Karl Rove addresses Obama's policies, 2012 election in SU visit

Protest staged outside Schine Center where Republican adviser discussed GOP politics and economic policies Wednesday.

If there was one word to describe the Karl Rove talk organized by College Republicans at Syracuse University on Wednesday night, it would be "safe." There was no Valerie Plame. Not a mention of the controversial entry into the Iraq War, nor of the firing of U.S. state attorneys during the Bush administration. None of that.

In fact, all questions for former President George W. Bush's senior adviser had to be submitted to and screened by the moderator prior to the Q-and-A session.

Photo: Gabriel Shore
Karl Rove speaks Wednesday in Goldstein Auditorium to a crowd of about 250 people.

Before the talk began at 7 p.m. in Goldstein Auditorium, College Democrats coordinated a demonstration outside of Schine Student Center that focused on the role of corporate money in politics. Other organizations represented at the "Protest Karl Rove" event, as called in the Facebook group, included the local chapter of Citizen Action of New York and the Syracuse Peace Council. Both groups advocate for a more egalitarian economic structure and public financing of elections.

Protesters ranged from State University of New York College of Environmental Studies and Forestry students, who were angry about Rove’s involvement with Chesapeake Energy, to two retired nurses and a smattering of students. At its peak, the protest drew about 30 people, all of which seemed to have individual reasons for opposing Rove’s presence on campus.

"He needs to be taken to Fallujah and killed," education graduate student Derek Ford said, referring to the city in Iraq the United States occupied during the war. "He dragged the country into an illegal war and lied to all the American people, and his presence here is offensive."

Ann Tiffany, a retired nurse and a Syracuse Peace Council organizer, shared similar sentiments but was more concerned with corporate money influencing public policy. SUNY-ESF junior Wyatt Leabbu also was protesting super PAC contributions to politics. Neither Tiffany nor Leabbu addressed the corporate money used by the Democratic Party, however.

The flavor at the protest tasted a little like "Occupy," with a side of anti-war campaigning. "Karl Rove, you can’t hide. We’re charging you with genocide," the crowd chanted at one point.

Once the talk started, Rove spoke for approximately 25 minutes to a crowd of about 250 people, a mix of college students and local residents.

"I want to talk about the upcoming election, and I know that it is going to be a very close, hard-fought race," Rove said. "This is the election of big issues, and I think the economy, jobs and health care will be the main points of discussion."

He continued, addressing current economic problems, the "extremely unpopular Affordable Care Act," and President Barack Obama’s unwillingness to create a fiscal budget, in a speech inundated with statistics and numbers. Rove spoke at length about the $3 trillion deficit, the pitfalls of President Obama's health care legislation, and how a Republican takeover of the White House was becoming increasingly important.

"President Obama promised a $2,500 reduction in premium health care expenses for every family when this act was passed," said Rove, referring to the health care bill the president signed into law in 2010. "Raise your hands, people. Raise your hands, if any one of you is paying $2,500 less, and I will come down and kiss you on the lips."

The crowd laughed, after which the talk morphed into a somewhat one-sided Q-and-A exchange. 

One question read, "In the worst-case scenario that President Obama is re-elected, what will happen to the USA?"

"Deep doo-doo," said Rove, as the crowd cheered and roared with laughter.

Obamacare and the deep-pocket spending of the current administration cannot continue, according to Rove.

"We have a man who likes to spend other people’s money," Rove said. 

Rove’s involvement in super PACs like American Crossroads was only mentioned during the last two questions. 

"I don’t own American Crossroads -- I’m a volunteer," Rove said. "In fact, I predict that for the upcoming elections, wealthy donors will be the main funding, rather than PACs and corporations."

Iran was the last topic of the evening.

"It’s a dangerous country, and it’s ambitions threaten Israel’s existence," said Rove, suggesting the recent spate of bombings in India and Bangkok were related. 

"If we don’t do something, then it’s not like the Danish army is going to come to our rescue," he said.

As the people milled out of the auditorium, it seemed like Rove's visit helped make up some people’s minds about the upcoming presidential elections -- as well as cement the notion that Karl Rove had a sense of humor. 

"Everything he said was true. I’m in the manufacturing business, and the Obama administration is lying to us about a lot of things," said attendee Maria Thomas, a business consultant for struggling firms. "I don’t know who I’m going to vote for, but it will be Republican."

"Let me finish that," said Gene Chappell, a man standing next Thomas. "I would rather vote for a grilled cheese sandwich than vote for Obama."

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