Political strategist Karl Rove says nasty politics not new

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Karl Rove speaks to an audience at the University of Utah on Feb. 8. (Jenna Alton)

SALT LAKE CITY—Karl Rove, known as the “architect” of President George W. Bush’s presidential campaigns, shared one central message here Thursday: “don’t despair.”

Rove, who served as senior advisor and deputy chief of staff to President George W. Bush, spoke at the Hinckley Institute of Politics at the University of Utah, where he said he began his political career.

“They were some of the most exciting and pleasant times I had, and when I left here I was on fire,” Rove said, referring to his time spent at the University of Utah as a student.

Among many other topics, Rove addressed the current low levels of trust in American institutions, including the White House, Congress and the media.

“Things are not what they ought to be. I’m not gonna say that things are normal,” Rove said. “But I like to remind people we’ve been here before.”

Rove gave many examples of previous eras in American history when politics have been, in his words, “brutal, nasty, ugly, divisive and unconstructive.” He said the key to overcoming such eras is in the presidency.

“We’re not gonna get fixed in the next couple of years,” Rove said. “We’re going to stumble along and people will get done what they can get done, and then there will be a moment when someone comes up and breaks the political deadlock.”

Rove repeatedly cited William McKinley as a U.S. president who did just that. He recently published a book called, “The Triumph of William McKinley: Why the Election of 1896 Still Matters.”

After the lecture, Rove, who is now a columnist for the Wall Street Journal and contributor at Fox News, answered questions from the audience.

When one audience member expressed frustration at Congress members who do not speak out against President Trump, Rove said they would be less effective if they focused on criticizing the president.

“If you’re a member of the House or Senate, you’re trying to get something done,” Rove said. “You’re not getting paid to just be critical of [President Trump]. You’re paid by the people back home to try and advance an agenda.”

Following the forum, Rove went to Olympus High School, his alma mater, where he was inducted into school’s hall of fame.



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