Conservative strategist Karl Rove, former Deputy Chief of Staff to President George W. Bush, spoke to members of the Wabash community about what he sees as the essential role of idealism in American politics.
Rove’s speech was sponsored by the Wabash Commentary and the Young America's Foundation. Rove's appearance coincided with the release of his new book, Courage and Consequence. The near capacity crowd featured a big Crawfordsville community turnout.
“Without [idealism],” Rove said, “the American system won’t work.”
However, he warned that such idealism must be balanced by the reality of politics, something he feels President Obama has so far failed to achieve. Rove noted that Obama’s “historic” 2008 election represented everything that is “grand and good about our country.”
He praised the president for his inspirational campaign message, one of hope and change. But Rove criticized Obama for failing to translate the ideals and promises of his campaign into his presidency.
“Whatever happened to scrubbing the budget line by line?” Rove asked, when comparing the President Obama’s campaign promises of fiscal conservatism with the actual spending he has approved.
The president’s idealism first clashed with political reality, Rove said, when Obama presented the stimulus plan to Congress and the American public.
“You cannot grow the economy by growing government,” Rove told a largely approving crowd in the Wabash Pioneer Chapel. “You cannot spend your way to prosperity.” Rove called the stimulus plan an “odd approach” to economic recovery, and he said the process was poorly managed by the president.
“Congress is in need of adult supervision from the President of the United States whether he’s a Democrat or a Republican,” Rove said to a round of applause.
In addition to the president’s stimulus plan, Rove also criticized last year’s cap-and-trade legislation, of which he said “we should pray never sees the light of day.”
According to Rove, the current health care legislation is just another example of the president’s disconnect with political reality. “The most damaging thing this [bill] will do is grow the federal government,” Rove warned, criticizing the legislation’s pork-barrel spending and preference to certain groups such as unions.
As this disconnect has increased, Rove said, President Obama’s approval ratings have steadily fallen. “People voted for Obama not because they thought he was qualified, but because of his message of hope and inspiration,” Rove said. “[The Administration’s current policies] are not what we were led to believe we would get.”
Now, new idealism, such as that displayed by the tea party movement, is replacing the idealism of Obama’s campaign. Rove explained that this idealism is what makes America great. No matter how down we get, Rove said that Americans never think that improving the country is out of their control. That, Rove said, is what helped make America great.
Rove’s lecture was followed by a half-hour Q&A session of questions submitted by the Wabash community. The session focused on America’s international presence and foreign policy, as well as Rove’s opinions on the future of the Republican Party. “The Republican Party must reassert itself,” Rove said.
However, Rove also stressed the need for a return to bipartisan decision-making, rather than the “aloof and detached” attitude that the Obama administration has displayed, in order to make the administration’s programs successful.
Despite the fact that he was dismayed by many aspects of today’s politics, Rove emphasized that he was still particularly proud of the United States’ world generosity.
He also cited individuals, such as a doctor in his 60s who enlisted for active duty in the military after losing his son in combat, as another main reason why he was still so proud of his home country.