Students’ reactions to Rove range from pride to criticism

No matter what they thought of Karl Rove’s words on Monday night, students reacted powerfully to the message that he sent before, during and after the speech, and particularly in a question-and-answer session that featured challenges to Rove’s record and the message he sends, as well as praise for his efforts on behalf of the President.

The man dubbed as the architect of George Bush’s 2000 and 2004 presidential campaigns made little reference to those times in his career and focused on commentary regarding the current campaign, but it came as no surprise that his speech was received with mixed reactions from the student body.

Notable during the speech was the lack of protests outside Graham Chapel. The last time a conservative speaker of this caliber spoke to students here, when former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales came to campus in March, protesters from the College Democrats donned orange jumpsuits to bring attention to Gonzales’s alleged acts of torture.

This year, though, the College Democrats chose to focus on the general election the next day, doing little to recognize Rove’s presence here.

But symbols of opposition were not absent from the scene, as the WashU Peace Coalition, which also protested conservative speaker Daniel Pipes upon his arrival to Washington University two weeks ago as part of National Islamo-Fascism Awareness Week, put up a display of mock tombstones on the quad, each with the name of a fallen American soldier in the Middle East, along with the names of dead Iraqi or Afghan civilians. The display was intended to protest the human cost of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Many students said that they were surprised by the non-partisan nature of Karl Rove’s speech, while others said his talk read like a McCain campaign pitch, rife with insults to President-elect Barack Obama and his running mate, Senator Joe Biden of Delaware.

Still others appreciated Rove’s right-wing perspective, as he drew praise for his defense of Bush’s wiretapping policies, and for his comments regarding Obama’s lack of experience and attention, particularly in the context of the recent economic crisis.

But with the exception of a few ‘boos’ during his actual speech, the student audience remained relatively quiet, and waited until the question-and-answer session to address Rove with their challenges, and at times to criticize his policies. Here are some highlights of student reactions from the night:

“I thought it was good, informative and entertaining. I support his viewpoints, so I enjoyed it.”

–Freshman Justin Pieper

“What I heard was a cleverly disguised speech that was basically the McCain campaign’s topic speeches. I think he did a good job answering the questions.”

–Sophomore Michael Hopper

“I definitely am glad I voted for the appeal [to fund Rove]. I was very happy that the student body was respectful and gave Karl Rove the opportunity to speak his views.”

–senior William Osberghaus, Treasury member

“It was nice to hear it straight from the source. We don’t get anywhere by playing petty.”

–Joel Wood, an Iraq War veteran.

“I thought it was really informative, I thought he did a great job of comparing the current race to historical examples, and I think that’s something that we kind of miss out on when we just watch TV and just hear the talking points.”

“Great stories, I think he’s really funny and personable, and I think people enjoyed it judging from the crowd’s reactions. Hopefully it was worth their time.”

–Charis Fischer- president of the College Republicans

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