Last Monday, Karl Rove addressed students at Connecticut preparatory school Choate Rosemary Hall, in a lecture setting. Rove had originally been penciled in as Choate's commencement speaker but accepted the less glamorous engagement after a swell of student and parental protest.
Penn's own newly-announced commencement speaker, Michael Bloomberg, is a good deal less controversial; but I still take issue with SPEC's decision to court Bush's ex-Deputy Chief of Staff for tomorrow's "Evening with Karl Rove."
It's not so much that SPEC was wrong to choose Rove - just that it was a mediocre choice. For starters, Rove is irrelevant. His time in the Bush White House (of which he was the "architect") finished back in August with his scandal-hastened resignation. Fast-forward to the present: The Presidential primary season is coming to a head and we must decide as a nation what new leader and direction we will take.
Whether Republican, Democrat or even Third-party (Bloomberg, anyone?), one thing is clear: Voters demand a candidate who will help them recover from what can most charitably be termed a terrible Presidency. Bush and Rove have had more than seven years in the biggest bully-pulpit of them all, and their legacy speaks for itself.
"I don't think [Rove] matters," Wharton senior Brad Uhlhorn said. "He's slightly disgraced and not particularly relevant." Why should anyone applaud Rove's efforts to milk the twilight of his influence?
Of course, it's reasonable to assume that Rove's semi-retirement might allow him to open up. When I asked graduate student Chris Witt what we might expect from Bush's onetime mastermind, he offered: "He's not in power so maybe he'd be more truthful." Slim chance.
A lifelong political operative and insider won't suddenly reveal all the nitty-gritty details of campaigning and maintaining power.
The President calls Rove "Turd Blossom" for good reason: He gets the dirty work done. I hope someone with a flair for the ironic asks Rove who exactly smeared John McCain in South Carolina in 2000. Or perhaps about this past summer's fiasco over the firing of U.S. attorneys, one of the reasons Rove is still being investigated by the Office of Special Counsel. If it does come up, the asker should expect a main course of denial served with a side of conventional wisdom. As Nursing junior Elyse Kocylowskyi put it: "[Rove] will tell us what we already know."
Even Rove's concessions taste of insincerity. According to Choate's student newspaper The News, Rove expressed sorrow over the administration's lack of bipartisanship, pining that "we should have had more members of Congress over for dinner." Yeah, right.
I was especially disappointed by SPEC's insistence that the "controversial" quality of Rove's visit makes it inherently valuable (SPEC directors refused to comment for this column).
I'm all for the presentation of differing viewpoints, but the desperate need of the hour is for analysis and judgment.
The job of our universities - and indeed all our public institutions - must be to take an adversarial attitude toward power, ask tough questions and seek the truth. It's a lot more than an endless loop of Side A talking over Side B and Side B shouting right back.
Agnes Nam, a College freshman, said she was offered the chance to purchase tickets to the Rove event via lottery but did not pick them up: "I don't think it would be very insightful to see him speak." Agreed.
Bring Rove as part of a panel or host him in a debate - something substantive. Anything else smacks of angling for the biggest name available, regardless of its merit. Or of the small-minded thinking that matches, tit-for-tat, each liberal with their corresponding opposite conservative.
So if you want to attend, great. Seeing famous and influential people up close is fun, and it can even be informative. You'll most likely come away with a better understanding of how the Bush administration operates.
But Karl Rove is still a poor choice at a poor time - a time when America needs nothing more than to recover from seven years of Karl Rove.
Stephen Krewson is a College sophomore from Schenectady, NY. His e-mail is firstname.lastname@example.org. Every Other Time appears alternating Tuesdays.
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