“It is useless to attempt to reason a man out of a thing he was never reasoned into”

Jonathan Swift
"The Democrats have moved to the right, and the right has moved into a mental hospital." - Bill Maher
"The city is crowded my friends are away and I'm on my own
It's too hot to handle so I gotta get up and go

It's a cruel ... cruel summer"

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Rove is wrong for WT, sets bad example

This is the column that will appear in The Amarillo Independent on the week of April 9:

There’s trouble a’brewin’ at West Texas A&M University’s commencement ceremonies.

The university has chosen Karl Rove, the former operative for George W. Bush’s political career, to speak May 8, the night before the university’s May 9 spring commencement exercises.

In touting the coup of having such a nationally prominent speaker in lil ole Canyon, the WT Web site quotes Dr. J. Patrick O’Brien.

“Karl Rove is a nationally prominent individual who for seven years served in an extremely important position in the Bush administration. He has been referred to as a ‘master political strategist,’ a ‘passionate advocate’ for his positions, and ‘The Architect’ of two successful presidential campaigns,” O’Brien said.

“Bringing Karl Rove to the WTAMU campus won’t be without controversy, but this is an individual with tremendous experience and insight in the workings of the executive branch of the U.S. Government. We are excited to have him speak on the WT campus.”

“Won’t be without controversy”?

You got that right, Dr. O’Brien.

But you got a lot wrong.

First, while Rove no doubt has inside knowledge of the workings of the Bush White House and former Vice President Dick Cheney’s massive role in shaping Bush’s policies, he isn’t going to give any insights to those coming May 8.

If he would, he would tell us what role he and Cheney played in outing Valerie Plame as a CIA agent.

If he had any insights, he would tell us what he did to undercut former Ambassador Joseph Wilson after an op-ed piece in the New York Times reported the administration’s lies about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.

If Rove were to give us insights at the highest levels of government, we might find out how weak the moral fiber of the administration was.

Second, the judgment underlying this invitation is badly flawed — to be charitable about it.

Rove is not only a symbol of all that was wrong with the Bush administration and what it did to devastate our country, his role makes him the devastation personified.

Personally, I suspect that, if the truth were known, what Rove — and Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld and other neoconservatives — did during their tenure was criminal. I mean that: illegal and perhaps treasonous.

So what message does this send to the university community and the students earning degrees who are to be honored that weekend?

It sends this message: We honor a college dropout who may have played a criminal role in a two-term administration. His speech is to inspire you to model his drive and ambition.

That said, now that he has been invited, I think pulling the offer would reflect worse on WT than issuing the invitation in the first place.

Further, for those planning to protest Rove’s presence, I implore you to keep it civil and quiet.

Please don’t try to shout him down. Please don’t disrupt the event. That will reflect more poorly on the progressive voices who object to Rove’s presence than on Rove’s appearance itself.

For anyone who wants to paint WT’s choices for convocation speakers as having a right-wing or conservative tilt, be careful.

I don’t think Ron Suskind, Cedric Jennings, Ben Stein, Elie Wiesel and Valentino Achak Deng, one of the Lost Boys of the Sudan, can be characterized that way.

And, keep in mind that one of the several bastions of truly free and controversial speech is the American university — where the most controversial of ideas could and should be spoken without retribution.

The recent case of Ward Churchill at the University of Colorado is a case in point.

Churchill stirred up a storm of controversy in 2005 when someone discovered that he had written an essay right after Sept. 11, 2001, comparing those toiling in the Twin Towers to Nazis.

Colorado’s governor, Bill Owens, called for Churchill’s head and, according to court testimony, pressured the president of the university to fire Churchill. University regents also went after Churchill and eventually he was fired for shoddy scholarship and plagiarism.

Churchill sued CU and a jury sided with him in saying the entire process was trumped up in retaliation for his admittedly despicable essay about 9-11.

If one looks deeper into the case, Churchill was as flawed an object of protection as could be found in a victory for academic freedom. But it made the victory all the more important.

Had WT invited Rove as part of a lecture series or some event that didn’t honor him or the university community, I’d have no objection.

But this invitation sets a bad example and displays bad judgment.