Former President George W. Bush’s chief of staff and senior adviser Karl Rove was greeted by right-wing protesters Wednesday evening at the annual Lincoln Dinner in Colorado Springs, a fundraiser for the El Paso County Republican Party.
Rove was widely criticized by liberals during his time as Bush’s adviser, based on his conservative policies and take-no-prisoners style, but Wednesday night’s fundraiser may have been the first time he encountered protests claiming he is not conservative enough. A dozen or so protesters gathered outside the Antlers Hilton with megaphones and handmade posters with slogans including “Government Overrun Party,” “Give Us Our Constitution” and “We Know Who U Work For”.
The protesters said they were not affiliated with the Tea Party, but described themselves as “a group of individuals, friends who came out together to protest against ‘unconstitutionality’” said protester Chris Nixon. Nixon, a “volunteer lobbyist” who wished to remain unaffiliated with any party, came because he does not see Rove as a representative of the Republican Party.
“The Republican Party of today leans left” he said.
Another member of the group, Chris Parsons, who described his political affiliation as “constitutionalist”, was even more incensed in his description of Rove, calling him a “fascist” and “perpetrator of war crimes”. Both men agreed that Rove was not representative of any sort of politics they support, and said that both parties disappointed them. Parsons emphasized that the only politicians he supports are those “who stand for constitutional rights and promote liberty.”
El Paso County Republican Vice Chairman David Williams seemed unperturbed about protesters at the event.
“We’re not really concerned. There have always been people not accepting of Rove and we encourage people to exercise their First Amendment rights.”
Williams also said he was unconcerned about protests that the Republican Party is not conservative enough.
“We are a big tent and everyone is welcome to our party,” he said.
Tickets for the fundraiser ran as high as $3500 and, alongside El Paso County politicians, several state senators were in attendance, as well as State House Majority leader Amy Stephens, R-Monument, and House Speaker Frank McNulty, R-Highlands Ranch.
Among those giving speeches were Colorado Secretary of State Scott Gessler and former New Mexico Representative Heather Wilson. Both spoke on health care and immigration reform and condemned President Obama’s current approach to Israel, the mention of which elicited boos from the audience.
El Paso County Republican President Eli Bremer took a more moderate tone, noting in a speech “the party must remain neutral, and it’s up to voters to choose our candidates.”
The crowd appeared preoccupied during the politicians’ speeches, but held rapt attention as Rove spoke. Since leaving the White House in 2007, Rove has spent his time appearing as a pundit on Fox, raising money for the Republican Party and writing for The Wall Street Journal.
These days he is promoting his brand new book “Courage and Consequence: My Life as a Conservative in the Fight,” an autographed copy of which was given to everyone attending the dinner.
Rove discussed the economy and the deficit, with the bottom line of “all my efforts are going towards making sure Barack Obama is a one-term president.”
The majority of his talk revolved around the Affordable Care Act, which Rove opposes. “Every promise of this bill, every part of it, is untrue,” he stated. Rove’s speech concentrated on limited government, demanding personal responsibility and cuts to government spending.
Despite his confident tone, Rove did signal some trepidation over the current crop of Republican presidential candidates.
“I don’t know who will be our candidate, but pick someone with a narrative, pick someone you love, and fight for them to win,” he said.
Rove referenced the campaigns of Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush. Connecting the party to traditional lines of conservatism, Rove noted that unification is the biggest problem within the party.
“We need someone to unify the party, and that’s our biggest responsibility.” He ended by saying he hoped Republicans would come out in big numbers to regain control of the White House and acknowledged that the party needs to have a more open approach.
“We need to accept more diversity within the party,” he said.