by Gibson Merrick
STAFF POLITICAL ANALYST/DICK DOODLER
Last night Karl Rove spoke at Fordham Prep. The title of his speech was “Courage and Consequence: Leading in the 21st Century,” which promised us, at the very least, some insider insights into leadership in the twenty-first century. Did he deliver? Read on!
Rove’s reputation most certainly preceded him on campus; between the hundreds upon hundreds of posters and the demonstrations outside Fordham Prep, I felt certain walking in I was prepared for a stimulating political discussion. I have to give the College Republicans a lot of credit for organizing this event. Not only had they managed to get a well-known speaker and campaigned for his arrival for weeks, their set-up inside Fordham Prep was actually very impressive. Walking in, they gave everyone a program, a notecard, and a pencil for writing down questions. They told us our questions would be collected at two times during the event, looked over, and presented to Rove at the end. I was impressed. They also invited the College Democrats. The designated questioners were the respective presidents of College Republicans and College Democrats. Well played. I got comfortable in my chair, preparing for Rove to appear. Because I’d never actually read his book, watched him on Fox News, or followed his political career working with Bush, I walked into Leonard Theatre last night with an open mind, legitimately excited to hear Rove speak. I assumed he would give a memorable speech regardless of whether I liked his ideas. The College Republicans gave a respectable introductory speech and finally welcomed Rove to the stage with applause. Things went downhill from here, fast. An hour and fifteen minutes later, I left the Prep sorely disappointed.
Immediately, Rove told us he planned to speak for a half hour. I imagine I wasn’t the only one in that audience who doubted this man’s ability to cover everything on 21st century leadership within one thirty minute block. But I took his word for it. Rove then began his material with fifteen minutes of Bush anecdotes, which, while moderately interesting, had me glancing at my watch and thinking, “This shit had better not count towards his thirty minutes.” Luckily it did not, but unfortunately for all of us in the Theatre, Rove’s take on 21st leadership offered nothing on the subject of leadership, leading me to wish he had just stuck to his stories of Bush Sr. fleeing from Secret Service in high-speed motorboat races. Although Rove spent seven years in the White House, none of this experience seemed to have any bearing on his theme, the crux of which revolved around the necessity of dealing with the national deficit. Anyone and their mother could tell us that the next generation of leaders would need to deal with the national debt. How we are meant to do this, Rove offered no solutions. But do not despair, future leaders of the world, Rove is optimistic! He made it a point to mention he’ll be old by the time we’ve taken over politics, so he won’t have to worry about solving anything, because he will be 77. Somehow I doubt the processes of thought and political influence will be beyond a seventy-seven-year-old Karl Rove. By this point, I had taken to writing down his main points, hoping my cynicism would wear off and I might eventually see an actual argument in there somewhere.
As I said, the central theme of his argument all came down to dealing with the deficit. Fair enough, Mr. Rove, but what should we do about it? Look the deficit in the face and crush it with our optimism? Foolproof! A major problem Rove saw within our financial deficit is the spending on Healthcare. Rove dropped a plethora of large, impressive, and perhaps even convincing numbers to demonstrate how Obama’s Affordable Care Act is bad, for lack of a better word. The required spending is outweighed by a lack of results, argued Rove. “Finally, something we can actually discuss,” I think. Cue Rove’s unflattering impersonation of Al Gore. Now, I’m not the go-to source of maturity on campus, as a may or may not have doodled a picture of a penis flying at Rove’s face on my question card, but I hardly think Gore bashing counts towards a successful argument.
But please Mr. Rove, continue. Apparently, no further mention of health care was necessary, because Rove then decided moved on to the President. With his speech winding down at the 25 minute mark, Rove’s final portion boiled down to, if I understood correctly, being not-Obama. End speech.
Question-and-answer time! This portion showcased only the best, most important questions from our very own Fordham students. The president of College Republicans introduced the first hard-hitting question: “How can Republicans make the North-East more Republican?” My response: “Offer a charismatic candidate with appealing ideas and a strong campaign.” Rove’s response (sans the 6 minute exposition): “Offer a charismatic candidate with appealing ideas and a strong campaign.” Look guys, I’m just as smart as Karl Rove! Maybe someday I can oust a CIA agent too! (Don’t worry, Karl set me straight later when he revealed liberal agenda’s plot to scapegoat him during the Plame Affair because, as he put it, “I’m Karl Rove.” I stand corrected.)
The next question went to the Democrats. It was phrased along the lines of, “Do you feel that water-boarding is a human rights violation?” Rove answer was an enlightened one. Water-boarding, apparently, is not torture. Because the government lawyers and doctors said it wasn’t. But I suppose that depends on how we define torture. The water-boarders have the boardee’s best interests in mind, Rove details, because they offer the comfort of a tilted seat, as well as a doctor’s sincerest promise that you will not die. Plus, our water boarding is nowhere near as bad as China’s. Those dastardly Chinese don’t even have the common decency to put a thick piece of cloth over the boardee’s face. Get your facts straight, kids! What’s more, Rove goes on to argue that frequently, those who have undergone water-boarding have thanked those who subjected them to it, because deep down they really wanted to tell their secrets. As Rove puts it, the purpose of water-boarding is to “break somebody’s spirit… And we did that.” No telling how many terrorist plots all those broken souls have prevented. Rove says a lot. God bless America.
Since I’m trying to be brutally honest here, I need to concede that the question-and-answer session was about five-hundred times more interesting than his tepid, pointless speech. If Rove is good at anything, it’s talking well, especially in situations like last night. He managed to fake his way through thirty minutes of talking to make it look like he said something worthwhile. As my friend SourceURL:file://localhost/Users/mtc2191/Downloads/KARL%20ROVE.doc
aptly put it as we walked back to my dorm, Rove simply “Fox News’d us” for a good hour and fifteen. He talked circles around one student who dared bring up the Plame Affair, all without batting so-much as an eye, and to be fair, the student who asked the question
didn’t have enough knowledge about the subject to confront Rove about it. Rove certainly knows his audience too. In the final minutes of his time on stage, he told a story of a battle-scarred Navy Seal whose face and body had undergone multiple reconstructive surgeries, and through it all retained his optimistic outlook on life. Rove then read a letter aloud from that Navy Seal to the audience. Everyone, including myself, was at least a little touched or inspired. Very optimistic Mr. Rove. What better way to cover-up a pointless, torture-advocating, waste-of-time appearance than to exploit our patriotism?
That’ll be twenty five thousand dollars, Fordham.
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For more Rove review and analysis, check out page 4 of the paper’s April 20th edition (in print around campus and online in the near future)