. Venezuela, Medicare for All, eat-the-rich taxation schemes, Syria, impeachment. (On Syria, Senator Paul gave about the best possible defense of Trump's Kurd sellout; I'm still convinced that however worthy Trump's goal, his implementation was a stupid bungle that made things worse.)
The floor was then opened to audience questioners, and they were mostly softballs too.
Senator Paul's reaction to Hillary's slander of Tulsi Gabbard? "Despicable."
He was also against Beto's proposal to yank tax-exempt status from religious institutions that don't bend the knee on gay marriage.
He was (maybe) open to allowing newspapers to band together to negotiate tougher terms with Google/Facebook et. al. when their content is scraped.
A few questions were not softballs, and they seemed to be directed mostly at Charlie. There was something about West Point. Some guy wanted to make a (maybe) white-nationalist "blood and soil" point about immigration. Somebody else wanted to make an anti-Israel point about the USS Liberty. (Which happened, I'm pretty sure, before Charlie was born.) Charlie's replies to such questions were curt, polite, and dismissive.
Bottom line: Coming in, I thought the "Culture War" title on this event was needlessly provocative. I'm trying to be more of an Arthur C. Brooks/Ben Sasse love-your-enemies civil-discourse kind of guy.
And, despite the title, that's pretty much what this event was. Good. But they should have come up with a better title.