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It was a town hall meeting for Ron Paul at the University of New Hampshire in Durham. The room last Thursday night was packed with hundreds of college students. They were excited. They were eager to hear "Dr. Paul"—as the moderator repeatedly called him—expound on assorted libertarian matters. He claimed the US currency system was near collapse. (Go silver and gold!) He decried empire. He hailed freedom and denounced government. All government. He called for destroying a host of federal agencies—including the Department of Education. The crowd went wild.
During the Q&A, the queries were mainly soft balls. One student asked why he did not have the same right to use Medicare as all those old folks. The only odd moment occurred when a woman who identified herself as an advocate for disabled students asked what he would do to provide insurance coverage to the hard-to-insure. Paul went on about slashing government to increase economic prosperity, suggesting that would lead to the creation of more charity hospitals that would be able to tend to the poor and the uninsured. It was not quite a plan.
When the event was done scores of students rushed to stand on a long line to pose for a pic with Paul, who then appeared to be heading toward a second-place finish in the first-in-the-nation primary.
I grabbed one of the students milling about and asked him how many students in the room receive Pell grants from the (diabolical!) federal government through a program administered through the must-be-destroyed Education Department. His estimate: one-quarter to one-half. Maybe he was right. It was too late in the day to check. But he gave me an idea.
I approached the stage, as Paul was heading toward the photo line.
"Dr. Paul," I said. "Can I ask a question?"
He paused on his way toward his young fans. He turned toward me to listen. I had his attention.
"Do you support continuing Pell grants?"
He opened his mouth. He was about to speak. He was about to answer this question. Then—he seemed to change his mind. His mouth closed. He turned away, and resumed his walk toward the Paulites awaiting him.
I don't think that was a yes.