Rove analyzes political scene on eve of election

Criticizes Obama, defends Bush

Speaking to a packed Graham Chapel Monday night, conservative political analyst and former White House advisor Karl Rove spoke about the current election cycle, giving credence to his career with the Republican party by questioning the experience of Democratic presidential candidate Senator Barack Obama of Illinois.

Rove, who gained his reputation by guiding President George W. Bush’s presidential campaigns to victory in 2000 and 2004 with controversial media tactics, presented a relatively non-partisan analysis of both Obama and McCain’s campaigns, albeit with the occasional jab at the Democrats.

Although Rove, for the most part, strayed from addressing controversial topics during his speech, students challenged him in a question-and-answer session after the event that critiqued his conduct while he was working for Bush.

Rove made little reference to his tenure as Bush’s advisor, bringing up only his work in the 2000 and 2004 presidential campaigns, and their relation to the current election.

Rove did, however, allude to his friendship with Bush during the question-and-answer session, telling an anecdote about Bush’s interest in bicycling and revealing a competitive and more light-hearted side of the President.

According to Rove, both the Obama and McCain campaigns have been too exhaustive—both in terms of how early they started and how much money they spent.

“It took months for the race in 2004 to get up to the pace that we saw almost from the beginning of this race,” Rove said. “We’ve got these candidates floating around the country so quick and so early and so hard because we frontloaded the process.”

Rove also jabbed at the mainstream media’s continuous use of polling data as the basis for their stories, noting that 13 polls came out the day before the speech, each with different results.

“One thing that’s been bad about this year is polls. I hate them. I say kill the pollsters,” Rove said. “The media’s used them as a substitute for doing what they should really do, which is cover the campaign. They’ve used them to cover the horse race, not the substance.”

Rove stressed Obama’s legislative inexperience, but praised the aggressiveness of the Illinois senator’s campaign, which has targeted traditionally Republican territory.

“We have two big bets going on: ‘I hope he’s up to it, and I hope it’s the right kind of change,“ Rove said. “Obama had to force the battle on Red State turf and he’s done so quite expertly.”

Rove ended his speech by taking the focus away from the election and telling a story about an injured soldier who plans to return to the Middle East to fight after recovering from an operation. He signed off by exhorting Americans to remember their national identity.

“There’s something even more important than who we elect as president, and that’s who we are as a people, who we are as a country,” Rove said. “If we have a sense of responsibility and obligation, duty. If we keep molding and making ourselves into people who are willing to serve our country in this way then we’ll remain exactly what the United States is, which is not only the greatest nation on the face of this planet but the greatest nation in the history of the world.”

Professor Murray Weidenbaum, who worked as a senior economics analyst under President Ronald Reagan, introduced Rove, who in turn praised Weidenbaum as one of his role models while in college.

Weidenbaum, who noted that the University has always had a liberal student body, said that the audience—most of which seemed to have little sympathy for Rove—comported itself better than he expected.

“[It was] much more positive than I anticipated,” Weidenbaum said of the audience’s reaction to Rove. “He showed he could handle the pressure. This is what I was hoping for. He came away with higher respect for Washington University than he came in with.”

Most of those who asked questions of Rove after the speech, though, seemed less inspired by his wisdom and more wary of the tactics he used when working under Bush.

Joseph Orkin confronted Rove about the Bush administration’s use of torture and illegal wiretapping.

“You sat in the administration that has allowed torture and spying on American citizens, politicization of the Justice Department. I want to know why it’s justified for you to evade a subpoena by Congress?”

Raising his voice, Rove denied both charges.

He did match students at their quips and one time jokingly replied to a student, “your e-mails were really interesting,” referring to allegations that he invades the personal privacy of United States citizens.

However, when confronted with serious allegations and attacks, Rove remained steadfast and stern in his responses.

“The United States does not torture,” he said. “The United States government does not wiretap US citizens. It has absolutely kept the U.S. safe for the past seven years… We have used every tool available to us to listen in on the communications of our enemy.”

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