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Rove discusses experiences





A White House veteran recounted tales of his career Wednesday in Fort Hays State University's Beach/Schmidt Performing Arts Center as part of the Keith Sebelius Lecture Series.

Karl Rove, former White House deputy chief of staff, is credited as the architect behind President George W. Bush's path to the Oval Office. The current Fox News pundit captivated the audience as he narrated his experience being at the president's side during 9/11.

Bush was reading to children in Florida before news of the terrorist attacks forced the president's team to race to the airport for evacuation.

Traveling at approximately 90 mph, four escort vehicles surrounded Bush's car to block potential car bombers.

"And I'm thinking to myself, what the hell am I doing in the backseat?" Rove said.

Bush had to make life-and-death decisions in the immediate aftermath. There were suspicions of more hijacked aircraft because of a loss of communication.

"In the calmest voice a human being could ever have, (Bush) said, 'I've just given authorization for the Air Force to shoot down any aircraft inbound to a critical target not under control of its crew,' " Rove said. "He said something about how terrible it would be to be the young pilot who'd get that order."

A low-flying, high-speed helicopter flight ended the day's journey to the nation's capital. Traveling near the destruction of the Pentagon, a comment from the president captured the significance of the tragic day.

Rove said, "There's smoke still pouring out of the Pentagon ... and we fly through the plume of smoke, and Bush quietly said, 'Take a look. You're looking at the face of war in the 21st century.' "

The speaker criticized the Affordable Care Act and said it would spur double-digit increases in insurance premiums for customers in the program's exchanges. Rove suggested making health care plans portable across jobs and allowing the sale of health insurance across state lines.

To achieve success in the 2016 presidential election, Republicans need to be the party of middle class and small business values, he said.

"I think it needs to be one that has a compelling message about jobs and economic growth and spreading prosperity and opportunity," he said.

A wide range of problems confront America with consequences affecting all generations, but the nation has the power to recover, he said.

"I have a fundamental optimism we'll get it done. ... America has this way of sort of screwing things up, letting things go and getting right to the edge, and somehow or another we reach down inside ourselves and find a way of getting it done," Rove said.

Trace Waugh, an FHSU freshman from Goodland, attended the program and said, "I might not have agreed with him all the time, but I did really enjoy it. I enjoyed his stories most of all. I thought it was really cool just getting to know what he saw on 9/11, what he went through."

Thomas Tittel, an attendee from Russell, said, "We're out here in the middle of nowhere Kansas, but we deserve to have quality people come and talk to us about stuff. ... I think it's good the university's doing this."