You either love him or hate him, but there is no middle ground when it comes to Karl Rove. The alleged mastermind behind President George W. Bush’s two successful campaigns for president is charming, funny and knowledgeable to those who agree with his politics, while protesters at Rove’s UWM appearance called him a war criminal, evil monster and liar.
Rove was the invited guest of the UWM Student Republicans and he came to share his conservative outlook, offer advice to the two GOP candidates for Wisconsin governor, and promote his new book, Courage and Consequence: My Life as a Conservative in the Fight. Candidate Mark Neumann introduced Rove after telling the audience to believe in the American Dream.
“I’m optimistic for America,” Neumann said, while holding up a cell phone. “I remember when we had stacks of computer punch cards and now I have 10 times the power of that first computer on this phone. Imagine if the next generation can catch that vision.”
Once Rove appeared the crowd erupted in cheers and jeers. An older man was physically removed by Milwaukee Police Officers when he continued to applaud and loudly tell his neighbors he was “just clapping for the speaker.” Other protesters, dressed as wealthy patrons, mocked Rove, while another man stood amidst the crowd and unfurled a banner that read “9-11 was an inside job.” Everyone who shouted dissent was immediately surrounded by security and escorted from the room.
Outside of the meeting room, protesters called for Rove and President Bush’s arrests for the crimes they feel had been committed against humanity. They also called on Rove to return the speculated $25,000 speaking fee he received, mostly raised from student union funds.
Rove offered Neumann and Scott Walker some advice for running a successful gubernatorial campaign. “Lay down a positive vision for the voters,” referencing the recent victories of Republican governors in Virginia and New Jersey. He said the way Republicans will win elections is not by simply being “not the other guy.”
He explained that Bob McDonnell started his campaign by listing his disagreements with the Obama administration and his democrat opponent, “but this he provided alternatives.” “Bob talked relentlessly about his ideas, about job creation, education, transportation, and the environment. He put out position papers on these issues and he won by an 18 percent margin.”
In addition to sharing valuable campaign advice, Rove focused on President Obama’s 11-month old presidency. He said Americans didn’t vote for Obama because he was the most qualified, but because he represented hope and was aspirational. Rove praised voters for electing an African-American son of a Kenyan immigrant and American mother, showing that we as a people have come to realize the dream of content over color vocalized by Martin Luther King, Jr.
Rove also praised Obama for defying his supporters and holding to his campaign promise to increase the troop levels in Afghanistan.
But that was the only issue, Rove and Obama seem to agree on. Rove called Obama out for running his campaign as a centrist, but governing as a liberal. He attacked the president and congress’s plan for overhauling health care, claiming that of the supposed 47 million uninsured citizens, only 5 million are truly lacking health coverage.
“9.7 million of that number are illegal and legal allians; 15 million are making at least $50,000 and choose not to have health insurance; and 14 million are eligible for other government health care, but have not been sign up properly. The government shouldn’t discombobulate the entire system for 5 million people. we should make it work better for them.”
Rove also questioned Obama’s stimulus program, claiming only 5 percent of the more than $787 billion went to shovel ready project. Instead he said it has been wasted, including $5 billion for smoking cessation and obesity reduction programs.
“I just don’t think there are that many unemployed obesity counselors out there to warrant $5 billion,” Rove said, getting a laugh from the appreciative audience.
Overall, Rove’s message was predictable and his solution to the issues facing the nation today is to work to elect conservative, Republican candidates. The only thing more predictable than his message was that of his dectractors.