Aspen Ideas Reporters Notebook: Conservatives barb Aspen crowd
ASPEN — Speakers at the Aspen Ideas Festival typically focus on issues of national and global concern, but a couple of conservatives took some shots Thursday at the very town that’s hosting them.
Karl Rove, a senior advisor to George W. Bush until Aug. 31, 2007, started his conversation with Rich Lowry, editor in chief of National Review, with a good-natured dig at the seat of Pitkin County, which saw 69.7 percent of the vote favor Hilary Clinton in the 2016 presidential election.
“Thanks for having conservatives to the Aspen Institute,” he said in a discussion titled “The Future of the Republican Party” at Paepcke Auditorium. “I remember coming to my first Aspen Institute in 2008 after leaving the White House, and they asked me to come and I checked into the hotel and they gave me my room key, and I’m walking out of the lobby and across the driveway and up rolls a white Range Rover with four people inside all wearing their badges, and a guy leans out of the window and says, ‘F–k you, f–k you, f–k you,’ and drives off.
“I said to myself, ‘Tolerant Aspen as I know it.’”
Later, Rove, when talking about the level of interest in the Democratic presidential primaries, questioned the sanity of those in the audience.
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“There’s a brand new AP national opinion research poll on Democrats — only 35% of Democrats say they are paying much attention to the Democratic presidential primary contest,” he said, “and I suspect that surprises a lot of people in this room because it’s clear that (those people in) this room, being at 9:10 on a nice Aspen morning, in a thing about the Republican’s party’s future, you are all political junkies and need help. Serious counseling and help.”
Rove’s remarks sparked chuckles from the audience, but a later panelist’s comments stuck a more serious tone before Rove injected more of his humor.
Near the closing of an afternoon panel talk also on the state of the GOP and its future, speaker David Azerrad teed off on a crowd he said looks down on “ordinary Americans.”
“I sympathize with Americans who don’t look like me, who don’t worship the same god that I do, who aren’t as cosmopolitan as I am,” said Azerrad, director of the B. Kenneth Simon Center for Principles and Politics and is the AWC Family Foundation fellow at the American Heritage Foundation. “I would wish, and this is perhaps a message for the people of Aspen: You are the ruling class. You are the most credentialed, accomplished people who are running the country.
“Try to have a little bit more sympathy for people who don’t look like you. Who cling to their guns and their religion. You don’t need to spend all of your weekends with them, but there is such contempt amongst elites for ordinary Americans. They’re not all racists.”
Rove, a moderator in the discussion, stopped him there.
“Now watch out,” he said of the audience. “Some of these people are here to watch the exotics, but a lot of those people are fellow travelers with us.”