Karl Rove did not disappoint the 600, give or take a few, that attended the 2009 GOP Spring Dinner in Wilkes-Barre, Tuesday night. He gave an hour long speech which touted conservative principles, bashed liberals and President Barack Obama, and praised his former boss, President George W. Bush.
The dinner was preceded by a $500 a person cocktail party. When Rove entered the room, he mingled with the crowd, posed for pictures, and autographed programs.
Rove's speech was preceded by a partisan speech from endorsed Republican Supreme Court candidate Judge Joan Orie Melvin. In a speech that was inappropriately long for a warm up act, Melvin basically said "elect me so Republicans make of the majority of the PA Supreme Court, and we can rig the 2010 reapportionment for the Republicans." I guess that was her definition of a "strict constructionist judge," one who doesn't "legislate from the bench."
The evening got a little stranger after that when State Senator Lisa Baker introduced Rove to the crowd. Besides the general introduction remarks, Baker told the crowd that one of Rove's pet projects is to restore the legacy of President William McKinley. Yes, William McKinley!! What about George W. Bush's legacy? I guess you can't blame him, not a day goes by that Buzz and I don't hear some bashing William McKinley. Maybe he could lend us a hand in our project of restoring the legacy and honor of President Franklin Pierce.
Rove was greeted with a standing ovation, and almost immediately praised the "strict constructionist judges" who were in attendance. All seven endorsed Republican candidates for statewide courts were in attendance.
In a Rovian twist of irony he told Republicans they should not engage in "blind obstructionism" which the Democrats employed against Bush for the last eight years. Republicans should support Obama on issues which they agree, such as Afghanistan. Interesting from a man who made his political career on division and obstructionism.
Rove blamed the current economic recession on Fannie Mac and Freddie Mae. He argued that they caused the mortgage crisis, which lead to worldwide economic collapse. He claimed that the Bush administration attempt to rein in Freddie and Fannie, but their efforts were thwarted by the usual suspects --- Senator Chris Dodd and Representative Barney Frank. That accusation was a crowd pleaser.
Rove attacked the Obama stimulus plan in traditional GOP fashion by citing a few absurd examples of suspect spending to condemn the whole stimulus plan. (Like $4 billion on obesity control and smoking cessation.)
He referred the audience to the GOP alternative budget available on Representative Eric Cantor's website, a budget which stresses (you guessed it) tax cuts, free markets, free enterprise, and limited government.
Rove spent a little time explaining the GOP plan on health care. Again the plan stressed give tax credits for the purchase of health insurance, eliminating the restrictions on buying health insurance across state lines, and the old GOP favorite, eliminating frivolous lawsuits against doctors.
Any Rove or Bushie speech wouldn't have been complete without the "Bush kept us safe" language. Rove did not disappoint. He bashed the closing of Gitmo, Obama's refusal to employ "enhanced interrogation techniques (in other words, torture), and Obama's pledge to see that detainees get a fair trial and are not detained forever. He did, however, praise Obama for his renewed efforts in Afghanistan.
In what we saw as a reversal of strategy, Rove emphasized "convincing undecideds" of the GOP plan in his grassroots part of the speech. Quoting Abraham Lincoln, he said Republicans have the undecideds talked to by someone they hold in confidence in order to enlighten them to Republican ways. An ironic statement from a man who devised Bush' 2004 election victory by pandering to and hammering the base.
Rove ended his speech with the heart warming story of how he helped 61 year old Dr. Bill Krissoff receive a waiver to join the Marines and serve in Iraq as a surgeon. Krissoff's son was killed by a roadside bomb in 2006, and his younger son had volunteered to serve in the armed forces and was being deployed to Iraq.
All in all, the content of the speech was what we expected, but we were impressed by Rove's ability to give a speech. We expected a little more of a dry, statistical filled monologue. For a "behind the scenes" guy, he is a better speaker than the man he put in front of the camera. Rove was also quite personable, but then again it was a very friendly and partisan Republican crowd.