Industries

Karl Rove recounts dramatic moments of 9-11 during economic summit

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Print this page by Paula C. Squires

Though billed as an economic summit, the Virginia Chamber of Commerce’s statewide conference Thursday also served up a strong dose of history. 

Keynote speaker Karl Rove , the senior advisor and deputy chief of staff to President George W. Bush, had plenty to say about the need for Congress to pass a budget over the next 10 days and to extend the tax cuts passed under the Bush administration, which are due to expire on Dec. 31.

“We’ve got big problems,” he said, if the cuts aren’t extended at a time when the U.S. economy is fragile.  According to Rove, a repeal of the cuts by Congress would result in $3.7 trillion worth of tax increases for many Americans over the next 10 years.

Yet, the audience of 450 business people who attended the summit at Kingsmill Resort in Williamsburg seemed more riveted by Rove’s account of what it was like to be a presidential insider on 9/11 than his number crunching. In response to a question about his most memorable moments as the president’s deputy chief of staff, a position he held for seven years, Rove said, “The most memorable was 8:48 a.m. on 9/11,” the day in 2001 when terrorists flew planes into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

Rove was with the president when Bush got word at an elementary school about the terrorist attacks. Rove’s immediate response was to run down the halls of the school to locate a television so he could hear the news. By the time, he got a television connected to one of the three cable outlets at the school, he saw the footage of the second plane hitting the World Trade Center. 

While there was a palpable sense of anxiety among the presidential staff, he said Bush remained calm throughout the day’s ordeal as the staff was whisked around the country on Air Force One, before eventually returning to the White House. “At one point we were told that someone had called the White House and said, “We’re going to kill Bush next and we’re going to get Angel (the code name for Air Force One).” 

As Air Force One flew past the smoking Pentagon, Rove recalled the president’s words: “Take a look. You’re looking at the face of war in the 21st century.”

One conference goer asked if Virginia might field any candidates for president in 2012, Rove said that was unlikely. “But you could have a vice president somewhere. Governors tend to get elected more than members of Congress,” he noted.

Rove said that both Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie had been successful at balancing their state’s budgets during difficult financial times. “If they continue to have success,” that might position them for a bid for the Republican nomination, he said. 

 


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