Published in the Austin American-Statesman, Sunday, August 20, 2006
Rove rallies Texas Republican stalwarts
Cindy Sheehan protests Austin appearance by presidential adviser
By W. Gardner Selby
After protesters allied with anti-war demonstrator Cindy Sheehan rushed the ballroom doors and scuffled with police, senior White House adviser Karl Rove roused Republicans Saturday in Austin by suggesting that a strong economy and President Bush's course abroad will lead GOP candidates to November wins.
Saying Democrats are pro-taxation, pro-spending and wrongly committed to cutting and running from Iraq, the chief White House political adviser said: "We are right, and they are wrong."
One protester managed to slip inside the event, which attracted more than 300 guests and raised an estimated $250,000 for the Associated Republicans of Texas.
Shouting objections, including "men and women are dying," the woman was escorted from the ballroom of the Renaissance Austin Hotel.
Laughter came after Rove said: "I don't question the patriotism of our critics. Many are hard-working public servants who are doing the best they can. Some of them are people looking for a free meal."
Rove also posed an unanswered query to Pat Robbins, the GOP group's executive director: "Pat, did you get her check before she left?"
Protesters began gathering outside the hotel well before Rove slipped in through a side door for a pre-dinner private reception. Waving handwritten signs, about 50 chanted, "Get out of town, Karl. Get out, get out."
Several dozen protesters entered the hotel and briefly unfurled a pink banner from a balcony that read "Rove v. Truth No Contest. Pink Slip Rove."
After GOP supporters entered the ballroom to dine and hear Rove, protesters surged to within several feet of the room's doors, which hotel employees held shut.
One protester momentarily entered the ballroom and yelled, "Karl Rove is a war criminal!" She was hauled out.
Outside the room, police demanded that protesters leave the hotel.
Scuffling between protesters and Austin police led Sheehan's sister, DeDe Miller, to fall backward to the carpeted floor.
One protester was arrested, Austin police said.
Cindy Sheehan also read aloud "war crimes" charges against Rove, including a charge that Rove was responsible for her son's 2004 death as an Army specialist in Iraq. After each charge, protesters yelled, "Citizens arrest."
Police detained Tiffany Burns of Los Angeles, who has been Sheehan's press representative. Burns said she was handcuffed after she asked officers to arrest Rove.
Inside the ballroom, Rove said Democratic leaders in Congress have not come to terms with the necessity of continuing the conflict in Iraq.
"Democrats cannot support the goal of victory while opposing the means necessary to achieve it. And it is fiction and fantasy to pretend otherwise," he said.
"If leading Democrats have their way, their policies would make our nation weaker and the enemies of our nation would be stronger. That is a stark fact of modern life, and it is the issue on which the forthcoming election should center," Rove said.
Among the protesters was Linda Foley of Azle near Fort Worth.
"This is just one more thing we do when we're trying to change administration policy," she said.
Foley, who wore peace-sign earrings and a Veterans for Peace shirt, said she and others had caravaned from Camp Casey near President Bush's ranch outside Crawford south of Waco. The camp is named after Sheehan's late son, Casey.
Several dozen protesters remained on the street outside the hotel.
Rove, 55, is a Utah native best known as Bush's political guru. His career as a Republican political consultant took shape in Texas starting in the late 1970s when he coached Bush, then of Midland, in an unsuccessful U.S. House bid.
Rove built a business centered on sending fundraising appeals and candidate leaflets by mail. He advised Dallas oilman Bill Clements in his upset of Democrat John Hill for governor in 1978, subsequently helping many candidates end a century of Democratic dominance in state offices.
Republicans cheering him Saturday included Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson, who presented Rove with a flak jacket.
"He takes a lot of shots from virtually everyone," Patterson announced.
Rove gave thanks, and also accepted Patterson's offer to mail the jacket to Washington.
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- Plainfield resident since 1983. Retired as the city's Public Information Officer in 2006; prior to that Community Programs Coordinator for the Plainfield Public Library. Founding member and past president of: Faith, Bricks & Mortar; Residents Supporting Victorian Plainfield; and PCO (the outreach nonprofit of Grace Episcopal Church). Supporter of the Library, Symphony and Historic Society as well as other community groups, and active in Democratic politics.