Rove speech brings focus to rhetoric

With the presidential campaigns intensifying over these past few weeks, it seems appropriate that Karl Rove, the controversial architect of President Bush’s 2000 and 2004 presidential campaigns, will speak at Washington University on Monday, the eve of Election Day.

For a price of $35,000, the College Republicans have invited Rove, considered by some as master of political and media manipulation, to speak at 5 p.m. in Graham Chapel.

“He is usually credited, or blamed, with having introduced destructive elements into the campaign discourse,” Randall Calvert, professor of political science, said.

Rove currently writes for Fox News and Newsweek as a news analyst, as well as being a contributing columnist for The Wall Street Journal.

Before his career in the media, Rove served as a political advisor and strategist for a number of Republican candidates, including Bush’s presidential campaigns and, as far back as 1994 and 1998/, for Bush’s Texas gubernatorial campaigns.

He also served as deputy chief of staff for Bush until he resigned in 2007 in amid controversy—most notably, the ousting of CIA agent Valerie Plame.

Now Rove informally advises, and has donated $2,300 to, Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain’s presidential campaign.

Figures in the media have accused Rove of push-polling against McCain’s 2000 Republican presidential primary campaign. The polling suggested that the Arizona senator had fathered an illegitimate black child. In fact, McCain and his wife Cindy had adopted Bridget, a girl from Bangladesh, in 1991.

This year at the Republican National Convention, Rove praised Cindy McCain for adopting Bridget.

According to Calvert, Rove remains a cunning political strategist because he can “get away” with his tactics.

“The phenomenon is that you can engage in various sets of campaign statements of various authenticity and get away with it,” Calvert said. “It worked. It’s not clear to me why it worked, but it worked.”

Although Rove has taken a less visible position this election cycle, his political impact remains apparent, and many media sources have cited McCain’s campaign as Rove’s return to the political sphere.

Steve Schmidt, who worked with Rove on the 2004 Bush campaign and is considered to be his protégé, works as McCain’s senior campaign strategist.

Rove and Schmidt have also been accused of helping to orchestrate the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth advertisements, which criticized 2004 Democratic presidential nominee Sen. John Kerry’s personal character and his record of service in the Vietnam War.

“I think the 2004 campaign was much dirtier. The Swift Boat campaign against Kerry and his war record was a truly reprehensible moment in American politics,” Calvert said. “It is well known that they [McCain campaign] employed people that were taught by Rove. McCain used the same type of strategy that they used against him.”

Schmidt’s recent strategies have attempted to link Obama with domestic terrorist organization Weather Underground’s founder Bill Ayers, tie Obama’s policies with socialism and accuse Obama of alleged associations with the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN), a non-profit accused of voter fraud.

The McCain campaign has charged that ACORN helped “destroy the fabric of democracy.”

According to Calvert, Rove’s involvement—direct and indirect—in this election cycle, could bear serious implications for the management of future campaigns.

“I think there is some possibility that this election may have a potential impact on whether future campaigns encourage the way Rove runs campaigns,” Calvert said.

College Republicans President Charis Fischer, a senior, who called Rove a “brilliant political mind,” said she spoke to him on the phone about his speech. Fischer said Rove’s speech will present a non-partisan analysis of both campaigns this election cycle.

 “The analysis is going to be similar to what you would hear from him if you watch him on Fox News—it’s going to be relatively objective,” Fischer said. “He is going to talk about what were the good strategies of both candidates, and what would he have done. We are basically stealing him from the major news networks.”

However, Fischer said that during the question-answer session after the speech, he will answer questions more candidly if approached with a partisan question.

Calvert recommended that students attending the event listen to what he has to say, but arrive with a understanding of Rove and his politics.

“I would hope that you go into the knowing speech that there is a guy who has known to say just about anything to get his point across,” Calvert said.

Calvert agreed with Fischer that, as a commentator, Rove does at times present non-partisan analyses.

“He has been somewhat consistent in playing the role of commentator even if it is the role of Fox commentator,” he said. “He could stick to that [in his speech]. If he is trying to stick to a career as a commentator it would be a good idea.”

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