A senior adviser for former President George W. Bush spoke to the campus and local community about immigration Thursday evening as part of the University of Richmond Sharp Viewpoint Speaker Series.
Karl Rove, 67, was President Bush’s senior adviser from 2000 to 2007 and deputy chief of staff from 2004 to 2007. Currently, he writes op-eds for The Wall Street Journal and appears as an occasional commentator on Fox News.
Though Rove’s talk advertised immigration, he also spoke about the Trump administration and historical events that he considered to be comparable.
“We are in an unusual moment in American history,” Rove said. “And we had one of the most unusual presidential contests in American history.”
This was an election of unfavorites, Rove said, pointing out the massive lack of popularity of both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton.
Rove criticized all members of government, calling out Democrats for being a broken opposition that relied on anger as a political agenda and Republicans for not seizing opportunity when it was afforded to them.
He also accused Trump of being an immature president: “You need to be the one adult in the room. The guy who absorbs the blows, not tweets the blows.”
Rove did praise some recent measures including the new tax code, the Dakota Access Pipeline, the hardline stance on the contribution of NATO allies and the potential Fix NICS Act, which would provide enforcement on existing federal gun control regulations.
Rove pointed out pieces of legislation that were pushed by Republicans that he believes will not become reality. There will be no repeal and replacement of Obamacare, he said, nor would the DACA issue be resolved anytime soon.
After discussing the current state of the union, Rove took questions from President Ronald A. Crutcher. The questions were written by current political science students and were on topics such as immigration, previous legislative regrets, the current state of the Republican party and the United States' current political climate.
“The government looks messed up because it is,” Rove said. “But the good news is that it’s been messed up before and we always seem to find a way out of it.”
Some of Rove’s remarks during his answers were controversial in nature, such as his opinion that the United States should slow down on accepting so many students from China, India, Japan and South Korea. Immigrants should not be allowed to bring distant relatives into the United States, only direct relatives, he said.
Rove did emphasize his support of "Dreamers" and of those willing to pull themselves up by their bootstraps, he said.
“This country makes it possible for those who came from nothing to make something of themselves,” Rove said. “Not too far in the past of everyone’s family is someone who came from the ‘wretched refuse’ and if we forget that we’re in trouble.”
After the Q&A session, Rove mingled with guests at a reception held in Gottwald, where he posed for photos and answered individual questions.
Crutcher was disappointed that Rove did not talk about immigration as much as promised, but was impressed by his multiple historical anecdotes, he said.
“What I really appreciated was his focus on the history,” Crutcher said. “I think in order for us to understand what we are going through, we have to understand the history. To me, that helps me feel a little better that we’ve been through worse. We survived and we will survive this.”
First-year Kayla Corbin came to the Rove talk expecting controversy but found herself agreeing with some of his talking points.
“I tend to lean liberal in my views and I wanted to hear another perspective,” Corbin said. “I was pleasantly surprised. It was not as controversial as people made it seem.”
Senior Jonathan Hayes is a member of College Republicans and introduced Rove at the talk. Hayes thought that UR's decision to invite Rove to talk about immigration was a good choice.
“I think it was a decent selection,” Hayes said. “I can see why it would cause controversy. There are some who like him and others who don’t. I think we need to have diverse speakers from all across the spectrum.”
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