On Wednesday night, the Lohrfink Auditorium was packed with people who had come to see Karl Rove, the Former Deputy Chief of Staff under the Bush Administration. Rove, who has just published a book called Courage and Consequence: My Life as a Conservative in the Fight, spoke about domestic and foreign policy from the Bush Era through the Obama Administration in a lecture followed by a question and answer session.
Although some had worried there would be disruptions like the protest that broke out at the General David Petraeus event earlier this year, things were calm save for one shout from the audience. The Lecture Fund, which hosted Rove, controlled the questions he was asked, which were collected from their website before the event, and written on index cards from the audience.
Rove began by discussing his predictions for the upcoming election cycle. He viewed the position that the Congressional Democrats were in as similar to the one they were in during the years 1993 and 1994 when Clinton attempted to pass a national healthcare bill. He believed that the public’s expectations had gone unfulfilled, and that those who had elected Barack Obama did not think he was qualified when they voted for him.
He then addressed the recent rise of the Tea Party movement. He described Tea Party members as people who had never paid attention to politics before, and did not know much about it, but really loved the country. He said that one woman who had inspired him told him that she rarely voted, and yet she was a part of the tea party movement because she was angry about what was going on in Washington.
A question posed during the Q&A segment asked him what he thought was the worst mistake made during the Bush Administration. He began by recalling the day in 2003 when Ted Kennedy told the American public that Bush had lied about WMDs being present in Iraq. The situation that followed was like a snowball effect, as one politician after another echoed the same sentiment about dishonesty in the White House. He labeled this as hypocritical and insisted that if George Bush had lied, then so had every other politician who called him a liar. According to him, the Democrats took a weakness within the Bush Administration and made harmful charges with it. His biggest mistake was not being more vocal about why they were wrong.
He said he has made a second mistake, which involved Hurricane Katrina. He regrets that the Bush Administration “didn’t violate the law” sooner. Because the state governors were supposed to be in charge of disaster relief, he explained that it was unlawful to send troops to the region. They struggled with the decision far too long, and in the end, he said they decided they had to break the law in order to make up for the incompetence of the Louisiana governor and New Orleans mayor.
Rove also addressed Barack Obama’s approach to foreign policy. He made clear that it’s important for the United States to be respected and, “in some instances, feared.” One example he used was Obama’s attempt to gain support and troops from other countries. He noted that although Obama was well-liked overseas, he did not get as many troops as he could have because of the way other foreign authorities view him.
When asked about the least-recognized success of the Bush Administration, Rove chose the No Child Left Behind Act. He believed that it brought about much-needed evaluation of underperforming teachers. He even mentioned DC’s progress, saying, “I think Michelle Rhee is a hero.”
One of the most frequent topics Rove addressed was the economy. He elaborated on what he thought the Obama Administration had done wrong both in the most recent stimulus bill that was passed, and its approach to the financial crisis. He also said he believed that the government should have allowed AIG to go bankrupt, saying it’s unfair to pick and choose the winners and losers which the government does when it decides which businesses to save. Finally, he said that he believed that financial crisis began because of the absence of government regulation.