Greeted with everything from resounding applause to scornful chants, Karl Rove, a former senior advisor to George. W. Bush, spoke in front of about 100 people Thursday in Smith hall.
Partnering with Young America’s Foundation and Students for a Conservative Voice, the University of Minnesota College Republicans hosted the event which included a Q&A session and book signing.
Aside from a handful of interruptions, the audience was civil and supportive.
Touching on a variety of topics that included the 2008 election, health care reform and reenergizing the conservative voice on college campuses, Rove spoke to an adoring crowd of University students and supporters before fielding questions from the audience.
While Rove directed a great deal of his criticism toward the Obama administration and recent democratic-led initiatives, he opened his speech by acknowledging the historical significance of the United States electing its first black president.
“It says something good about our country, whether you voted for him or not, and frankly, I didn’t,” Rove said.
“[People] voted for him because he’s aspirational and inspirational,” he added.
Carrying on with a passionate but humorous tone, Rove lambasted the stimulus package. He acknowledged the need for government intervention, but deemed the stimulus package a failure and cited the national rise in unemployment as a main example.
“We’re getting exactly what they told us would happen if we didn't pass the stimulus package. And the reason is a lack of presidential leadership in coming up with a stimulus package that actually worked,” Rove said.
Before opening the floor for questions, Rove also criticized health care reform legislation, calling it a “financial fraud.”
Rove addressed submitted questions that ranged from political ethics to military policy in the Middle East. When asked why he chose to speak at the University, he stressed that it was difficult to be a conservative student on a “predominately liberal” college campus.
When speaking about the U.S. military presence in the Middle East, Rove was interrupted by members of Students for a Democratic Society chanting “Who is the terrorist? Rove is the terrorist.”
“He was the brains behind a lot of terrible things the Bush administration did. The most major one and obvious one is the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan,” said Tracy Molm, a Students for a Democratic Society officer. “We don’t want people to forget that this was a mistake.”
There were also more minor interruptions with attendees shouting “war criminal” and profanities.
Protesters were immediately escorted out of the building by security.
Rove would not comment on the protesters.
He closed his visit with a book signing that saw a handful of confrontations.
One attendee approached Rove posing as a supporter beginning by saying “I am alarmed by out of control government spending and I revere a long study of the constitution…”
But he shifted tones as he came closer adding “which is why I’m sort of amazed that you perpetrated not one, but two illegal wars that continue to cost over ten thousand American lives…”
The man was then tackled by a group of police officers and hand cuffed. The attendee was not charged and was released by officers after the event.
Sean Niemic, a member of College Republicans said he was glad Rove had the opportunity to speak and appreciated how he addressed the need for imploring more young people to move toward the conservative spectrum.
“Rove has a viewpoint that is not well-received on campus and isn’t often presented by the University and academia” Neimic said.