NEWS

Karl Rove mixes politics and wit at Republican fundraiser

PAT FRIDGEN
Both serious and humorous during the course of his talk, Karl Rove 
spoke to Republicans on the current state of the nation and urged 
party activists to round up likely voters for the fall election. He 
also told stories of his life in the political arena.

It was everything Republican Thursday night, when Karl Rove, advisor to former President George W. Bush, spoke to 500 people at the Franklin County Republican Committee Lincoln Day Dinner. In a room full of supporters, Rove criticized the policies of President Barack Obama and encouraged the party faithful to keep their eyes on the prize.

"Keep your fire and focus on the occupant of the White House," he said. "That's who we have to go after, not each other."

Stopping in Greencastle Feb. 24 as part of a cross-country speaking tour, he told guests at Green Grove Gardens that the 2010 and 2012 elections were the most important of everyone's lifetimes. They provided citizens the opportunity to choose between a country Obama wanted or one they wanted.

"We have a president and administration who believes you can spend your way into prosperity. No nation has ever done that. You work, you save, you invest."

Meet and greet

Rove, 60, skipped the meal and walked among the tables, stopping to visit and have his picture taken with the many people who wanted to meet him. The folks who paid $60 per ticket were excited to see him in person, most already familiar with his past as 'The Architect' of Bush's successful campaigns in 2000 and 2004. Each person also received an autographed copy of his book, "Courage and Consequence. My Life as a Conservative in the Fight."

A number of Greencastle residents were anxious to hear him speak. "This is the first time I've come to something like this and I thought I'd enjoy it," said Mary Louise Gingrich. "And I am."

Colleen Bratcher considered Rove an interesting and educated man. "It's a nice perspective since he's been associated with the White House."

"He's a knowledgeable guy," agreed Greg Overcash. "I hear him on FOX a lot. He's smart and a good guy."

Dr. Tony Angello came as a Republican to meet peers he didn't see often, and because he respected and admired Rove.

The attendees got a sense of the speaker's personality as soon as he stepped to the podium. County Republican chairman Dwight Weidman proclaimed his accolades, including 'the greatest politician of his generation'.

After the standing ovation quieted, Rove said, "Thank you for that largely inaccurate introduction."

He continued," I want to be clear, I am not here to help Bill Shuster." He was seated next to the 9th District Congressman at the head table.

Rove shared that his dream was to see Obama as a one-term president, since his stimulus bill was causing major problems. Discretionary spending was up 20 percent, and the national debt was on the path to doubling in five years and tripling in 10. Obama's promises on healthcare had not come true, he stated. Instead, costs were rising while coverage was dropping. He was aware that businesses planned to dump coverage for fulltime employees and keep others at parttime status in order to stay afloat. The penalties were cheaper than paying the accelerated premium costs. In addition, physicians, including his hunting buddies in Texas, were getting out of the profession sooner than they had planned because of the new law.

"We can kill Obamacare in January 2013," Rove declared, "and we must to save our country. It's important to stay in the fight. If we love our country we must stand by her and stand for her in the election."

Rove also paid tribute to Abraham Lincoln, the namesake of the dinner and the founder of the Republican party. An historian of the 16th president, he recalled the time he discovered an original photo of Lincoln in an unshaven state at a family sale.

"Of course, cheapskate and Lincoln fan that I am, I bought it for 25 bucks and it's hung on my wall ever since."

He also called the United States a great nation because of the contributions of men such as George Washington, Ronald Reagan and Lincoln.

"He was a man of peace but he presided over a war in which 600,000 Americans died. We honor him tonight."

On the scene

The packed event was supported by volunteers who helped with logistics. Robert Frazier, Craig McCleaf and William Laughlin, attired in slickers in the drizzle, were in the driveway by 5 p.m., well in advance of the 7 p.m. meal. They directed traffic, making sure those with special needs got close to the building. Robert Wertime served as the "ticket processor", and sent people to the right tables.

McCleaf, whose family owns both businesses, said "the best of the best of our crew is up there," as Mountain Gate Restaurant catered the dinner. The invocation was offered by Rev. William Kauffman, and his granddaughter Abby Kauffman, 10, sang the national anthem.

State, county and local politicians took advantage of the occasion to start their campaigns. Candidate signs lined the drive from Buchanan Trail East, and literature filled a table next to the entrance. Weidman named the elected officials in the audience.

Karl Rove entertained 500 people at a Franklin County dinner Feb. 24. 
His visit at Green Grove Gardens was hosted by the county Republican 
Committee.