Friday, February 12 , 2016, 3:09 am | Fair 46º

From Friend and Foe Alike, Karl Rove Draws a Crowd at UCSB

As protesters mass outside on campus, cheers and some jeers greet the Republican strategist inside Campbell Hall

Protesters await Karl Rove’s arrival for a speech at UCSB’s Campbell Hall on Thursday night. As word spread that the Republican political strategist would be arriving at the rear entrance, part of the crowd splintered off to try to intercept him.
Protesters await Karl Rove’s arrival for a speech at UCSB’s Campbell Hall on Thursday night. As word spread that the Republican political strategist would be arriving at the rear entrance, part of the crowd splintered off to try to intercept him.  (Ben Preston / Noozhawk photo)

By Ben Preston, Noozhawk Staff Writer |

With students up in arms about everything from tuition hikes to the closing of popular academic and elective programs, UCSB has seen plenty of protests recently.

“We’ve been having protests all (academic) year, but nothing like this,” UCSB communications director George Foulsham said of the protesters assembled outside of Campbell Hall on Thursday evening.

The occasion?

Karl Rove — Republican political strategist and former senior adviser and White House deputy chief of staff for then-President George W. Bush — soon would be speaking to an audience of about 700 students, at an event sponsored by the College Republicans and the Young America’s Foundation.

“There’s nothing like Karl Rove to pack ‘em in,” Foulsham said.

College Republicans said they wanted a controversial speaker to attract more people to their event, said Ryan McNicholas, the group’s fundraising chairman.

“If you get a controversial character, you get a lot more people out there talking about the issues,” McNicholas said before introducing Rove. “College Republicans are a proud few. We support true diversity — diversity of thought.”

In the hour leading up to Rove’s speech, more than 100 student protesters — with a few community members mixed in — gathered outside of Campbell Hall to express their displeasure at having a man they view as “a war criminal” on campus, particularly since some of his speaking fee was paid with funds culled from student fees. Replete with hand-painted signs, jeers of “war criminal!” and the regular chanting of slogans, the gathering had all the trappings of a good old-fashioned protest — right down to the guy leaning against a tree strumming an acoustic guitar as he sang a few bars from Buffalo Springfield’s 1960s protest ballad, “For What It’s Worth.”

A quick poll of the crowd showed that a number of different views existed. Max Einstein, a third-year black studies and German major from Venice, was holding a large plywood sign with pictures of Rove and Joseph Goebbels arranged side by side.

“A lot of people probably look at this sign and say, ‘That guy’s an idiot,’” he explained. “But if you look at Rove’s function in society, a strong connection can be made.

“Rove is much more subtle (than were the Nazis). The Bush administration basically declared war on the Muslim world. It’s a soft racism, but it’s just as dangerous.”

Jon Coleman, a self-described conservative who was waiting in line to get past the security screen, said he just wanted to hear what Rove had to say.

Campus security was tight for those attending Karl Rove's speech.
Campus security was tight for those attending Karl Rove’s speech. (Ben Preston / Noozhawk photo)

“His supporters say he’s a smart guy and people who don’t like him say he’s cold and calculating,” Coleman said. “Either way, he was extremely influential in the Bush administration, and to get a guy of that stature here is, I think, a good thing.”

Security was tighter than at most events on campus. A bomb-sniffing black Labrador retriever checked all bags, and many ticket holders were frisked by the UCSB Police Department’s community service officers.

It took a while for everyone to get through security, meaning that Rove didn’t begin speaking until nearly an hour after his scheduled start. Greeted by an even mixture of applause and booing, he dove right in, tackling President Barack Obama’s economic recovery policies as his first topic.

“The question is, what did (President Obama) do with his victory?” Rove queried rhetorically. “The answer is that he did not govern as he said he would.”

Rove attacked Obama’s current policies — everything from his handling of the bailout to the health-care reform battle being waged on Capitol Hill — and he expressed disappointment that Obama has not remained the “relentless centrist” he campaigned as.

“No country in the history of the world has ever spent its way to recovery,” Rove said to applause from the front of the room and sporadic catcalls from most of the rest of it.

“I don’t want to be completely critical of the president,” Rove said. “He’s done a few good things. One of them is Iraq.”

Amid shouts of “war criminal!” and “congressional subpoenas!” Rove explained that Obama was helping to win the war on terror by recognizing the strategic value of what his immediate predecessor had been doing in Iraq and later applying it in Afghanistan. He did not, however, agree with most of Obama’s foreign policy maneuvers, calling his stances toward Iran and the Copenhagen Climate Change Conference largely unsuccessful.

“It is right for America to be engaged in the world, but it is also right for America to be respected, and in some cases feared,” he said.

Rove defended the Bush administration’s decision to initiate the 2003 invasion of Iraq, asserting that having a stable ally in the oil-rich Middle East is crucial to global stability. Responding to a student asking him to further justify the Iraq invasion, Rove deflected the question, listing a number of Democratic senators who supported the war resolution, even reading a transcript of a fiery speech by Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., the 2004 Democratic presidential candidate, supporting it.

He did not, however, elaborate upon a contention by some that Bush administration officials may have falsified documents regarding Iraq’s alleged possession of weapons of mass destruction and radioactive materials prior to the war. Aside from a few shouts he answered directly, Rove responded to questions that had earlier been submitted by e-mail and vetted by Campus Democrats and Republicans. A clumsily worded question penned by a student who was not in the audience asked why Rove had planted WMDs when U.N. inspectors couldn’t find any.

“Because they’re much too valuable. I might find a need for them one day,” he said to laughter from the audience.

Aside from about 20 students causing a commotion when they walked out of the hall while jeering Rove toward the beginning of the lecture, and a few profane catcalls here and there, the presentation went off without a hitch. Most of Rove’s comments were aimed at the massive fiscal challenges the Obama administration and the nation are facing, but he urged people to work through ideological differences to achieve common goals.

“We have different political views, and we’re all going to get wired up about elections,” he said, “but there’s one thing that this is all about. This is about our country. This is about our shared experience.”

Click here for Noozhawk’s slide show. Click here to view additional photos from Robert Bernstein.

Noozhawk staff writer Ben Preston can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

» on 02.26.10 @ 03:20 PM

Mr. Stein, your article was well-balanced giving readers the impression of what went on both inside the lecture hall as well as outside. Nicely done.

Mr. Bernstein’s slide show & the extra pics, however, supported only the foe part… not so nicely done.  The content of visuals included with the article directly contradict the article’s title (i.e., “...Friend And Foe Alike…”) as well as its content.

Too bad, in the interest of complete coverage of a news-worthy local event, I would like to have seen some representation of what went on inside the hall too! :/

» on 02.26.10 @ 05:41 PM

It was valuable to democracy and free speech that a controversial leader of the last
administration was invited to publicly share his thinking and views locally, at UCSB.

Too bad that local Young Republicans had to pay him so much money to appear.
That appears to publicly go against the theme of Republican budget discipline and frugality that had gone out the window during the Rove-Bush years in D.C.

Some are angry that Rove’s campaigner reputation resides somewhere south of
the late Lee Atwater.

But that’s unfair. Texas politics has been mean, rough and tumble, going all the way back to Lyndon Johnson’s childhood. Rove is a product of that tradition.

That said, it seems odd that one of the most viscerally divise figures in modern
national politics (Mr. Rove) would label President Obama “excessively partisan”.

Is that the cow calling the kettle black?

Much, much larger issues about the performance of Rove (and his former boss)
never got much direct explanation.

Namely, why was Rove’s White House so totally unprepared when 9/11 went

And why did we invade and occupy, Iraq, which never had any connection to 9/11 at all? Where are those “weapons of mass destruction” Rove repeatedly
told tv shows and the national press he had “irrefutable proof” of?

The cost of our Iraq gambit has been 7-years of blood and treasure.

Over 4,000 military dead, over 30,000 seriously wounded, many crippled for
life. Up to 250,000 Iraqi casualties, most non-combatant “civilians”.

An “expedition” that Rove’s boss predicted would take 1 year and “$50 billion, tops,” has already consumed almost $1-trillion dollars, undermining our economic vitality on the eve of the worst recession since the great Depression.

If we had not begun shifting our Afghan troop deployments to Iraq almost at
once, would bin Laden and mullah Omar escaped to regroup and fight again?

And why did Rove’s “free market friendly” administration put us in position for a
total economic meltdown as Rove left office, leaving it to his successors to try
to revive a near-bankrupt nation?

Those are things I wish Rove had talked about more honestly, and for a much
smaller recession-era fee.

But it’s good that he was able to come, and say his piece.

» on 02.26.10 @ 08:29 PM

Bravo publius ! Now lets see how our friends on the right debate your points, without the character assassination they have been lecturing us about .  Maybe someday Rove can give a speech to the International Criminal Court in The Hague as a material witness .

» on 02.26.10 @ 11:29 PM

These kids have never had a real job like most Government leaders—but they want change??Just wait until they see their checks depleted from high taxes—they will really want change.

» on 02.28.10 @ 06:25 PM

“why was Rove’s White House so totally unprepared when 9/11 went

Because they were only in office 9 months and were still cleaning up after the Clintons, who infested the state department with all their anti police/military/intelligence wonks. That’s why we were attacked and why we still fail today, your people still infest government.

“why did we invade and occupy, Iraq, which never had any connection to 9/11 at all? Where are those weapons of mass destruction” Rove repeatedly told TV shows and the national press he had “irrefutable proof” of?”

We invaded Iraq because Saddam Hussein refused to obey UN resolutions requiring him to get out of the way of UN inspectors. The only connection the war had to 911 was the timing. Had we jumped in sooner rather than wait 14 months we might have found Rove’s WMDs.

“why did Rove’s “free market friendly” administration put us in position for a
total economic meltdown as Rove left office, leaving it to his successors to try
to revive a near-bankrupt nation?”

The meltdown you speak of started 40 years ago with the full court press by progressives. We once had a trade surplus. We once paid for the government services we had when we produced more than we consumed. Since the deadly disease called liberalism infected our country we have become a Godless culture of hedonism, selfishness and narcissism. The roots of our banking meltdown are in the mirror you look in every day. Quit trying to hang it o any administration running one of the most inept and corrupt governments on earth.

How do you like that Willie? Good enough for you? No character assignations for you, which by the way is your cup of tea (talk about the POT calling the kettle black (cow?)).
Ok, your turn. Try to answer with your own thoughts and not MoveOn or DailyKoz talking points.

» on 03.03.10 @ 02:26 PM

I know I’m a little late to the party; but I was curious to learn if there were similar protests being planed for the upcoming Paula Poundstone performance at UCSB?

As you may or may not be aware she has had a criminal past in which she has been alleged to have commited various unsavory acts on children. 

I’m sure that tax dollars are being used to fund this event as well.  Is there any concern that these tax dollars are going to support somebody who has verifiable felony criminal history related to the abuse of minors? 

It’s easy to package and market the Karl Rove brand of Boogeyman politics.  I think it’s very telling that the people that are do dedicated to making our world a better place to live don’t also view Miss Poudstone with the same level of contempt.

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