Republican strategist Karl Rove was unfazed by two separate interruptions from protesters calling him a war criminal as he spoke about the 2008 election in front of a sold-out crowd at the Elliott School of International Affairs Friday night.
The first interruption came five minutes into Rove’s remarks, when an unidentified male stood up and yelled at the former deputy chief of staff of President George W. Bush.
“Karl Rove is a war criminal! Fuck you Karl Rove,” he said as University and Metropolitan Police Department officers immediately escorted him out.
Unfazed, Rove quipped, “Must be an intellectual.”
The second interruption occurred about twenty minutes later when seniors Ben Robinson, Inayat Hemani, Chrissy Bishai and sophomore Riaan Ahmed unfurled a banner reading “War Criminal” and started to recite article six of the Nuremburg Trial proceedings saying that Rove was considered a war criminal under the article.
The students were immediately removed and Rove continued to speak, this time without acknowledgment of the incident.
The Young America’s Foundation sponsored the event, titled “A Night with the Architect.”
Rove’s speech mainly focused on the 2008 election, as well as anecdotes from his time at the White House and throughout his long political career. He frequently mentioned the unusual nature of this year’s presidential election and commented on the difficult road ahead for both the Democratic and Republican parties.
“For the first time in our lifetimes, the conventions are actually going to matter,” he said, commenting on the close race between Democratic Senators Barack Obama (Ill.) and Hillary Clinton (N.Y.).
Rove also touched on the Iraq War, focusing a great deal of criticism on Obama, who he criticized the Illinois senator for saying that Bush had misled the nation into the Iraq War.
The Republican strategist quoted excerpts from 1998 speeches made by former President Bill Clinton and former Vice President Al Gore, and additional speeches made by Clinton and Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) that expressed the previous administration’s belief that weapons of mass destruction were in Iraq.
“My point is, that Senator Obama’s charge that somehow the American people were deliberately misled about Iraq is a falsehood that he knows is a falsehood and that he should stop repeating it endlessly on the campaign trail,” Rove said.
Responding to an audience member who cited the two interruptions as proof of the visceral reaction that Rove provokes, the Republican strategist compared himself to mystical creatures.
“First of all, the tail and horns are retractable,” he said. “Look, I’m a myth! I’m like Grendel or Beowulf. I’m not often seen but people talk about me. That’s just the way it is.”
He later added, “I was introduced as a genius so you gotta make up your mind. I’m either an idiot or a genius!”
Sophomore Anna Zerbib-Berda, who does not identify with a particular political party, found the talk very informative.
“I don’t know if I’d say I’m a fan or advocate (of Rove), but I think politically he is very smart,” she said.
Freshman Travis Holler said Rove handled the protesters well.
“As far as the demonstrators, most of the audience was fed up by the second time around,” he said. “It was pretty entertaining to see how calm and collected he was when the protestore were going on.”
In an incident occurring before the event began, senior Zeeshan Aleem said he was flagged as a security risk because of his nationality.
“I was the only person I saw being personally escorted by Sergio Gor to my seat,” said Aleem, who is Pakistani-American. “I was delighted to see the protesters during it.”
YAF President Sergio Gor said he was unhappy that Aleem was in attendance.
“He was one of the people we were forced to let in,” Gor said. “If it was up to me, he wouldn’t have been there.”
Gor said he became weary of Aleem after YAF tried to infiltrate a College Democrats meeting.
“We sent someone over to the College Democrats meeting and pretended to be a Democrat,” Gor said. “Zeeshan, among other people, basically said we’re going to go in there and disrupt so obviously we’re going to be suspicious of you. These liberal pinheads try to come and disrupt our event. We don’t do this kind of stuff to liberals.”