Silver Elephant Dinner #5: Karl Rove attacks on health care, remembers veterans, and calls the audience to serve

Attacking a health care bill which he described as having a 60% disapproval rating, he asked "how many trees had to die for this legislation?", Rove's remarks focused largely on opposing the Obama health care agenda.

He pointed out that "if you can buy car insurance from a lizard in Maryland, why can't you have more choices in health care", cautioning that health care reform "isn't about giving more money to the government or big insurance companies, it's about giving you more choices and more freedom".

He closed his speech talking about meeting a veteran during the last week he worked at the White House - "I was a lot smarter before I started working there" - during a Presidential visit to Reno, Nevada when he was going to speaking to the American Legion, followed by a visit to thirteen families who'd lost family members serving in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Before the visit, Rove read the biographies of the thirteen veterans, some of whom had lived their lives in Sparks, Nevada, where he'd grown up, making some of those biographies personal. He described meeting one soldier's mother:

I've meet lots of people, including two Popes and Tony Blair, but I've rarely been around people like these. His mother would talk about how her son, Nathan Kristoff, would get off patrol in Anbar, open up his laptop and get on the camera with his mother.

I talked with his mother for about twenty minutes, and then the President stepped in to ask Mrs. Kristoff "Is there anything I can do for you"

Bill, his father - a doctor - stepped in, reported his other son was joining the Marine Corps, and asked the President if he could serve in the Navy medical corps at the age of 61, asking for an age waiver.

The President turned to me and said "Karl will take care of it".

A week later, after meeting with the Naval Chief of Staff, Rove reported his last act in the White House was to deliver the approved waiver to Kristoff, and has kept in touch with the family.

Reportedly, when Kristoff entered basic and officer training, in spite of his age, he was able to complete a year's training in three months. Three months ago, he reported to Rove from a military hospital in Baghdad, asking for a transfer to Afghanistan, where he could treat more urgent combat injuries.

Rove defined the common thread in his comments:

We talk a lot about health care and military, but our main concern is to keep the country the kind of place we want to live in.

We can't all serve in the Marines, but, by God, we can all serve our country.

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