Karl Rove and the Spitballers
Last week Karl Rove spoke at the Goucher College “President’s Forum “series. Mr. Rove and Goucher President Sanford J. Unger took the stage in front of an audience of over 500. The evening was a learning experience for the liberal student body; however, for me, it was just vintage Karl Rove.
The evening started with a group of 18 protesters corralled 50 yards away from the Kraushaar Auditorium by three squad cars of Baltimore County police. The only real interest in the protesters was some random local media and a handful or curious passers-by on the way to the event. I actually felt bad for them…it was a sad turnout for their side being staged on a liberal campus.
The reason came to light inside. As protesters interrupted the evening program President Unger quickly and forcefully quelled the noise and protesters were removed by Baltimore County’s finest. President Unger handled the students with respect and it was easy to see that the respect was mutual. He appears to be in control of his campus and broadminded enough to bring in varying political points of view to stretch the minds of the student population.
The main event however was Karl Rove. He spoke at the lectern for 20 minutes about the political world. His talk was a mixture of antidotes, facts, classic Rove opinion and a little humor thrown in for good measure. The interruption of hecklers and their ejection and other protesters appeared to have no bearing on his presentation.
After the brief lecture he sat with President Unger on center stage in a small living room setting and chatted. Mr. Unger asked hard questions in a comfortable, informal manner and Mr. Rove answered them with ease. He was as comfortable on the stage as most people are in their living room.
The last 90 minutes were taken by students asking random questions of Mr. Rove. It reminded me of my own impetuous and all knowing youth! These college students did their best to pin down and stump a man who has made answering and creating political questions his career.
Twenty students came to the mike and took a shot. The patriotism, career choices, years of presidential advice, political and campaign moves were all brought to question. He was asked to account for war, deaths of civilians, treatment of terrorists and everything else imaginable. In the end it was: Karl Rove 20 - Students 0.
I have had the opportunity to meet and chat with Mr. Rove twice before. The first time was on a strictly social basis at a White House Christmas party. While milling around I recognized him walking through the basement hallway. I introduced myself and offered my handshake.
He was gracious took a reasonable amount of time with me, a political nobody. He chatted about Maryland and the Christmas decorations, then left. Mr. Rove walked further down the hallway and through a closed door with a marine standing guard. I was impressed.
My next encounter with him came at the Republican National Convention in Minnesota. He was the speaker for Katon Dawson at a breakfast on the Saturday prior to the convention’s start. Mr. Rove entered the room got a plate of food from the buffet, then preceded to the dais only to be stopped by a lady who requested a picture.
He sat his plate on a nearby table and instantly a line formed next to the table for pictures. After a few people snapped pictures I got up from my table interrupted the picture taking and suggested to Mr. Rove they move over to the flags along the wall for better background and that I would take his plate to his seat. He looked at me smiled and said: “I see you have done this before.” After a couple of minutes I took pictures of my friends who were in line. Once they were finished, Mr. Rove asked for someone to take my picture and we chatted briefly again…a political hack’s dream.
His message to the hard core conventioneers that morning was about his career and his political learning experiences since his start in 1968. The hours in the car traveling through west Texas, the conversations with presidents, senators and members of the House, the business and political strategies were fascinating. His humor was surpasses only by his political knowledge that morning.
Karl Rove has worked for the best on the Republican side of the aisle. He was always a step ahead and earned through experience, hard knocks, trial and error the nickname of “the architect.” I was sure when seeing those Goucher students scurry to line up at the microphones last week had no idea they come to a gunfight armed with only spitballs.