The original notice that Karl Rove, former senior advisor to President George W. Bush, would be speaking at Cedarville University in Ohio came from Warcriminalswatch.org. What piqued my interest is how a Bible-based fundamentalist university would invite the country’s most famous Machiavellian to speak on Constitution Day.
As a frequent critic of Rove, my writings have argued that he not only was a war criminal as Bush’s advisor during the illegal Iraq War, but also a violator of human rights on the issue of torture for supporting Bush’s torture policies. Also, I’ve argued that he’s a criminal racketeer because of his illegal activities regarding the Florida presidential election in 2000 and the Ohio election in 2004.
To Cedarville University’s credit, the Alpha Sigmas invited me to speak prior to Rove’s visit and outline my case against him. The 60 or so people who filled the lecture room applauded politely at the beginning, and even at the end, but that was nothing compared to the standing ovation Rove would get in the Jeremiah Chapel during his introduction and conclusion.
The title of Rove’s Constitution Day speech was “2012: Choosing our Future.” This was a little less academic than my “The Rovian Dilemma: Machiavellian or Moralist” speech.
Rove was shockingly charming during his introduction. Preceding him, perhaps ironically, the school’s choir belted out “The Battle Hymn of the Republic,” a northern battle cry to greet the faux Texan, Rove.
Rove began by reading the preamble to the Constitution and then introducing his theme of the “big choices” before the thousands assembled. He launched into a fairly detailed attack on the Obama stimulus plan around the talking point “we cannot spend our way to prosperity.” In Rove’s analysis, Bush’s trillion dollar bailout of the “too big to fail” investment banks is forgotten, as is the massive debt run up under his administration, the great recession he triggered, and the yearly surplus that existed at the end of the Clinton years.
Rove should be given credit for not using rubber numbers in his current criticism of Obamanomics. However, he pushed heavily what scholars call “the Horatio Alger myth,” where mythical small entrepreneurs under a limited government flourish and save America. Rove’s plea to continue the un-taxing of the rich, many of them contributors to Rove’s American Crossroads political action committee (PAC), centered around the theme “we’re not a country of resentment.”
Apparently, poor people and middle class people get excited and draw pleasure from the lifestyles of the rich, famous and untaxed. In the Rovian world, working people like to pack up factories and help giant corporation move to China because they know what’s good for rich people is good for America. And, after all, if anybody who wants to can get rich, why do you really need any social programs that aid the poor and unemployed?
But where Rove really milks the applause from the fundamentalist crowd is on the subject of all things militaristic. As one of our country’s most famous chicken hawks, Rove liked to talk about the “nine young men in uniform in Dr. Smith’s class” where he had lectured earlier in the day on political science. One can only hope that the men in uniform there would honor their oath to the U.S. Constitution and their specific commitment to defend it against all enemies foreign and domestic, by arresting Rove.
What Rove took from Machiavelli is obvious. Machiavelli famous advice to the Prince—to be the first one out on high holy days, to make a public demonstration of religious ritualistic commitment, but not taking any of Jesus’ actual values seriously.
Rove took the same approach to the U.S. Constitution, going out of his way to praise Obama only for not closing Guantanamo Bay. “I applaud him for it,” Rove stated.
In Rove’s final shredding of the U.S. Constitution, he told the students that there are no rights for “bad people” at Guantanamo because they’re “not a criminal, but an enemy.” Apparently in Rove’s world, due process for criminals and military combatants are waived if you’re a “bad person.”
He went on to justify his analysis in one of the most convoluted applications of logic that I’ve heard in recent memory. In an analysis that would have made Machiavelli blush, he gave Bush the credit for killing Osama bin Laden by arguing that during enhanced interrogation (read: torture) five years earlier, some bad people at Guantanamo lied about some people in Pakistan. Thus, five years later, people working for Obama were able to figure out that the people being tortured under Bush lied and were actually working for Osama bin Laden. Hence, the undiscovered lies from the torture victims led to the killing of bin Laden.
In a press conference prior to his speech on the Constitution, Rove told reporters that he plans to raise a quarter of a billion dollars with his independent PACS American Crossroads and Crossroads GPS to influence the election in key battleground states like Ohio. In 2004, a Cedarville professor and some students helped then-Secretary of State J. Kenneth Blackwell monitor Ohio’s election count, even when it was outsourced to a Republican-owned computer company in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Computer security expert Stephen Spoonamore, a lifelong Republican, has denounced that shift of the vote counting as a “man-in-the-middle attack” that illegally altered the vote count between Kerry and Bush in Bush’s favor.
Cedarville University must worry about whether it gains access to the political world of Karl Rove, but loses its soul. The university must render under Rove the things that are illegal and render under God their conscience.
Bob Fitrakis has a Ph.D. in political science and a J.D. and teaches political theory and American Government.