and it was awesome.
This evening, Karl Rove gave an invited lecture at my university, Washington University in St. Louis. He was paid $35,000 to speak. While I certainly disagree with many of Mr. Rove's political views, I support the rich discourse our University provides from the left and the right. That being said, when Karl Rove comes to campus, I'm going to speak me mind.
Follow the jump...
Mr. Rove spoke for one-half hour, musing about the state of the presidential election. He told a few jokes, acted friendly, and gave us his insight on the state of the election. The crowd chuckled at his political musings and was rather polite, save a few scattered boos. Much to my chagrin, he didn't mention his time in the White House or the litany of criticisms that led to his resignation.
Afterward, the floor was opened up for 30 or so minutes of Q & A. I'm shocked that next to no one asked him critical questions. Students asked for funny stories about George W. Bush, more electoral insight, the etymology of his nickname--"turd blossom"--and several other innocuous questions. While I understand that we were expected to be polite, we shouldn't be vapid.
As someone who finds dissent to be patriotic, I was not so gentle. I raced down from the balcony and managed to find the third place in line. Lips to the the microphone, I stared into his eyes and uttered the following:
Mr. Rove, you have been part of an administration that has condoned torture, authorized warrantless wiretapping, and the presided over the politicization of the justice department, among other acts which I and many other Americans find contemptible. How is it justified for you to evade a congressional subpoena?
The crowd hollered in support. Mr. Rove capped his marker and finished his notes. He responded:
Let me address the three issues you raised: torture, wire tapping, and the subpoena. America does not torture. That is a slander against America.
He was accusing me of being un-American. I've seen enough Hannity and Colmes to know this move. As he raised his arm into the air continuing his harangue, I interjected:
Don't question my patriotism, Abu Ghraib was a slander against America.
As he continued furiously, I responded:
You don't need to yell. Please treat me with respect.
Rove was vehement. I had gotten under his skin and he was tearing into me. It felt really good. For a moment, I could see the sweat on his forehead. His lips flew apart as the bursts of breath bellowed outward. The excoriation continued. Mr. Rove moved onto topic of wiretapping. He spoke proudly about how we were wiretapping America's enemies, that we were listening to communications from abroad, and of what could have been if only we had only known what our enemies were saying before September 11th.
"But that's not the point,"
and before I could finish my critique including the infamous presidential daily briefing entitled "Bin Laden Determined to strike in US" and the FISA court's near universal approval of wiretaps, the moderator cut me off saying that I had to let him answer the three questions I asked. Incredulously, I said,
But he's yelling at me?
The moderator sat down. Meanwhile Rove never stopped speaking. He had moved onto the subpoena issue and gave me an acrimonious but legalistic explanation about how he had, in fact, provided congress with fifteen written answers and was abiding by the separation of powers between the executive and legislative branches. I started to speak but the crowd shouted for me to move on and let someone else ask a question.
I thought I'd get to rebut.
I grumbled, walking away.
Beforehand, I questioned attending his speech--why bother--but the truth is, universities have the right to request speakers from the broadest range of viewpoints--left or right, right or wrong. What we as students must do is raise our voices when we disagree.
**Update** Thanks so much for the rec list. It's my first time and an honor.
**Update 2** Here is a link to an article from our student newspaper. Somehow, they managed to name the wrong guy as having asked the question--that's some top-notch reporting guys! No one interviewed me, but they have my question at the end of the article--so I'm not making this up. Unfortunately, they don't mention the slandering of America line or any other zingers. If I find any video, I will post it.