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Peter Feaver on Karl Rove

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Peter Feaver
  • Peter Feaver

Turd Blossom is coming to Durham. Karl Rove—Newsweek columnist, political mastermind, orchestrator of Republican dominance, and former deputy chief of staff to President George W. Bush—will speak at Duke University's Page Auditorium Monday, Dec. 3.

Duke political science professor Peter Feaver, who invited his former White House colleague to speak at the university, will moderate the Rove discussion. A conservative in a liberal-leaning political science department, Feaver has conducted research on national security, civil-military relations and nuclear weapons. Feaver argued that, based on his analysis of opinion polls on the Iraq War, the public will support a winning war even with mounting casualties. That analysis garnered the attention of the White House. As public support for the war declined, Feaver was recruited to serve on the National Security Council, and during his stint there, helped draft a 35-page public plan for victory in Iraq.

You have relied on opinion polls in much of your research. What will be the lasting public opinion of Karl Rove?

I think he will be viewed as one of the more capable political minds of his time. He certainly has a remarkably successful run in advising political candidates, most importantly President Bush. There is also an aspect of his legacy that will be inextricably linked to Bush's legacy. If the long-term consequences of the things the administration is trying to do turn out to be positive, then that will reflect better on him.

How closely did you work with him when you were in the administration?

I worked more closely with my direct boss, who was [National Security Adviser] Steve Hadley. We were all on the same team in the sense that all the White House staff is there to support the same effort. So there was overlap.

If you were back in the White House, what advice would you give the president about the war?

The advice is that you have to do everything in policy terms to do what's needed to bring success inside Iraq. This is not something that can be addressed with rhetoric or spin or marketing. What matters is facts on the ground.

Why do you think it's important for people to hear what Karl Rove has to say now?

He is one of the more interesting public figures, so it's a great opportunity to hear from one of the more interesting people that is out there. He has tremendous insights into the American political scene.

It's also the case that he is one of those larger-than-life figures. No human being could live up to all of the things that are attributed to him. From an educational standpoint, it's useful to bring people in touch with a human being people might only know from the blogosphere or newspaper accounts, which are often critical.

As a conservative, you're in the minority in the Duke political science department. Can we count on you to ask Rove the tough questions?

I certainly hope to ask him tough and interesting questions. If people think there is a great and fair and reasonable question, I'm open to hearing it. People can send me e-mail. Now, I'm looking for a civil conversation, not a smack down. It's supposed to be educational. I'm not sure that it's educational when it's two guys shouting at each other.

What kinds of questions will you ask?

I want to ask about the past and things he's been involved in—the 2000 campaign, the 2004 campaign and the 2006 campaign. I think there are interesting questions associated with all of those. I want to ask about some of the things he tried in the White House that didn't work, like Social Security reform. Then, of course, I really want to ask him about the 2008 campaign and what he sees.

Tickets are free and available on a first-come, first-serve basis at the Page Auditorium Box Office, in the Bryant Student Center. Send questions for Rove to Feaver at pfeaver@duke.edu.

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